Anna Levesque and Andrew Holcombe on the river together. Thumbnail for episode 2 of the Discomfort Zone Podcast

Ep #2: Navigating discomfort in relationships with Andrew Holcombe

 In this episode of the Discomfort Zone podcast, Anna and her husband, Andrew Holcombe, (they met on the freestyle kayak competition circuit in the early 2000s), discuss their experiences with discomfort and navigating challenges in their relationship.

They share their top 3 discomfort zone challenges as a couple, including the decision not to have children and the difficulties of competing together. Throughout the conversation, they emphasize the value of communication, common ground, and accepting what is in order to move through discomfort.

Topics Include:

  • Supporting each other in discomfort requires acceptance, communication, and a willingness to grow together.
  • Independence and pursuing individual goals can strengthen a relationship.
  • Common ground and shared language are important for effective communication and navigating challenges.
  • Working well together requires decisions that work for everyone involved.
About Andrew:

Andrew Holcombe was literally born into whitewater kayaking, and is a 3rd generation paddler on both sides of his family. His Grandparents co-founded the Nantahala Outdoor Center, and his Dad was the Center’s first hired staff. His Mom claims to have rafted him down the Nantahala River when Andrew was just 6 months old. Known for his smooth style and positive attitude, Andrew is at home both running Class V Rivers, and throwing freestyle tricks on just about any feature he can find. He is a 3-time US Freestyle Team member, won a silver medal at the 2003 Freestyle World Championships, and is a 2X Green Race winner. He served as Director of the French Broad River Academy for Boys, and is currently working as an independent rep for several paddlesports brands with Effort Inc. 

Anna and Andrew met at the Freestyle Kayak World Cup in 2001 and got married in 2007. They’ve been together for 23 years, and still love being together and going on adventures together.

Andrew isn’t on social media 🙂 If you’d like to connect with him, email me HERE.

My guest today, Andrew Holcombe, was literally born into whitewater kayaking and is a third generation paddler on both sides of his family. His grandparents co-founded the Nantahala Outdoors Center and his dad was the center’s first hired staff. His mom claims to have rafted him down the Nantahala River when Andrew was just six months old. Known for his smooth style and positive attitude, Andrew is at home both running Class 5 rivers and throwing freestyle tricks on just about any feature he can find. He’s a three-time US freestyle team member, won a silver medal at the 2003 freestyle world championships, and is a two-time green race winner. He served as director of the French Broad River Academy for Boys and is currently working as an independent sales rep for several paddle sports brands with Effort Inc. Andrew is also my husband. We met on the freestyle competition circuit back in 2000. And we’ve been together ever since. We’ve been together for 20 years. Well, actually we didn’t officially start dating until 2001. And yeah, we’ve been together for, oh, 22 years. Thanks for being here, Andrew. I appreciate you as always.

Andrew Holcombe
You’re welcome. Thanks, it’s nice to be here. I’m happy to talk with you.

Anna
So I wanted to have you on for a few reasons. One is that I actually had a request from folks in the MindBodyPaddle community and in my community to do a podcast episode on discomfort zone in relationships. And I feel like we’ve been together for a while and that we’ve actually maneuvered, navigated several.

At least three that I can think of, episodes of discomfort together. And then another reason is that for me, you are a role model in discomfort zone. I’ve always been grateful that you helped to push me outside of my comfort zone in a good way. And you’re obviously a respected paddler and leader in the industry.

Andrew Holcombe
Yeah, that all sounds great. It’ll be interesting to see if our three hardships line up together, three discomfort zone times.

Anna
Okay. Yeah. I yeah. Okay. I’m gonna table that for a little bit later. I’m gonna start out with the question that I typically ask all of my guests and then we’re gonna hopefully thread into the relationship piece. When I say discomfort zone, what comes up for you? What do you think about?

Andrew Holcombe
Um, I think about two things. Um, I think about performance and then also, um, growth that is not performance. So it’d be like growth in my, in your life, like a path to, you know, striving to be better. And I imagine that doesn’t answer, doesn’t surprise you a ton because we’ve done a lot of the same work. And read a lot of the same books. And I think we both believe that being in that discomfort zone, whether you want to call it that or the stretch zone is another term that I’ve heard for it, that is where you can access that level of growth.

Anna
Hmm. When why does performance come to mind when you hear discomfort zone?

Andrew Holcombe
Um, because being in your discomfort zone is the foundation for performing well. Um, and in, in other words, you have to do that ahead of time. Um, but it is part of that process. And if you want to perform well, it’s I think helpful to not be way in your discomfort zone while you’re trying to perform, but you want to have done that in preparation for it. And the more you’re able to do that, the further you’re gonna be able to push and stretch your top level performance boundary. If you’re encountering things, everything for the very first time and you’re working on a performance objective, that’s gonna be really challenging. And I would suspect you probably won’t perform.
at your best as often as you could, if that’s what’s happening.

