Tommy Lee Jones tells us in the movie Men In Black (a guilty pleasure of mine) that “[a] person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals …” I would also argue that people—especially friends—can harangue us into doing stuff we might not have done otherwise. Get a tattoo, maybe, or sing The Lion Sleeps Tonight at an open mic night. (For the record, I did the karaoke thing but don’t have a tattoo, even though I’ve been talking about getting one for years … anyone up for a dumb crowd moment at the next conference?)
I’m kidding. Sort of. But my point is that while the crowd mentality can lead to some questionable choices, it can also push us out of our comfort zones in a good way. Sometimes, the trick is telling the good push from the bad idea. Take the other day for example. Although Arizona and I are a pair of introverts who happen to do very well being alone together, one or the other of us will sometimes get a wild hair and suggest it’s time for a group outing—whether a party, a double date, a group bike ride, or whatnot.
Last week, we decided to be joiners and meet up with a mountain bike ride that was listed on the group’s website as “moderate pace, novice-intermediate.” What we got, though, was three very good bikers who had stayed fit over the winter and were looking to burn off some calories on the trails. And, as we shot off from the meeting area, zooming along a narrow trail at about twice the speed of Arizona’s and my usual leisurely warmup, I thought, “Uh-oh! I could be in trouble here!”
But you know what? I stuck it out for a hard, fast hour before I turned back so the others could do their thing without keeping an eye out for me. I burned calories. I jumped off rocks. I went fast. And, honestly, I tackled a few obstacles that I normally avoid when it’s just hubby and me, because I didn’t want the others to see me wuss out.
I find the same thing with writing sometimes. While it’s by and large a solitary sport, getting a group of people together, whether at someone’s house, a coffee shop, or even online can help push me out of my comfortable little zones and into a too-fast, on-the-edge-of-disaster pace. I don’t pause to sight-see or answer email, don’t let myself look down or back, and just keep going, racing to see what’s around the next story corner or at the top of the next plot hill. And when it’s over, I come away thinking, “Hey, that was fun!”
So how about you? What kind of trouble have your friends gotten you into recently? And what works better with friends than alone?