Don’t Be Afraid

I have thought a lot about fear recently, and revisiting the sections I highlighted when I read James Harmon’s book, Take My Advice, has helped me approach fear from multiple perspectives.  In Harmon’s book the photographer Horst writes, “Don’t be afraid. One learns through pain, and suffering.  Patience helps!” His quote explains his thoughts on the difficult and painful parts of life that we all strive to avoid.
What I have come to notice with failure is that I am not afraid of the act of failing at something, but I am afraid of the consequences that follow failure.  I think this is an important distinction to make.  I am not afraid of what I can control with a given situation and its result, but I am afraid of the consequences that will follow in the form of other people’s reactions to my failure.  On a second and deeper level, I am for some reason, afraid of hard work. Whenever I get a great idea in my head I can go crazy with what I want to do and how fun it would be to actualize my idea, but then the realization of how much work it will take often paralyzes me.  I have no problem working hard, I graduated Cum Laude, but the idea of additional work in an already busy life becomes overwhelming.
I think that Horst would advocate for me to have patience and plan my goals out over a long time so that the work becomes less daunting.  The problem I have with this idea is the fear of working hard with something, only to find out halfway or two thirds of the way to my goal, that I want something else.  I don’t want my hard work to accidentally steer me away from what I want and into something I had not intended.  Patience and a long term goal in this sense can be something to fear itself.
Richard Wiseman in his book, 59 Seconds: Think a Little Change a Lot, does offer a solution to this dilemma.  Wiseman reviewed popular self-help and advice books to see if any of their suggestions had real scientific backing.  What he found in conquering fear and chasing goals is that those who journal are more likely to reach their long term goals.  He would combine Horst’s idea of patience with a level of self-awareness. Wiseman’s advice is to be honest about what you want and why, and then examine what you could to do get where you want to go. Along the way everyone will face obstacles, and Wiseman says that spending time journaling about how you will overcome those obstacles will help you understand the difficult parts and plan ahead. This way, when you do hit periods of turbulence and hard work, you don’t need to be afraid. Instead of fear of hard work, I can journal to understand what kinds of hard work I can expect and how I will solve problems to mitigate the hard work.  This focus can give me more confidence and reduce the fear of consequences and the fear of hard work.

Knowing Where You Are

Joe Dallesandro wrote a letter for James Harmon to publish in his book, Take My Advice, which is a collection of letters from creative writers and poets, independent creatives, and passionate artists.  In Dallesandro’s letter he writes about many topics, and touches on our life’s work, “Nobody’s going to fault a guy for moving on if a good opportunity comes up, but people switch jobs these days for the perks, for bragging rights, and their life’s work suffers.”

I love this quote because as a recent college graduate with a great job, I have definitely felt the pressures of wanting to have an important position, a clear work plan, and something I can brag about to my friends and family.  What is difficult for me is to envision where I want to go in a career, and still remain happy and content with the job that I have now.  I think that part of what Dallesandro is saying is that we need patience and to be self aware so we recognize when we were in a good place.  I read this quote several months ago, and even wrote this blog post itself a few weeks back. At this point I am now reading, Two Feet Back, Grant Korgan’s novel about his recovery after he broke his back and was paralyzed from the waist down.  In Korgan’s book he constantly mentions his though process during his recovery, particularly one idea, “We are exactly where we need to be.” For Korgan who was recovering from back surgery, he could not judge his progress relative to others or allow his progress to be determined by other people.  He had to focus on constant improvement moment to moment, and his refrain helped him stay focused on the present without fear that he should be doing anything other than what he was actively doing. This quote merges perfectly with what Dallesandro writes.

For me, this means that I do not have to shun the thoughts of wanting a job that pays more or sounds more impressive than my current job. I do not have to feel bad for wanting those things, but I do have to be honest with myself about where I am in my current job.  Right now I am in a job that I enjoy, but that I do want to grow within to reach new opportunities. At the same time, I have been able to recognize the ways in which my job has pushed me, and what areas and skills my job has helped me build.

Dallesandro’s quote speaks to the importance of growth and being in a position where you can maximize your potential and grow.  Finding that place and being aware of when you are in that position is important, and according to Dallesandro, when we leave that position to try and impress others, we risk ending up in a place where our skills do not fit.  Korgan would add to this idea saying that we need to be fully present in the life we currently live. For him, if we cannot be confident in the person we currently are or the position we are currently in, we will not grow and strengthen ourselves to find the change we want in life.

Starting Something & Feeling Overwhelmed

It is so perfect that this quote resurfaces for me right now. Just six pages after I made the highlight which I discussed in my previous post I highlighted a section from Allison Vesterfelt’s book Packing Light which read, “It’s just one little baby step at a time,” she continued. “If you try to figure out how to do everything, all at once, you’ll get overwhelmed.” in this passage she is referring to her friend who convinced her to go on a life altering road trip and explore her writing talents. Leading up to the trip Allison was very nervous, and not sure where to start, what to say goodbye to in order to go on the trip, and what she expected from the trip. This quote really works perfectly for me because I feel as though I have so many expectations for success, my life, and the person I want to be, that at times I become overwhelmed. I want to be a successful runner, a consistent podcaster, and a good boyfriend all while working full time. This is an incredible undertaking for someone who has just graduated, and I think I need to hear this message more often.
For me another powerful piece of advice has been simply to allow things to take longer. My running coach recently said to me after an achilles tendon injury, “You’re not going to the Olympics, so you have no reason not to take some time off and let things recover.” That piece of advice has combined with others in my head from other books and podcasts, to help me understand that I need to remove the pressure to be great immediately. I can allow everything to be a process, and allow myself to have times where I start back at square one to build a solid base and foundation in areas of my life that I want to be complete.
Allison explained this advice as a way to help you take the first step, avoid the fear of the unknown and starting something different, and try doing something new in your life. I think what I have combined with this advice is that your action can be small, and even seem inconsequential at first, if you understand that one day it will be a building block to your own pyramid, tower, or peak of what you want.