Earlier, I wrote an article about why confronting your fears head-on isn’t always a good option. Now, in response to my earlier post, this article about when facing your fears is the best thing to do.
In an age where we can find countless inspirational adages and motivational sound bites simply by logging onto our Facebook, it’s clear: we value courage and perseverance to move through the challenges of our lives.
And if you’re in business, being courageous is especially important when navigating the ever-challenging landscape of stepping outside your comfort zone.
One of these sayings that gets passed around and used in moments of doubt is “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway.” Now, in my opinion, this isn’t always the best thing to do, but in some cases, it’s sound advice. Indeed, sometimes there’s no other way around a challenge but through it. Let me give you an example.
The location of this particular story was in Israel, in the Golan Heights — back in 1979, when I was in my twenties and traveling solo around the world. At the time, I had heard that you could live and work on a Kibbutz — a communal farming settlement — and in return, they set you up with a place to stay. I thought that sounded like a cool thing to do; the Kibbutz I ended up on, Sha’ar Hagolan, was next to Lake Tiberias or the sea of Galilee.
One of the perks of working at Sha’ar Hagolan was the sporadic outings to special destinations. On this particular occasion, a group of 15 of us were driven up to the most idyllic spot in the Golan heights: a deep, cool blue, natural pool with waterfalls. With its standard 100-degree temperature, it was heaven! What an incredible spot. I settled into the water and anticipated a delightful and relaxing day spent in these lovely green surroundings.
This didn’t turn out to be the case. No — after a half hour we were roused and wrangled to gather our belongings and set out on a hike along the top of the heights. The views were stunning.
In a short while, we arrived at the top of an impressive waterfall, which stood about 10 meters above a gorge. (For those of you who think in feet, that’s 35 feet, or 3 stories high.)
One of the leaders cheerfully announced, “OK guys. Here is where we’ll jump into the water to continue along our way.” Looking down 35 feet into the gorge below, I thought, ”Oh, shit!” Maybe he was joking.
But he wasn’t. Upon realizing that he was serious about us jumping (to our deaths, it seemed to me), I asked what the alternative was. He nonchalantly replied that I could rappel down through the waterfall itself. Ugh! That seemed even worse!
Have you ever heard the term “scared shitless”? Yup, that was me — literally. I quickly scouted a large-enough shrub in the desert landscape and rushed behind it.
Upon returning to the cliff, my fellow hikers were already lining up for the jump. I watched them one by one. Each paused at the edge, then lept out with an echoing “Aaaagh!”
I looked over the edge of the cliff to the water below. To my relief, they splashed happily in the water, looking elated. “Okay,” I thought to myself. “If I just get in line and follow the rhythm of the people in front of me, I’ll be okay.” That was good, because . . .
There wasn’t a choice.
I inched forward in a kind of trance. Then, one of the leaders warned, “Don’t jump too far out or you’ll hit the wall on the other side.” Oh, geez! Terror struck me again.
Nervously, I stepped up to the edge of the cliff. The second leader sat with his feet dangling casually off the edge. He looked at me encouragingly and said . . .
“Don’t think about it: just feel it.”
And then, I jumped — dropping through the air for what seemed like many, many seconds. And then, suddenly . . . splash! I made it? Yes! And what a feeling!
What was that feeling? Empowerment. Exhilaration. And a desire to do it again.
The hike provided for that: later on, there were several more jumps into pools with lower elevations. More than three decades later, I still count that hike as one of my peak experiences.
(Side note: this jump is now discouraged and ladders are affixed to the walls of the waterfall.)
Okay — that was a long story! But it illustrates the point that sometimes, we just have to get through what is in front of us. As entrepreneurs, sometimes we have to take that final leap: we have to press “Record,” we have to hit that “Publish” button, we have click on “Send” for that email.
Only then can we know what’s waiting for us on the other side.
Have you had an experience that asked you to go way outside your comfort zone? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
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