Back in the murky time BC (Before (personal) Computers) my family made the obligatory pilgrimage to “Discover America”. Just like the Brady Bunch we all piled into the car and headed west. Of course we piled into a Chrysler “that’s as big as a whale” instead of a station wagon, but it was the same concept.
We hit all of the important spots like Yellowstone, the Golden Gate Bridge and Hollywood. I had the time of my young life. What could be better than going from watching the filming of a game show one day to standing barefoot in the snow on a high mountain pass just a few days later? Desserts, beaches, huge trees, soaring mountains, waterfalls, geysers and more: everything was just enchanting. Ah, the best of times. Not a problem or care in the world.
Well, almost. You see, I forgot to leave my fear at home.
Take Mesa Verde, for instance. As I’m sure you know, this is a National Park built around a few Native American cities nestled into the sides of cliffs. Stunning. One dwelling, Balcony House, was reserved for the more adventurous tourists. To reach it you have to climb a 32 foot tall ladder that, of course, is perched on a ledge hundreds of feet above the valley floor. My eight year old mind could image that the valley was littered with the bones of the unfortunate children who slipped off the slick log ladder. I had to be forced into climbing it. Once I did, of course, I entered an ancient wonderland. I grudgingly admitted it was worth the climb and the crawl through the dark tunnel at the top of ladder.
Even as adults we sometimes find ourselves paralyzed by fear. Although sometimes the fears are still about the possibility of physical harm or this unpredictable world, often the professional fears are the scariest. Will she like me? Will he be mad at me? Can they accept it? Am I ready for this? Will I fail? Will I be exposed for the fraud that I really am?
No matter how prepared we are we all occasionally have that last fear, particularly when starting a new endeavor. It could be beginning a new job or entering a new phase of an existing career. Perhaps it’s sending out that manuscript, story or article which consumed your life for weeks or months. Years! Or perhaps it’s a photograph you’re hoping to get published. Maybe a piano sonata. All of that hard work, yet we’re still so insecure. Should I do one more draft? Do I need more practice? Another rehearsal? Perhaps I need to study this a bit more…
Of course there comes a time to when the rehearsals have to end, when study books must be put away. There’s a time to stick your neck out and go for it. If you stumble, brush yourself off and try again. They say in order to succeed you must be a risk-taker. You must be willing to tell your story, or show your work. You need to get out there.
Beating that paralysis is difficult, but we must go for it.
We must all learn to conquer our fear if we want to grow.
Three years after the vacation mentioned above, I one again found myself at the bottom of that 32 foot ladder. Things were different this time, though. I was a 12 year old, after all. I wasn’t afraid of a short climb. The ranger was perched part way up the ladder to give everyone a safety briefing. When he finished he turned and started climbing. Without a second thought I immediately followed.
Compare the picture at the top with this one three years earlier. I was the last one up the ladder…. Second picture is Keet Seel in the Navajo National Monument. Since I was so slow going up at Mesa Verde I started the climb while everyone else finished lunch….