Friday, September 20, 2013

The Thing About Fear OR Have a Little Faith

A quick story:

I was about 8 years old. My family was spending the day at Six Flags. If you've ever been to the one here in St. Louis, you know that there is an old, wooden roller coaster called The Screaming Eagle. Now, I was never much for roller coasters (or heights, or small spaces... but I digress), but I was standing just outside the roped-off lines for that particular ride with my dad and brother, when he asked who would go with him. Naturally, I thought my brother would do it - he was three years older, which automatically made him braver in my eyes. But, he declined. My dad tried convincing him to no avail. Then he turned to me and raised an eyebrow. And despite being a nervous wreck, I jumped at the chance to ride it. It wasn't the thrill that convinced me. It was the look on my dad's face. I knew my bravery would make him proud, and give me bragging rights over my big brother. A win-win!
(author's note: Hey Dad, sorry about biting your shoulder, I can still picture the little, red teeth marks puncturing your freckled skin...)

As I got older, I was the kid who always took the Dare when we played Truth or Dare. I was the one who stepped up to be adventurous. I was really just playing tough. I wasn't so brave, I just enjoyed the attention. As a mom, it's probably not a quality you want your kids (especially teenagers) to have. This I fully understand. But at the time, it was great.

Despite my "pretend bravery" I've never really been much of a risk taker. And especially as I've gotten older, my priorities have certainly shifted. Motorcycle joy rides? Not for me. What if something happened to me? I have three kids to raise! Quit my job and start my own company? Why would I do that when I've got a reliable salary, 401k, health insurance, paid vacation, sick days and personal time?

The thing about fear is, it's usually only present when we don't have the knowledge to overcome it. We're afraid of things about which we know little or nothing. We're afraid to take a leap of faith, because we can't know what will happen until after we've done so. It's a tough thing to overcome, this fear. But not impossible. Because the more we face it head on, the less frightened we'll become, the more experiences we'll accumulate and be able to draw from.

I was having dinner with my oldest son the other night, after a visit to a college fair. He was feeling a bit overwhelmed I think. All the choices, and the competition among the "best" schools. Worrying that maybe he wouldn't get in (with two AP classes and two Honors classes, he's got a heavy academic load his Junior year). I reminded him about all the things I never thought I could do, and did. And all the times he'd accomplished things he wasn't sure he would.

"Sometimes you just have to have a little faith," I said.

"In what?" he asked.

"In yourself. If you are the first one to tell yourself 'I can't' why should anyone else believe that you can?"

It's a conversation I'd been on the other end of a few months prior.

My dad and I were on twin kayaks out on the lake. I was voicing my fears about quitting my job, venturing out on my own. I'd really wanted to do it, but I had three kids to raise, high school tuition - and soon, college - to pay for. What if I couldn't make ends meet? What if I failed?

"What's the worst that could happen?" he asked me.

"The worst? Well, I guess it doesn't work and I have to get another job."

"Can you handle that?"

"Yeah, I suppose I could."

"Sometimes you just have to jump," he said with an easy shrug of his shoulders.

And so I did.

On August 1st, I turned my name into an LLC. After years of regular paychecks, I'm making my own dime. If I don't work, I don't get paid. Sick days? Nope. Vacation? Not unless I want to go without income for a week.

But, here's the exciting part: the possibilities are absolutely endless! Doors are opening left and right, I'm writing more, spending less time fighting rush hour traffic, and getting the opportunity to share my expertise, and work on many different projects, brands and initiatives. I'm exploring new options and meeting people who share my passion for writing, for helping individuals, companies and brands communicate more effectively to reach their goals. It's more than I could have hoped for. I'm also home to put my daughter on the bus every morning, and here when all three of my kids get home after school. And I can't put a price on that.

But I digress. Sometimes the thing that frightens us the most is the thing we want most. If you are the biggest thing standing in the way of your hopes and dreams, well then... get the hell out of the way.

As Sheryl Sandberg asks, via her Lean In initiative, what would you do if you weren't afraid?

*Thanks for stopping by my personal blog. If you're interested in social media, marketing, content and/or small business, I'd love for you to stop by my business blog!


  1. Oh how I love this blog! I see the fear in my own life and all of the things I haven't done that I'd love to try. I think the lesson divorce has taught me is that I can do whatever I set my mind to doing. No one ever encouraged me that way. (I guess I should thank your dad!). I can see that earning my doctorate and traveling the world were things I dreamed and then finally accomplished. Working with future educators is also such a joy! I haven't conquered all of my fears, but I am taking them a step at a time. Next month, I'm actually taking a ride on a Harley...God help me!! If I don't come back alive, Ella gets the jewelry!

    1. Well, I guess I am lucky because both of my parents always told me I could do anything! It was always just my own fears that held my back. Some of them are real fears, and have to be considered, but many, I have found, are not as difficult as we have made them out to be in our heads.
      Enjoy the Harley ride...!

  2. Oh Beth, this is succinct and so true. I hope you're knee deep in success with this business venture. So proud you took the leap!

  3. Beth, you write so well you always make me sound smarter than I am. Remember, you have always been successful..... Why should that change now?

    1. You are every bit that smart. And your second sentence proves it... Matter of fact. And smart - you are so right!

  4. I've skydived before, and the exhilaration when you jump is unbelievable. And the chance to see everything spread out before you (the fields)'s beyond thrilling.

    That must be how it is for you, Beth. It would be horrible if you wondered, 20 years down the road, 'What if I had been brave enough to take that risk?'

    Regrets over something never ventured is a *itch.

    1. A wonderful analogy Sioux. Terrifying and exhilarating all at once!

    2. Whoops. I should have written about regrets over NOT being brave enough to take the risk...


  5. Great parents...great message...great quote! Great blog post.

  6. No doubt you'll do well and be successful. You've got all that it takes and then some.