Anna
Hmm. It sounds like maybe hard moves and easy water is a little bit of what you’re talking about or how I relate it to my coaching clients of practicing the hard stuff in a low consequence environment.

Andrew Holcombe
Yeah, that’s for sure. I think a good way to look at that. And then I think the other way to look at it is just making sure that you’re not just doing what you know how to do all the time. Even if it is maybe not the easiest water that you are stretching yourself from time to time, if it is something that you’re interested in either growing at or performing at a higher level, I think that’s actually a pretty important part of what’s going on. The athletic way to think about that is you don’t actually know where your upper limit is, unless you find it pretty periodically. You know, and that’s an important thing to know how close you can get to that at any given moment.

Anna
What do you feel like is your upper limit right now in terms of kayaking? You’ve been kayaking so long, like 35, 34 years.

Andrew Holcombe
Yeah.

Andrew Holcombe
Yeah, that is a great question. I am not sure that I know the answer to that. At this point in time, because it is, it’s changing a lot. And it has changed a lot for me over the last, you know, two to five years. You know, I definitely am still running like pretty hard

you know, in difficult situations. But what I’ve noticed is that my desire to do that all the time has shifted as well as at the cost of everything else. And so I’m not as willing to do that and make those choices as I once was. You know, there was a time period in my life where I just, yeah, that was all that there was, was paddling and…

making it, whether it was competing or running difficult things, it was like doing the best I could all the time. And that’s not like that anymore. I have a lot more interest in things that I’m looking to pursue and get better at. And so I’ve noticed that’s changed for sure. And so I don’t really, I don’t know at this exact moment, I have a good handle on what my peak is as far as where I’m willing to go.

Anna
Yeah.

I want to talk about, I want to hear what your three, I want to shift gears slightly. And I want to hear what your top three discomfort zone challenges as a couple that we’ve faced just in our relationship.

Andrew Holcombe
Oh, okay, here we go. I know that not having children will line up with yours. Like that was pretty difficult time in our lives, mostly because that was out of our control. That was not something that we actively chose. It was chosen pretty much for us, for lack of a better word. Like it just didn’t work out. So that’s one for sure.

Anna
Mm-hmm.

Andrew Holcombe
Um, and I actually think the decision to, for me, this might be different for you, but the decision to get married in the first place, um, that was definitely, you know, when, when I did that, that was, there was some discomfort there, you know, like you’re a little bit older than me and we, you know, we had, I think we were, you know, there was perhaps different goals there and things like that. Um, and then let me think.

If I have a third, I don’t think I have a third. Those would be the two.

Anna
Hmm. So choosing to get married and then, yeah, our journey through not being able to conceive our own children and ultimately deciding that we were, we’re not creating children together. So what are we creating together and choosing to create a life without children that where we are contributing to the world in different ways, in ways that look different from raising kids. Yeah, definitely that one.

Anna
That one for me, that journey is definitely up there as a discomfort zone is a big challenge that we navigated together. I would say for me getting married, I was super stoked. So, no, I know.

Andrew Holcombe
Well, it wasn’t to say, I don’t mean to say that I wasn’t stoked, like, obviously I was stoked, but, or maybe not obviously, but just the discom, there was just, that’s a discomfort. You’re melding two people’s lives and I don’t, you know, for me, I didn’t take that epically lightly, you know, and you know, there’s a decision there of like, is this, is this what we want to do?

Anna
No, I know.

Anna
Sure, yeah.

Anna
Yeah, I think I was pretty clear on that. And I always was wondering because you are seven years younger than me, you know, and I kept checking in with you all the time throughout our relationship. So I think I checked in enough that I felt good about that. I think for me, another discomfort challenge that we navigated together as a couple is competing at the same time. And I, so it’s true, our goals were different. You, you know, I, you are a great competitor and you really love competing. And in freestyle, you, it really jazzed you. At least this is how I, this is how I see it. I mean, you, you just could turn on and you loved like showing off for the judges and doing all that stuff. And I, I really struggled with that.

