What is the challenge?

24 July 2022

by Tom Scott

How often do you challenge yourself?

I mean, really challenge yourself.

To the point where you get that hollow feeling in your stomach as the adrenaline kicks in and your body does everything it can to stop you? But you do it anyway.

I do it rarely. I love being comfortable and the feeling that comes with it. I think particularly post-pandemic there is a reticence to challenge ourselves as we once might have done – after a period where it was a challenge to challenge.

But as we leave that period behind us, I feel now is a great time to think about how we might challenge ourselves again. For some it might simply be getting on a plane again… I have a number of friends who talk about that with a level of apprehension. For other’s it’s a time to really push the boundaries and do something you never thought possible or even considered before.

There are a few stand out times in my life where I challenged myself beyond what I thought was possible, and while looking back I didn’t actively feel at the time these were particularly challenging – in hindsight – they really were and I remember them because they were challenging, each for different reasons.

An early memory was a trip to Snowdonia in Wales when I was 12 for a week of outdoor activities. The one in question is abseiling down a 90 metre gorge. I remember the absolute fear washing over my body when my name was called. Every single part of my body said no and as I stepped over the edge the fight or flight response was too great and I bailed. And while at the time this felt like failure, I believe that that experience did something in a way to ignite something, even if it was just an awareness of what that ‘feeling’ of fear felt like.

Jump forward a year or so and I took part in several amateur Pantomimes – terrifying in their own way – but I suspect more for the audience as I danced across the stage in a grey leotard (don’t ask).

Shortly after a month-long holiday to Arizona, USA saw me take the controls, fly and land an aircraft for the very first time at the tender age of 15. I adore aviation and this was incredible if not slightly daunting.

Speeding forward about a decade and I was incredibly lucky enough to dive with Whale Sharks in Western Australia – not especially challenging at the time, but looking back the idea of getting in the water with the world’s largest fish with a deep dark blue ocean below you, is in it’s own way something that pushed me, in perhaps a slightly different way.

And my final, but possibly most challenging moment was a Skydive in Cornwall in 2016. Every single part of my being said NO. Why on earth do people find this fun? I was petrified – but oddly, only to the point I boarded the plane. Once airborne a very surreal and hard to explain calm came over me. It was very strange, and lasted only until the door of the plane was thrust open at 15,000ft. But once you’re outside falling through the clouds and seeing for hundreds of miles, it is hands down one of the most exciting, exhilarating and just fun experiences of my life.

And at ISTA we know the importance of embracing a challenge and our events are such a great way for our young people, educators and artists to explore what it is to be challenged. Whenever I travel to an event, I, like many, have that feeling of apprehension – and every time I get up to address the participants, the nerves really kick in. But that feeling can be exhilarating and I believe it can really help you perform.

Everyone’s version of ‘challenge’ is different so don’t compare it to others. My experiences above range hugely and many were more of a challenge than others. For some people, skydiving won’t be a challenge at all, for others, like me it’ll be hugely challenging. Whatever it is you choose, and regardless of how often, enjoy the journey, the feeling it gives you and embrace it. I don’t think you’ll regret it.


I’d like to thank Dinos for the title of this blog. On the day I started writing it, he pulled a reflection card for me. As you can see it was very apt indeed.