I had lunch with a writer friend, Carrie Lowen, yesterday. She writes a wonderful blog at http://apps.carrielowen.com/blog/. And we were talking in part about Courage to change yourself and your world.
I find it amazing that so many people are afraid of so many things, so afraid in fact, that they will stay in a bad situation because the “devil you know is better than the devil you don’t”. But if you don’t push yourself out of your fear, you will have a miserable life. Not in all cases, but in some cases.
Like Carrie, I have a habit of fearing something which will lead me to go out of my way to do exactly that thing that brings me face to face with my fears. Crazy, huh? Not really. There is only so much procrastination I can stand before the urge to just jump off the metaphorical cliff becomes too much to ignore and I really can’t stand all the messing around a minute longer.
Facing your fears makes you less afraid and more confident in yourself. I have two examples.
Like a lot of people, I had a fear of public speaking. My throat would dry out, I’d be shaking and be a total basket case just thinking about it. A few years ago, I had the job of training people on software and as luck would have it, I somehow got nominated to do this because nobody else would do it. The other people literally got notes from their doctors’ so they wouldn’t have to do it. The first time I tried to conduct one of these training sessions, I started coughing because my throat was so dry and tears ran down my face from the incessant coughing. Someone had to take over for me. Instead of thinking “Oh my God, that was the worst, most embarrassing thing ever and I am never going to do that again”, my thought was, “Okay, so that was the worst thing that could have happened, so it’s got to get better from here.” And you know what? It did get better, the more often I did it. I got to a point, in fact, that I would be excited about performing the training sessions. After all, I was getting a bunch of people to do as I instructed and being a writer, I do like my control!
The other scary thing I did was travel by myself around the world. At first I was in New Zealand and Australia (where I spent over a year - it was great!), then while hitch-hiking with a British woman who had just gone through Asia, she encouraged me to go. I thought, well, I’ve come this far, why not? So I got all my finances in order (I worked in Australia) and began my travels in Asia with Singapore. The situation didn’t become real until the plane was landing in Singapore at 8pm. It was dark. I didn’t know anyone. The instructions I had were “take a bus to this street (I think the street name was Bencoolen Street) and someone will find you and give you a place to stay”. I was freaking out. Was I insane? Had I gone totally off my rocker?? But the flight was landing and I couldn’t go back to Australia because my visa was already four days overdue. So, I followed the instructions, took the bus and, once there standing on the street, someone found me and gave me a place to stay for one American dollar a night. Afterwards, I figured that if I could do that, then I could do anything.
Sometimes courage is just a leap of faith that somehow, someway, everything will turn out. I don’t take outrageously foolish risks, but I do take calculated risks in both my professional and personal life.
Being a writer is a calculated risk. My first book should be published soon and I am doing my best to make sure it’s a success. My only job right now is writing. Is that foolish? To some people, maybe. If you have children and financial obligations that don’t allow you to initially do what you want to do for a living, then you have to start smaller. My first book was written in the evenings when I had finished my money-making day job. The second book is a full-time job. I get to set my hours, I get to study my craft on my own time, I get to do what I want when I want to do it.
Freedom is good but it comes at a price. Just like courage is good but it, too, exacts a price while also extending a branch of hope, of optimism for the future.
Courage takes you on a whirlwind tour and, if you can find it in yourself to hang on, it’s a great ride. You discover more about yourself and your capabilities than you dreamed possible. Most people try to ignore the fact that you can change the entire course of your life in one second. One second is all it takes to make a decision. It takes many more seconds to actually see fruition, if you see it at all. Even if you fail, you still have expanded the boundaries of your life and psyche. So it’s not really a failure at all, but a journey of self-discovery.
I have a saying, “If you don’t make at least five mistakes a day, you’re not trying hard enough.” Success doesn’t teach you fortitude. Failure teaches you in unimaginable ways. The saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, then try, try again,” is so simple but so profound. A failure is not a bad thing unless you learn nothing from it and it scares you away from what you want.
So please, try, try again.