I really struggle with a lot of self-doubt and being seen and like a fear of being seen. And so freestyle competition was actually challenging for me, even though I was during the time that I competed, I was, you know, at one point I was number three in the world. I won a bronze medal at the freestyle championships. I always felt like I was one of the top paddlers. My performance didn’t reflect my skill potential necessarily because for me, competing in freestyle was really challenging. And I never really liked the competition aspect of it. And at the time, we were, you know, we were younger and the sport was younger. So a lot of people were being coached by friends, family, boyfriends, girlfriends. And I…kind of wanted you so bad to be my coach because you’re so good. And you definitely did not want to take that on. And fair enough, fair enough. You know, it’s not fair of me to put that on you. I didn’t see any other at the time options really because we were all just on tour at the time kind of helping each other out, figuring it out. So I think one…trying to put like the coaching aspect on you. And then two, I was so, my self-worth was so collapsed sometimes with my performance that if you did well at a competition and I didn’t, and sometimes when I didn’t, I was just out of the top five or I was fifth, it wasn’t like terrible, terrible results, but I would really get upset. And that was really hard on our relationship because I would be resentful, which is also unfair. So for me, navigating that was really challenging for us or for me within the context of our relationship.

Andrew Holcombe
Yeah, I mean, I remember, I definitely remember that, you know, and, uh, I think at the time I was pretty, pretty young and, um, you know, a little bit oblivious of the complete package there of what was going on, um, which was probably, you know, helpful to me and dealing with that and very unhelpful for you in dealing with that. Um, cause I just didn’t, I didn’t really.

I was like, whatever, this is not a big deal. You know, and you’re right. I definitely didn’t want to be your coach. Which at this point, I’m actually honestly pretty happy with that decision because I think that it has contributed to us still enjoying doing things together is because we didn’t go down that route. It really works for a lot of people, some people actually. And then I think more often than not, doesn’t work very well. Cause there’s just too much going on there. You know, like being in a relationship is challenging enough and there’s enough going on without introducing all of the challenges that are gonna be happening in a competition or competing at a pretty high level. And I mean, this is just, we’re talking about kayak in here which is pretty mellow compared to a lot of other areas of competition. And I just, I think for most people, that’s a combination that is pretty hard to, almost impossible to navigate well for a long period of time. And so, you know, I don’t really know how that worked out, but I, you know, I don’t remember consciously making a decision that I didn’t wanna be your coach. And it wasn’t that I never helped you out or offered advice, but you’re right, there was a wall there. For sure, there’s very obvious looking back on it, and I think part of that I did that for me. If I’m honest, if I was going to do what I was going to do, I wasn’t taking on what you were doing as well. Me also competing was one more thing that was going into that environment that was just too much to… Keep those things very clear. It’s very obvious what you have to deal with. But you’re right, that was super, you’re right, that’s a good, I sort of, I don’t know, we haven’t talked about that in a long time. So I’ve sort of not, I’d forgotten that a little bit.

Anna
Yeah, well, and if you generalize for relationships, you know, with discomfort zone in relationships, what I think this represents is when you want the other person to be away and understanding that you can’t change them and that no matter how much you want them to be a certain way, part of being in a strong relationship is accepting the other person for who they are.

And yes, of course, having conversations as you said, and being willing to grow, because we’ve been really willing to grow together. And at the same time, understanding that sometimes the other person isn’t gonna want to fit into whatever, however you want them to be and to allow them to be their own person. I think our relationship has lasted and has been as…

has continued to be strong and fun and adventurous, one, because we set that intention and we’re willing to grow together. And also because we are very independent and we have spent time apart and we do have set different goals and that we’re able to support each other in those goals without losing ourselves.

Andrew Holcombe
Yeah, I think that’s, for us, I definitely think that’s been helpful, you know, and I think along with that, there’s a huge tendency to wanna lump everybody into the same box, and the reality is pretty hardcore that we’re, every person is very different, and so what works for one person or one…

Couple is not gonna be necessarily the answer for really anybody else. There might be some lessons there and some things you can take away, but you do have to kind of figure it out on your own. And that, not totally on your own, but you gotta figure out what works for you and what is healthy. I think that’s an important piece of it. And there are people out there that…spending the time apart that we do or that we have would be incredibly unhealthy for them and therefore not a positive relationship. You know, and I think that that’s always important to remember, but I think the big things you’re talking about of being willing to grow with the other person. And see them for who they are and have that reciprocated is pretty that’s a pretty solid foundation to lay something down on and then go from there.

Anna
Yeah, it reminds me of a card. I think we have it somewhere in our room where it says, true love isn’t gazing into each other’s eyes. It’s looking together towards the horizon or something like that, right? I kind of hear that in what you’re saying.

Andrew Holcombe
Yeah.

Andrew Holcombe
Yeah, I think so.

Anna
I also feel like, you know, I remember paddling the Cascades, which is a class four or five run on the Nana Hala. And this was soon after, I think the first round of IVF, or we only did one round, but we did two transfers and neither, neither one of them worked. And after the first one, I was, cause everything was going great until it didn’t.

And by the way, folks who are listening, this was several years ago. So I just want to put context. This is in 2013. Yeah, like 10 years ago. So this is not something we’re really, we’re grappling with right now.

Andrew Holcombe
10 years ago, I think.

