You’ve been going to the same gym for awhile and have made friends with some of the regulars.

One dude in particular seems like a natural fit to transition from the category of friendly acquaintance to that of friend status.

Same interests and hobbies. Similar attitudes and philosophy around life. Easy rapport.

So you decide to go on an overnight camping trip together.

Awesome!

The gear is all packed. Kayaks on the rack. Routes planned.

After an hour drive and some awkward conversation, you arrive at the boat launch. Something is wrong. You have a sinking feeling that you’ve made a big mistake.

Although you can’t really put your finger on it, you’re just not having a good time. There’s some kind of fundamental incompatibility in the DNA of your personalities. A subtle friction.

And there is something inexplicably exhausting about all of it.

It’s going to be a long 24 hours!

Okay, so there’s about a thousand other places you’d rather be right now, with just about anyone else.

At this point, of course, you could just bail. But that’s not always an option, and I would encourage you to stick it out.

Wait, what?!

Buckle up little buddy, because this is a rare and valuable opportunity! You’ve just entered a pressure cooker for personal growth. A character building exercise on steroids.

I speak from experience.

The scenario I’ve outlined above is taken from a recent experience. The struggle was real. The lessons were invaluable.

Right here in front of me was someone who I would later realize had many of my rough edges, only amplified. Like some kind of awful funhouse mirror, reflecting my flaws back to me with grotesque exaggeration.

I don’t mean to make this guy sound like the antichrist. He was actually a decent dude. Just not the direction I want to go with my personality.

I’m always working on becoming a better man. That often involves getting feedback from the people in my life.

Although it’s not fun to hear about all of the ways you annoy others and act like a dick, I believe it’s truly necessary to graciously receive this input if you want to improve.

Having said all that, it’s still sometimes hard to see what the big fuss is all about. You might find yourself thinking (or protesting out loud), “So what if I curse too much, or say inappropriate things at times? Why do you care if I’m a little sarcastic? What is the big deal if I don’t always acknowledge every single thing you say?”

This is your identity trying to preserve itself. Your sense of self.

Trust me when I tell you that you are not your rough edges. There are other ways to be interesting, funny, quirky, and maintain your individuality.

Ya just gotta learn some new tricks, you old dog.

So there I was, with this guy who was so hard to be with. My mind raced. My heart pounded.

We kept it civil. A bit strained, but civil.

It was confusing and disorienting. I was having a hell of a time figuring out what was even going on. Little by little, over the course of that camping trip, I started seeing it.

I thought, “Holy shit, this is me! This is what they’ve been trying to tell me. Now I get it.”

It was like being shown my personality by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.

I changed.

Although hard to quantify, I honestly feel like I gained 5 years of clarity and wisdom in one weekend.

Maybe I was just ready for it.

As beneficial as this experience was, I would like to handle future situations better.

In part 2 of this post, we’ll explore some techniques for navigating a situation like this for maximum benefit.