Today I learned how to blow bubbles under the water.

Not just any old ordinary underwater bubble-blowing, mind you, but very precise underwater bubble-blowing.

It may not seem like the most important skill to learn in the grand scheme of things, but for me, it was the first step in overcoming a lifelong fear of water.

In the span of only thirty minutes, this is what I learned about blowing bubbles underwater:

  • Blow bubbles underwater through your nose, not your mouth. (Your nose is a much smaller airway than your mouth, so blowing bubbles through your nose allows you to keep the water out of your nose while minimizing the amount of air pushed out from your lungs.)
  • Keep your head in line with your spine, with your face perpendicular with the bottom of the pool. (Think of a grandfather clock ticking back and forth, click, click, click - this should be the rhythm of your head's rotation ... face down, turn to the right, face down, turn to the left, face down, repeat.)
  • Keep enough space between your chin and your chest that a grapefruit could fit between your chin and neck. (If you tuck your chin in too much, you cut off your airway while putting stress on neck and shoulder muscles that can lead to injury over time.)
  • While you are rotating your head from side to side in the water, also rotate your arms in circular motions. (Lift one arm slightly out of the water and stretch your arm in front of your head until the flat of your palm touches the water in front of you. Then pull your arm down into the water and back towards and then past your body in a smooth, somewhat circular motion. While your arm is pulling backward, stretch your opposite arm in front of your head until your palm touches the water. Try to match up when one arm is stretched forward and the other arm is extended behind you. Be sure to mainly use the back shoulder muscles to do the heavy lifting to prevent injury. )
  • Now match your head's rotations with those of your arms, breathing on every third rotation. (Keep part of your face in the water at all times, blow bubbles through your nose on rotations one and two, and then on rotation three, turn your face slightly out of the water to take a breath. Then quickly back down for another set of bubbles, bubbles, breathe ... bubbles, bubbles, breathe.)

Far beyond the feeling of accomplishment I gained from learning how to properly blow bubbles in the water, I also discovered something interesting about conquering fear.

I discovered that we can circumvent our own spiraling emotions of panic, anxiety and fear which would otherwise prevent us from moving forward by continually re-engaging in the cognitive process.

While I was in the water, whenever I started to panic, I focused on my trainer's calm voice and the minutia of her instructions.

Bubbles, bubbles, breathe ... bubbles, bubbles, breathe.

Slowly my panic would subside, if only for a few moments.

I also discovered that our why is more powerful than our fear.

Somehow knowing that lifting my head to look forward would result in injury made it easier for me to keep my face in the water despite my fears of doing just that.

As an entrepreneur, I've learned to live well outside my comfort zone, whether it was speaking on stage, pitching to investors, or acquiring new skills.

Entrepreneurs continually face experiences that force us to live outside of our comfort zone, and we are required to learn new skills and participate in activities that we might naturally avoid. If we allow our aversion to these things to dominate our decisions, we will eventually lose out on important opportunities or fail to understand certain aspects of our business. Our company will eventually suffer the consequences.

The next time you want to give yourself permission to take the easier route, ask yourself if it is fear that is holding you back.

If it is, engage your cognitive process. Find your why. Map out the steps you need to take to accomplish your goal, whether it is mustering up the courage to walk into a room filled with strangers and introduce yourself to someone you need to meet or applying to speak at an important conference in your industry.

And then every time your anxiety starts to kick in, re-engage in the cognitive process.

It works.

As for me? Next week I walk the length of the pool while blowing bubbles underwater. After that, I graduate to a kick board.

And then, I swim.

With my head under the water.

Bubbles, bubbles, breathe ... bubbles, bubbles, breathe.

I've got this.