Anna (21:25.727)
And looking back after that, when it didn’t work and we were palling the cascades and I was feeling really sad, I think we were in grief and I missed my line on the first rapid, which is called Horns of God. And it wasn’t a huge mess up. I just didn’t make it through the slot, like off the drop where exactly I wanted to. So I ended up going off, I think to the right anyways, which was fine. I was fine. But at the bottom, because again, I have the…

When I’m looking back there several times and I’ve collapsed myself worth with whatever’s going on. And at that point, I just remember being in the Eddie and starting to bawl at the bottom, just being like crying, being like, I’m a failure. I can’t even, I can’t run this rapid. I can’t have children and just bawling. And one thing I’ve always appreciated about you is your calmness. So you’re a little ways below. And you saw me.

And I think you actually, like I couldn’t, I just like was in the eddy and not moving, bawling my eyes out. And you came up, I think you walked your boat back up and we had a conversation and you’re like, we can walk off the river, you know, it’s no problem. And what’s interesting, what I remember about this is that there was another group that had just stopped to look down at the rapid they were scouting

We looked up and waves and I remember saying, I am not gonna walk off this river. I am not gonna let other people see me walk off this river right now. And some of you who have coached with me or have known me for a while, you might find that interesting because I always advocate for doing what’s right for you. And I’m actually really grateful in certain times for my ego when it kind of steps in. And…

I was like, I am not walking off. We’re going to keep going. And being able to breathe through that, and we actually had a great run from what I remember. I think it was lines were great. Then paddling out on the Upper Nanahala, I remember feeling like no fun, which was super weird to me. It was very…I don’t know what the word that I’m looking for, but I had never experienced that before where I was paddling and I felt nothing. And that’s when I knew that, wow, I think I’m depressed and struggling with this. And it gave me a whole new context for compassion because in the past I was one of those people who if someone was feeling down, I’d be like, just go outside, like go outside, go have fun. It’ll help you feel better.

And it was the first time that I experienced for myself doing something that I always associated with having fun and not having fun.

You allowed me to just do my thing. You were you weren’t trying to fix it. I get that’s my point is I also think that. I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job of when things come up for each other. We’re not trying to fix anything.

Andrew Holcombe
Yeah, I think, you know, that’s born out of many experiences of trying to fix something and it just totally imploding more. I’m not sure that sure much credit I really get for that in that moment. I think it was just like…

you know, at that point, I don’t even know that I knew what to do. You know, and so that just is like, all right, well, you know, that’s happening. I know this really, you know, I think at that point in time, I was probably mature enough to know that wasn’t really about the line that you just had off of that drop. So it wasn’t really worth discussing that with you. And you know, eventually.

But yeah, I mean, not fixing, you know, there’s a desire to do that, to try to come in and save the situation or whatever it is. And it’s interesting to talk about because it’s, it’s not like you’re advocating for doing nothing, like, and just being like, oh, just, they just got to do their thing. Like that actually.

also is not it. Cause that’s just traipsing through life with a blindfold over your eyes and, you know, being all about you. And that’s not, that might be fun for a little while, but ultimately I think for most people it’s not very fulfilling. And so it’s a, you know, like, that’s an interesting concept of, you know, how to support other people without trying to fix what’s happening because we…fix this. Everybody’s got everybody has something about you. You know, like this story or something like that you want to share in those components.

Everybody’s got to everybody has something of value, you know, whether it’s a story or something like that they want to share in those hard moments, because it’s pretty normal for people to want to make things less hard for someone or, um, give them a little bit of inspiration or hope. And yeah, so it’s, I think it’s an interesting thing trying to negotiate that balance. You know, like where is the line between doing those things, which are awesome, and then trying to fix someone, you know, or like in that instance, fix a unfixable situation. I actually think that that’s honestly in a weird way, like probably helped us out in that category, because once you run into a situation that… negotiate that balance. You know, like where is the line between doing those things, which are awesome, and then trying to fix them. Or like imagine things fix an unfixable situation. I actually think that that’s obviously a real way to probably help us out of that situation, it really isn’t fixable, like you start to view things a little bit differently, you know, like this, like there’s nothing I could do with that. So I don’t know.

Anna (27:23.697)
Yeah.

Anna (27:30.267)
Yeah, then you’re left with, I can’t control the situation. All I can do is control my response to it.

Andrew Holcombe
Yeah, and what you do next about it. You know, like you can control that. You can control your next choice that you make in a moment like that for sure, as well as how you’re responding in the.

Anna
Mm-hmm.

Anna
Yeah.

