Don’t freak out. This is from you! I am your future you
I am writing to give you an encouraging talk. I don’t have to tell you what about. You know what – the thing you’re thinking about to start. The thing you’ve been thinking about for a few years. The thing you’ve long been passionate about but never had a swing or audience or raison d’etre to articulate.
Now you have all – or at least most of them – and a plan to believe in for capturing what is missing. That would be the audience, the missing piece for a long time. Now, for the first time, you know the audience is there and you know, or think you know, how to get them.
So what are you waiting for?
I know because I remember. You wait because the difference between knowing and thinking that you know feels huge. And it could be. Sometimes the difference between knowing and thinking that you know is the difference between lightning and lightning that I am saying here to indicate that in the future you will butcher quotes from Mark Twain.
But that’s not always the case. Sometimes there is no difference between knowing and thinking that you know. There is only one way to find out what is true in this case and that is to try.
But you are scared. Of course you are! So what? Do it anyway. You’ve written enough about fear to know that it mixes lies with the truth. The fear of racing drivers is rational. Your daughters’ fear of insects is not rational. You persuaded yourself to be rational fear. I promise you; it is not.
You asked Tim Yen, author of Choose Better: The Optimal Decision-Making Framework, how you can talk yourself into it.
“The hardest step is the first step,” he said. “Reduce the risk in your head by taking a step that has little to no consequence, but adds clarity. Use this momentum and dedication for your vision and take another step. “
You like the sound of it. They like the idea that with low risk there is nothing to fear, which is not the same as a promise that this will work well. “But … but … but I’m scared of failure!” you say. Stop it, I say.
Success is not a guarantee – in this or anything else. Do it anyway, because trying it out is life fun. If the only possible outcome was success, success would be meaningless. Failure is painful, but it would be boring without it. I would even say that failure is underestimated.
Even if it fails, give it a try, because trying is an investment in me that you learned from James Clear. Your attempt (or not attempt) will make me what I am. Likewise, you are stronger because the mate took risks before you. If you try now it will be much more likely that I will try something when I’m scared. If I try something I’m afraid of, the future mate behind me will try what scares him too.
You worry that the timing is wrong. You read that the way to know when to try something new is that you can no longer bear not trying. So far, you’ve been dismissing this as the hokum of motivational speakers who made up this answer because “I have no idea” sounds awful to a TED talk.
You interviewed Tony Robbins a few months ago. They asked if you should turn your back on the stranger, which had been a major hurdle. You are less concerned about that now, including Robbins’ response. He suggested asking yourself a series of questions:
- If I weren’t so tied to life what could be possible?
- What could a new life be for me if I really wanted to do it?
You have been afraid before. You have tried for years to overcome your fear of heights. You didn’t, at least not quite, but you made progress. You have climbed a huge red oak called Willa; They’ve gone rock climbing, ice climbing, and rappelling down a canyon deep in the Utah desert. Each of these adventures made the next possible.
The main discovery you made in trying to overcome your fear of heights was that heights were only a small part of the problem. The bigger problem was that you didn’t trust (or didn’t understand) the equipment you were supposed to protect.
Starting with the tree climbing one began to understand how the ropes / carabiners / harness / etc worked. The more times you were strapped to such devices, the better you understood them, the more you trusted them, the more willing you were to take risks.
Granted, your heart rate was still rising by the time you hit the edge of the cliff. But at least you’ve reached the edge of the cliff. And you’re never frozen there. Don’t freeze now.
I well remember, as I’m sure you know, I rappeled in Goblins Hideout in Utah, a 90 foot deep canyon in Utah. After you fastened yourself to the harness system, you looked over your shoulder into the canyon. The hole in the earth yawned behind you, black and (apparently) bottomless. They turned to face the guide, a kind and steadfast soul named Chris Hagedorn, owner of Get in the Wild Adventures. He had tied you up a few minutes ago, and now he gave you just enough rope to dangle into the depths of Goblin’s hideout.
As Yen suggested, you have taken a relatively inconsistent move. Then another. You went back, back, and slipped some more. Each step made the next possible. Another one and you would be over the edge, no longer standing on the ground, but floating over it, held up by the rope.
Would you take this step?
Should you take it
Could you take it
You took it.
The minutes you spent descending to the bottom of the canyon were among the most exciting of your life. My Also. Thanks for that.
You are now in an analogous situation. You are strapped in. You understand the risk and the reward. You are on the verge Take the final step. You won’t regret it, and so will I.
Photos courtesy of Matt Crossman
Matt Crossman is a writer and lives in St. Louis. He writes about sports, travel, adventure and professional development. Email him at [email protected]