There are two ways to live your life; in fear of death, or in spite of it.
Here’s a story not many people know:
I almost died.
Drowned to be precise.
I remember the water coming over my head, then receding a bit, and gasping for air. I remember that happening repeatedly, only each successive recession was smaller and smaller. Until the breath of air I got was mostly water. There were two or three of those. Then I remember looking at my daughter a few yards away, knowing it would be the last time I saw her…
…then, going under.
I don’t know how long I was under. The next thing I remember was clawing my hands into the beach as I dragged myself further out of the water – choking on sickeningly warm water and the taste of salt.
A few hours later, I was fine. Fine, but changed. I have a healthy fear of the water, now. Particular open bodies of water.
…like, for instance, the San Francisco Bay.
So, five years later, when my client asked if I wanted to come along for a sailing race, a good answer would have been “No.”
But, then I’ve never been one for “good” answers.
Of course, I went.
But, I didn’t go out of some dare-devil drive to face my fears. I just didn’t want to give up an experience over fear.
That’s what we do. We trade a new experience for the ability to avoid the experience of fear. Except, we’re still afraid.
Don’t confuse bravery with not being scared.
We’re all scared. Even those of us that routinely face our fears.
The water was really choppy that day of the race. Before the race began, we had to tack in order to keep from crossing the starting line. The Cal 20 began to heel towards port side – where I was sitting. It continued to heel… and continued. Within moments, my back and seat were wet from the waves coming over the side. The starboard side gunwale was about eye level – and continuing to rise. At the same time, my stomach continued to sink.
As the race began, there was no turning back. I somehow spent most of the hour on the lee side wondering just how much more wind it was going to take to put me in the bay.
I very rarely get concerned enough to question my decision making paradigm. This, however, was one of those times. To say I was scared would be a gross understatement.
For at least the first year of entrepreneurship, every day I was scared I was going to fail. If you’re considering the entrepreneur path, you will have to keep working even though you’re scared. It’s simply the unknown.
The unknown scares us.
I used to have a boss that would have me continue working on something we knew was ultimately bad. He’d always say:
“It’s either the Devil you know or the Devil you don’t.”
Fear is the Devil we know. Because, the Devil we don’t know could turn out to be an Angel.
…and often times does. That’s why it calls us.
You’re thinking Sirens, aren’t you? Sirens were a Myth. They were a reason for Sailors to stay away from uncharted lands. Sirens were the Devil they thought they knew. You’ve got those, too, don’t you? Tricky, those Sirens.
But, Fear – the Devil we know – whispers in our ears. It tells us all the catastrophic consequences of even the most benign situations. It makes us completely irrational.
Fear cripples us. Fear keeps us stuck. Fear prevents our story from unfolding.
Fear will be there. It’s there for everyone. It’s just your choice whether to live in spite of it.
…or to choose the Devil you don’t know.