Anna
I’m just thinking about also shifting gears again, being on the river and seeing folks, at least from the instructor perspective, at least in the past, I have, I know that some guys have struggled with that feeling like they need to fix whatever’s going on instead of being present with, and I’m sure there are women who also struggle with this in my experience of paddling with a lot of guys that has seemed to be a challenge of how to be present without trying to fix whatever’s going on. Whether it’s someone not having a good time, someone making a different choice, whether it’s walking a rapid or running it or whatnot.

Andrew Holcombe
Yeah, I mean, that’s hard. I think that’s challenging.You know, and I don’t know that I’ve always been the best at supporting people in that environment either. But at the end of the day, like, where I’m at now is like, you gotta step back and take a look at the bigger picture and, you know, ask yourself what, you know, what’s the real goal here? And you gotta take yourself out of other people’s lives, you know, and- not insert yourself in what’s going on with them. So, you know, that’s how I try to approach that. And…

Nobody cares, you know, like if you want to walk a rapid, walk a rapid, you know, if you want to, like it does impact things sometimes. And so you sometimes have to have conversations about that, you know, whether that’s a time management situation or a safety thing, or, you know, there actually are a lot of things you can discuss around that decision, you know, but at the end of the day, like, you know, a lot of that stuff can be supported without, as you’re saying, trying to fix something that someone to make them different than who they are.

Anna (30:36.191)
Hmm.

Anna
What have you learned about yourself from stepping into your discomfort zone, whether it’s in our relationship or on the river or in other areas of life?

Andrew Holcombe (30:55.074)
That’s a good question.

Andrew Holcombe
Yeah, I think what I’ve learned is I’m not singular. As in I actually have a pretty wide range of interests in things. And that’s when you discover that by being in your discomfort zone, because trying new things is difficult. And so that’s been pretty cool. And then there’s some resiliency there that I can depend upon now, and the understanding that probably no one decision is gonna train wreck my life. And so, decisions are generally more like, you need to make them and then figure out the next thing to do versus not making them because you’re worried. It takes a series of what one might call poor decisions to really train wreck something or to really mess it up. You know, and it’s about recognizing that that’s happening as you’re making multiple ones of those in a row. But there aren’t very many one time decisions that can truly like, you know, there are a few, but there just aren’t very many. And so that’s something that I also have learned, I think by being in my discomfort zone is you have lots of opportunity to what you either call change course or make different decisions. And so it’s about, I think, you know, just recognizing that there are different, there’s gonna be different paths out there once I start going down what only seems like one at the beginning. So, I see another way to put that is it’s very rarely is binary. This will either be an excellent outcome or a terrible outcome, you know, like that usually isn’t the case.

Anna
Mm-hmm.

Anna
Who is your biggest guide in your discomfort zone in terms of teaching, mentoring you or teaching you about, because I feel like you are pretty comfortable in your discomfort zone. You don’t get ruffled too easily. So is this something you learned young? Is it because you were rafting at six months old? You know, did you, who were your mentors or did you have any?

Andrew Holcombe
Yeah, that’s a good question. I actually think you have been a really good role model and mentor with that. So that would be one. And then, yeah, I don’t know. I grew up at a rafting company. It’s so like, there actually are a lot of people from my childhood that were doing different things and things that weren’t considered normal.

And I think that’s my parents and grandparents being several of those people that I first started paddling with that I was hanging out with. And I spent a lot of time, like when I was growing up and getting into all this, I had friends that were my age, but it was a little bit, I didn’t really like, I actually spent a lot of time with older people when I was aged like, 7 to 15, like doing kayaking, mountain biking, whatever it was. And I actually think that really did help me get comfortable because adults are just sometimes a little better at dad and articulating it and they have, yeah, for some reason that comes to mind is, something that did help me out with that.

Anna
Yeah, you grew up with a lot of leadership, like modeling role, leadership role models. Your grandfather, your dad, maybe your whole family. And then people who worked as kayak instructors, raft guides who are responsible for people. I mean, they’re leading all the time and managing risk all the time when they’re, at least when they’re on the river and working and in that, even in
that environment because you used to like just take the bus up to the top and like paddle down I think at some point. You know people were not necessarily watching you all the time but they I’m sure they were. And so you know how did the river when you think back on growing up on the river did what’s the biggest lesson the river has taught you?

Andrew Holcombe
That’s very metaphorical of you.

Anna
Yes.

Andrew Holcombe (36:02.562)
That is a great question.

Anna
So far you’ve liked all of my questions.

Andrew Holcombe
Yeah, that one’s particularly good though.

