There are those who will say that I am not afraid of anything.
This would, however, be an untrue statement. There are a few things that strike terror in my heart. I cannot stand the thought of falling – even just a short distance. I have had multiple knee injuries and then necessary reparative surgeries as a result of falling – either on a ball field or on a volleyball court. And one time, I fell off a ladder which collapsed under me.
There are years in my past where I struggled to make ends meet – this has brought about a severe case of Atychiphobia – a fear of failing. And while I find the fear of failure a great motivator, it has also kept me from opening a couple doors and taking risks that may pay off in the end. One such risk is to actually take the time I need to write a book (several books, really) – I love to write and have been publishing my work online for many years. But what if my book fails? What if no one wants to publish it or read it? This coming from a woman who really does love taking risks – who loves rocking the boat, stirring the pot, and pointing eyes down an unseen road. There are risks that line each of our days – facing the fear behind the risk is the difference for me.
Seth Godin recently wrote about being fearless. I love his particular brand of insight because it so succinctly fits into my personal credo, but has also revealed a different way to view risk and fear.
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“The fearless person is well aware of the fear she faces. The fear, though, becomes a compass, not a barrier. It becomes a way to know what to do next, not an evil demon to be extinguished.”
– Seth Godin
My Brand of Fearless
I draw on many personal experiences that led to my own brand of fearlessness.
My first cold call as a recruiter was riveting, to say the least. I looked at the binder-clipped stack before me, a listing of over 6,000 hospitals whose emergency departments I would need to call. My palms were sweaty, my heart skipped beats, and my throat was dry. I reviewed the information I had to share – the opportunity, its location, the compensation package and knew I was never going to feel ready to make that first call. So, I just picked up the phone and dialed. Knowing I could hang up any time helped – quite a bit – knowing that I had that small amount of control helped keep my fear in check. Soon, I became truly fearless when it came to making cold calls – the kind of fearless that Godin describes, controlled and useful – having it be a guide for my words and actions.
The first time traveling alone or making a presentation. Being interviewed for a job, or walking on to a theater stage, or submitting a resignation letter or testifying in court. Starting a new business or closing your doors for good. Merging on to a fast-moving highway or trying to shift gears going up a steep hill. Ending a relationship or saying the words, “I want a divorce”. Watching your child attempt something difficult or unknown or dealing with them being hurt or angry or hungry. So many fearful situations that we each handle fearlessly every day.
Being aware of your fear presents opportunity
Not necessarily an opportunity to conquer that fear but to face it and use it to guide and empower you. One of the greatest lessons I ever learned was to look seriously at my own liabilities and turn them into assets – either simply by knowing what my liabilities were or creating an outside alliance or exposing your my own weakness/liability before anyone else does – controlling that message. It’s a way to be brutally honest with yourself to reveal where the real fear lies.
Interestingly enough, I have never been afraid to fly in an airplane, as I viewed air travel as powerful – it meant I had purpose, I had a destination. And while I have had multiple nightmares of falling – off buildings or through endless clouds, I have never had a dream where I soared in flight.
I have always followed my own theory that there are enough unknown fears out there that I will meet and conquer, that I don’t really need to have a head-on collision with a known fear of mine, such as falling or failing. But I’d like to try something new for me – I’d like to stare down my known fears. I believe looking my own personal fears straight in their ugly, distorted faces will change them. Having never been afraid of spiders or clowns, bees or moths, speed (as in a fast car) or the other guy (as in anyone but me), this is a crazy step closer to the edge for me.
Busting My Theory Wide Open
In a few weeks, I will fall out of an airplane on purpose, strapped to someone who has done it hundreds of times. I know this is weird, but I don’t fear the landing at all, for that is my destination. And I don’t fear the chute not opening because the guy I’m strapped to really wants it to open, too. But I do fear the fall. I am crazy afraid. Maybe it’s the countless nightmares, maybe it’s because I don’t like that feeling in my stomach when I hit a dip in the road – the feeling of uncontrolled air time, maybe it’s that fall off a ladder so many years ago. Most likely though, it’s because I control the decision to do it or not. I control the signing of my name and the step into the plane.
Map Your Path, Design Your Journey
Make this your year to be fearless – having that fear map your path, design your journey.
I’m going to give it a go.
I want to. I think.
I have everything to gain.
by Rayanne Thorn