Embracing what we fear

So often, we can be stunted by our fears. When we are willing or able to embrace our fears, we take steps to manage their influence on us. We become stronger.

* Heights: Years ago, a group of us went skydiving in celebration of a friend’s birthday. In our group, one chose to dive for himself - to take a step to embrace his fear of heights. It was an awesome day. Oddly, though, we all commented later how easy it was to step out of a Cessna at x-thousand feet because the altitude was incomprehensible - it was only as we neared the earth that we felt our falling.

[Incidentally, there was a palpable fear of heights during a team-building activity at Emerald City Trapeze – whew, it was intense to lunge forward, leaving the (perceived) safety of the perch, and reach out for that trapeze bar.]

* Spiders, bugs, etc (you know, the creepy-crawlies): I myself have found that this fear can be lessened with an academic approach and plenty of photos... viewed from a safe distance!  Photos like the Yahoo News story about ballooning spiders escaping a flood in Australia.  As a friend, Sondra, recently shared, "The only thing worse than having a spider in your room is losing a spider in your room."

* Loneliness: How do we embrace loneliness? Is it finding peace in ourselves and creating moments of joy? In thinking of wallowing in loneliness, I remember Su Tung-po's poem, Mid-Autumn Moon, translated by the great Burton Watson:

"Six years the moon shone at mid-autumn;
five years it saw us parted.
I sing your farewell song;
sobs from those who sit with me.
calling for wine, you drink with your wife
and tell the children stories, thinking of me.
You have no way of knowing I've been sick,
that I face the pears and chestnut, cup empty,
and stare east of the old riverbed
where buckwheat blossoms spread their snow.
I wanted to write a verse to your last years song
but I was afraid my heart would break."

* Getting fired: With Steve Jobs’ recent passing, it was striking to hear about his life - his drive, his passion, his temper. And I was particularly moved by his phoenix-from-the-ashes rebirth after being fired from the company he founded (shared during his Stanford University Commencement address)
"I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life."

Relatedly, I'm reminded of the Failure Wall at Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp, created by Jeff Stibel. Brilliant.

Knowledge and experience are our best tools to embrace our fears: experience because it lessens the future impact of fear; and knowledge because it dispels fear.


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