I don’t know that you can get all like, talk about flow and all that kind of stuff, which is true because that’s a pretty natural metaphor. But I think the biggest thing that I ever see from becoming a paddler is the community of it, which has been pretty revolutionary in my life. Every opportunity I’ve gotten in my life is actually you can trace back to some connection that I’ve made through paddling, which just happens to be my, and I’m not saying like, that just happens to be the community that I entered into. And so I think it is that, it’s like that having that base, like I can go years without seeing people. And then it’s like, where people would think we were best friends if they were watching from the outside, and… And…

Yeah, there’s just a level of trust there. And so I don’t take that for granted anymore. Like that’s pretty cool to have that opportunity and relationship with people. And so I think that is the greatest, I don’t know what lesson that is, but that’s the thing that for me has been the most important thing I’ve received from the river is the community.

Anna
What’s so when you are in your discomfort zone and you talked about performance at the beginning of our conversation and then growth and they can go hand in hand. So I don’t know if you wanna choose one, but what is your strategy for moving through discomfort? Or and moving through and facing fear really when you’re nervous or.

Yeah, when you’re nervous about something, what is your, what strategy do you use? Maybe in the moment. And then you also talked about preparing. So doing things in low consequence environments. So I guess my question is twofold. What’s the strategy you use and how do you practice that strategy?

Andrew Holcombe
So in the moment, I hinted at a little, I talked about a little, just a little bit ago, in the moment is you make the next decision. You know, like that is one strategy I use is just to not get stuck when I start to get scared. And that happens, you know, like I get scared. And then you just make the next decision, which is, you know, that can go a number of different ways. And then, you know, I definitely, you know, like calming the mind that there’s a couple different ways one can do that so that, you know, getting some of the chatter out of there, the what if chatter that comes up more, more with the, like the newer, the thing, the more that comes up because it’s not, it’s not habit yet. Um, and so trying to just push that out, whether that’s through breathing or, you know, focusing on something else. You know, there’s a couple of different techniques that work for me for that. Those are two of them. You know, reminding myself that I can do things like this and I have done them before. That’s another one. So those are the two things that I focus on of like in the moment discomfort when you’re in there and you’re needing to continue to be there to like, or you want to for whatever reason, you just try to, I do those things. And then, you know, how I practice that is, it’s actually the same. So you just make decisions in your life, you know, like, and you gotta say yes to some stuff, you know, and consciously decide to do things.

You just make decisions in your life, in your life. You gotta say yes to some stuff. You consciously decide to do things. If I want to be a kayaker who runs difficult whitewater, I need to make a decision to be someone that runs difficult things, then I need to make the decision to go kayaking. And then when I’m on the river, no matter how hard it is, I need to make the decision to at least occasionally do the thing that is not right in front of me that is easy or that I know how to do. I got to try something new or something that I’m like, nah, I don’t know if I really want to go over there and splat that rock, go over there and splat the dang rock. So you gotta like…make those decisions to put yourself in those situations that you want to be in, you know, that you want to become better at, you know, and you can apply that to anything, you know, if I’m looking at work and, you know, I’m learning some new, I’m basically learning a new career and I want to be good at it. And so, you know, I need to call people that I don’t know and talk to them.

You know, and I don’t like to do that at all. That’s honestly pretty terrible but I need to do that, you know, and so you just have to make the decision to do it and dial the number. As a start, it is extraordinary the lengths that you will go through sometimes to not make that decision. To convince yourself that like oh, I don’t really need to do that. There’s a better way I can email them or you know, and I don’t like to do that at all. In fact, that’s obviously pretty terrible. But I need to do that. So you just have to make the decision to do it.

Anna
Mm-hmm.

Yeah, reflecting on what you’re saying. And actually we, you and I just shared an experience with, which for me was definitely in the top two most, most challenging experiences of my life. When we were in Costa Rica and running my paddling trip and I had a client pass away in her sleep, nothing to do with the river. And you and I were there in the morning and you went into, I was so grateful to have you there because we’re both pretty calm, I think overall, like our demeanors are pretty calm. And you went into that, okay, these are the next steps we need to take. You were very methodical. Actually, I think you took out a pen and paper. And I was grateful. And for me, I was present processing, you know, when you…

talk about things that you can’t change, right? Okay, this is happening. And I think that one thing that is important also with going through discomfort zone, facing fears is accepting what is, like this is happening right now. Like, you know, whether it’s, whatever it is, you know? And so now this is happening, and I fully accept it and now it’s the next step decision that we need to take. And I was, yeah, very grateful to have you there. Also as support, definitely learned that, you know, you haven’t come on a trip in over 10 years and it was really nice to have my person there for support. And yeah, so I can really see when you were talking, I really kind of my mind went to that morning when you were like, okay, these are the things that need to happen. This is what we need to do.

