A few months ago I started a personal blog, inspired by the week I spent with author (and one of my heroes) Seth Godin. I was hoping to publish a new post for each of 30 straight days, but I failed at that, quite miserably.
But one post there was about fear, something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. It’s something I’ve let control me at times in the past, but recently — really, right after the events that inspired this post — things have been different: I’m beginning to understand what people like Seth and Steven Pressfield mean when they talk about “dancing” with fear.
So today I want to share that post, from early August.
The most valuable part of my five days with Seth Godin last week wasn’t the chance to ask him specific questions and get his input on what I should do next.
It also wasn’t the vegan lunches he made each day or the magic tricks he performed or the stories he told (all of which were marvelous).
Instead, for me, it was his admonition that I and the other 14 people there stop living in fear.
The thing is, nobody in the room got there by being afraid. Seth picked us, I can only assume, because of our histories of taking chances and making things happen — and sometimes failing miserably, because that’s part of the deal.
But in our first hour together, Seth talked almost exclusively about fear. About how most of us go through life worried that just around the corner lurks something scary and terrible. One false move, and…
This was me last night as I lay in bed, unable to sleep at 2am after three hours of trying.
Right now I’m on a plane flying to New York, to speak at The Seed Experience and man the No Meat Athlete table for two days. It’s been a crazy week of catch-up after the five days with Seth, so not until this morning did I have the chance to pack all the stuff for the booth and print the flyers. And pack my normal suitcase and work on my speech and a million other tiny things.
Then, drive two hours to the airport in Charlotte before getting on a plane, which still makes me nervous for some reason, and figure out how to get from JFK airport to my hotel in TriBeCa (probably not hard, but I’ve never done it, and New York is New York).
Last night as I watched the click tick down six, five, four hours left of potential sleep, all I could think about was all of this. And it was too much, because I knew that even when I got back late Sunday night, once all the hard work was done, the week would be starting … another busy one, because I travel again on Thursday.
Then something snapped.
Suddenly I could see. The way you see pro wrestling once you learn it’s fake (another idea from Seth).
I realized that this stress — about my speech not being good enough, forgetting an essential part of the booth setup, not bringing enough shirts or books, missing the flight and not getting a haircut and not changing my oil and that just maybe my plane crashing and my kids growing up with no dad — was pretend.
Just like pro wrestling.
Because I’ve done all this stuff before. And things have gone wrong before, and it doesn’t matter. Every time a speech hasn’t gone quite as well as planned or I’ve almost missed a flight or we ran out of the popular shirts, time went on. Nobody died. Nobody even complained, really. And the next day I went home and my kids hugged me in the usual way and life resumed as normal.
I’m not sure I’m expressing this well, but that’s okay. Because this blog is a daily blog and a new challenge, so I get another shot tomorrow. Just like with the other stuff. And just like with everything (really, everything) else.
Last night I thought a switch had flipped. That now I’d forever be able to see the world as it really was, that there was no monster awaiting just around the corner anymore, and there never would be.
I was wrong. Because several times I’ve caught myself back in the fear state. Where everything this weekend means the world, and one mistake means disaster.
But the key words there are I’ve caught myself. And each time I do, I see pro wrestling’s harmless pulled punches and ketchup blood and flimsy folding chairs.
This glimpse of fearlessness is new. And fun. Maybe this is what Reggie means when he says “Remove the fear.”
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