And so that really turned on for you in terms of next step. I’ll also say that I think in facing discomfort or going through challenging situations as a couple, one thing that I did wanna touch on in this conversation is that we’ve also chosen in terms of next step. So for instance, when we weren’t, when, you know, it was wasn’t possible for us to conceive our own children. We went through a whole, you know, we aren’t creating. Well, to get to the point of, okay, we’re not creating children together. What are we creating? And turning it into a realm of possibility. We had to, because we were going in our own directions with it, processing it differently and definitely growing apart and you know, all the emotions. And we decided like, I said, you know, I think I said, we need to go to marriage counseling, or we need to do this thing called Landmark Forum that so many of our friends have told us about. We’ve got to do one of the two. Which one do you want to do? And I was grateful because you definitely chose. You’re like, let’s do Landmark Forum. And we did that. And that gave us a common language. It’s a common language to work from. And I think that’s the other thing.

So we’re talking about a marriage relationship right now, but any relationship in community, like you said, the paddle sports community is amazing. And part of being effective on the river is having communication. We always talk about get on the same page with your safety talk. Like what are your signals? What is your getting your attention sound or signal? And I think that communication and being on the same page and being able to use the same communication and understanding it is really important. Whether you’re on the river or in a relationship, or both and both.

Andrew Holcombe
Yeah, I mean, that’s I think that that’s true. You know, I think the easy way to think about that is it’s.

It’s pretty easy to hate someone that you don’t know, you feel a stranger to, and there’s not much you can get done if that’s actually how you feel. And that becomes a lot harder once you have some common intersections there. It’s a lot harder to do that. And so you kind of get forced to figure it out a little bit more.

Anna
I love how you went from relationships to, it’s hard to hate someone if you’re communicating. It’s true. I just think that was a jump that I wasn’t expecting. I hear you.

Andrew Holcombe
It is, yeah. And that’s just like the boiled down, it’s the boiled down version of that. Well, no, I mean, it’s the whole thing. Like you see that in the entire, I mean, if you wanna see it in the world right now, it’s really easy to hate people or to be angry at them when they’re presented as the other, versus when you actually have some sort of common ground, you might not agree with them, but that same level is not there. And so it becomes much easier to interact with them, to learn from them, to have a little bit of a wider view instead of a narrow view and be taking in more sources of information. And so, that one way that’s done is through communication, but also having that common little foothold to start something with, whether it’s language or an experience or whatever.

Anna
Mm-hmm.

Anna
Yeah, to develop something that’s common or common to or yes, a common language, shared language. Yes. Yeah. Do you have a question for me?

Andrew Holcombe
Yeah, what was your third thing of our discomfort zone trifecta?

Anna
Oh, I think that experience in Costa Rica actually, because it’s, it’s at top of mind. It’s not something that was challenging, as in we were experiencing, experiencing a challenge with our relationship. It was, for me, a challenging situation to go through with both of us, you know, but that both of us experienced and obviously our experiences were different because I’m, you know, it was my trip, so to speak, and you were there as support. And I was really grateful. And it’s something I’ve always been grateful about our relationship is we’ve always worked well together, even though we’re different, right? Cause I, you know, we have different goals, you know, like you’re still loving paddling really hard stuff. I don’t love paddling really hard stuff, you know? And I always think…

You know, you’re always pushing yourself in the performance area. And I’m, I always joke about how I’m more of a meanderer. Granted, I like to perform. Don’t get me wrong. If I’m surfing a wave like garb, I want to throw blunts and I want to do cool stuff and I want to run rapids well. I’m not saying that I, um, or if I’m sub surfing, I want to learn new things. So I’m always learning new stuff. My drive in the performance realm specifically though, is a little mellower, I think, than yours. But in any case, I really appreciate how well we work together. And that was reinforced recently in Costa Rica. You know, we’re really on the same page with things and we don’t even have to really talk things out. And the next decision that we make is typically one that’s workable for both of us and for other people that are around us typically.

Andrew Holcombe
Nice. I like it.

Anna
What’s the biggest misconception that people have about whitewater kayaking, rafting? You grew up in it. So from a very young age. So what do you think for you, what’s the biggest misconception people have about whitewater, whitewater sports?

Andrew Holcombe
There are two, it’s actually, so the biggest misconceptions are that it’s easy and that it’s hard. And neither one of those things is true. They’re true in reverse order almost. And so I think that people watch people doing it and they’re like, oh, that’s easy, I can do that. And the reality is, is that actually requires some skill. This is more so to do with kayaking than rafting, but both of them require that. And then, but it’s also not that hard to like, get it to a place that’s really fun for you. And so I think those are the misconceptions that people have, and so I always encourage people to try it more than once, because that initial time period is where all of a sudden you run right into that wall of like, oh dang, that’s hard. That’s way harder than that person made it look. But then very quickly, you can develop skills to make that pretty fun for you. And it doesn’t have to be super difficult or anything. It can look a bunch of different ways. And that’s what I mean by that as well, is that you don’t have to be, you know, paddling can look however you want. You know, it can look like floating around on a lake, you know, and there’s a lot of really fun opportunity in that. And then whitewater specifically can also look like that. You know, you are saying you never run is class two and you’re probably going to have some pretty good times out there doing that. And then if you want it, there’s obviously an upper end of that is available for you, but you don’t have to go there.

Anna
Okay, ready for rapid fire questions?

Andrew Holcombe
Sure.

Anna
Okay, what’s a morning ritual that sets you up for success?

Andrew Holcombe
Boiling water.

Anna
What’s a non-negotiable self-care practice?

Andrew Holcombe
Flossing my teeth.

Anna
What’s a favorite motivational book or talk?

Andrew Holcombe
I really like Find your Why, I think, by Simon Sinek. That’s a really good book.

Anna
Mm. It is a good one.

Andrew Holcombe
And his talk is good too.

Anna
Yeah, his Ted talk. What do people get wrong about you?

Andrew Holcombe
That I’m an extrovert.

Anna
Have you been considered, do you consider yourself or have you considered yourself throughout your life the underdog or the favored to win?

Andrew Holcombe
Uh, probably it, I don’t, that’s probably a favorite to win in my life. Yeah. My life is, my life has been pretty, pretty set up. So.

Anna
That’s right. That’s what your uncle Stewart would say all the way. Andrew Holcombe, favorite to win.

Anna
Okay, hard moves in easy water or flooding.

Andrew Holcombe
I like both of those things.

Anna
Can you say more? I know it’s rapid fire. You say both.

Andrew Holcombe
I do say both because I enjoy just max on out of, you know, slightly out of control experiences. I do really like that, but I don’t want to do that all the time and how to get into those and safely come out the other side with, you know, maybe some issues, but not large issues is because you did actually do hard moves in easy situations prior to that. That goes back to some of the things I said earlier.

Anna
One word that describes your comfort zone.

Andrew Holcombe
Aafe.

Anna
Do you know one word that would describe my comfort zone?

Andrew Holcombe
One word that would plush.

Anna
Yeah, or baked good, which is actually two words. Okay, freedom through discipline, or I do what I want?

Andrew Holcombe
I, well, I want to do what I want, but I actually am, I am freedom through discipline.

Anna
Got it, In one word, what do you hope your legacy will be?

Andrew Holcombe
Care.

Anna (56:30.206)
Hmm.

Anna (56:33.643)
Do you have anything else to say to our listeners?

Andrew Holcombe
I feel good. Thanks for having me on. It’s fun to talk to you. And it is fun. Like, I mean, we’re just in opposite rooms right now. But it is nice to speak with you and, and be a part of your podcast. And I think it’s gonna be great. And it’s been fun listening and getting to do it as well. Thanks for letting me share.

Anna
Yeah, thanks for taking the time. And last thing I’ll share, which might be a different kind of discomfort zone that’s coming up for you is you were paddling the green the other day with a bunch of 20 year olds. This was your description. And one of them asked you how old you were. And when you told them your age in your forties, the guy said:

Oh, you’re doing really good. Like you’re doing all these cool moves. So, which I thought was hilarious. And anyone who’s known you, this will be more funny to people who are in the community, who’ve been in the community a while. Well, what’s it, is it different? Is it weird to have like the younger generation being like, oh dude, that guy’s 40 and wow, he can paddle really well. Like, not realizing that you’ve been paddling for 34 years. And at one point you were considered, I would say at one point in your career, you were considered one of the best paddlers in the world for sure.

Andrew Holcombe
I mean, yeah, that would be an honor if that was the case. Yeah, no, it’s not weird, it’s funny. And it’s gonna happen. At this point, I’ve not experienced that as strange or off, you know, and you know, I’m pretty fortunate that I actually have a lot of people that I spend time with that are significantly older than me, and still killing it. So I’m not that worried about it. You know, and also know that at this point I’m probably not getting better at kayaking anymore. That’s just how that works. And so it, you know, in that instance, it doesn’t bother me and it’s great to be around younger people who are really excited, you know, about things that I might not be that excited about in that moment because I’ve done it a bunch and it’s like, oh yeah, this actually is really exciting and really fun and all those kinds of things. And at the end of the day, like I wanna be paddling when I’m 80, or longer. So doing cool stuff in my 40s is part of the path to being able to do that. So I’m pretty happy with it so far.

Anna
Mm-hmm.

Anna
Yeah, that’s awesome. And that’s what we want. We want the younger generation to be like way better, right? And always growing and pushing the sport. And that’s a good thing. They’re coming up. I just thought it was a funny moment that you enjoyed, actually, and we laughed about. So.

Andrew Holcombe
Yeah. Truth.

Anna
Thanks, Andrew.

Andrew Holcombe
Yeah, thanks for having me. It was awesome.