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Do one thing every day that scares you

Yesterday my parents badly needed sand because their big driveway was covered in sheer ice. Many people have told me that as long as I was a Lowell resident I could get free sand from a particular Lowell Public Works yard. (It's actually better than regular sand because it's a salt/sand mixture they use on the public roads.) I've seen plenty of municipal plow trucks drive down the long dirt road to the yard but never any non-municipal trucks, so I was always hesitant to check it out. None of us really has the money to spend on bags and bags of sand or salt from Home Depot, so filling my truck with free sand would be really helpful for everyone.

I'm not a Lowell resident anymore (I used to own three rental properties in Lowell but I live in NH now) however my truck still has a Massachusetts license plates. For many years I've imagined the worst possible outcome for driving down that long dirt road to get sand. I imagined armed guards with guns ready to fire upon me for trespassing, getting arrested by the police, etc, etc. Then yesterday, after realizing the worst possible thing that could actually happen (of all the most likely bad things) would be for someone to simply tell me "no, the sand is for city use only", I finally built up the courage to drive down the road to see if I could get some free sand.

The yard was empty. There were no armed guards with guns ready to fire upon me. There were no gates preventing me from passing. In fact, there weren't even any signs that said "No Trespassing" or "Official Use Only" and not a single person in sight to stop me! I drove up to the huge pile of sand, filled my truck, and drove away. That's when it hit me. If I had only built up the courage to do something that had very little risk associated with it, I could have had access to free sand for all my rental properties for the past 6 years! As I drove away from the huge pile of sand, I remembered a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: "Do one thing every day that scares you."

Comfort makes us feel good; it's relaxing and it allows us to enjoy life. Unfortunately like many narcotics comfort has a nasty side-effect; too much of it leads to the exact opposite: discomfort. It should, therefore, be used in moderation (like everything else in life) and we should not use it as a constant destination. The destination of every moment should be the growth and gratitude of this life.

Staying within our comfort zone limits our ability to grow and learn. Niels Bohr, a Nobel Prize winning Danish physicist who made fundamental contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics said, "An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field." Nobody is comfortable making mistakes, but if mistakes are such a vital component to advancing our growth then we need to embrace doing things that scare us; we need to embrace doing things that make us feel uncomfortable so that we can live richer, fuller lives, instead of living a life of fear, worry, and uncertainty.

It's no doubt a scary thing to intentionally do something that makes us feel uncomfortable; to intentionally do something where the outcome or consequences are unknown. However, if we recognize that much of the fear comes from our own subconscious playing out the worst possible outcome, the outcome that is probably less likely to happen than lightning striking us from inside an office building, then we can quickly overcome our fears and grow in amazing ways.

Doing something every day that scares you may be quite a challenge but just try to think of all the little things that you don't do every day simply because you're afraid or because you're uncertain of their outcome. Saying hello to the cute girl who works in an adjacent office, taking an alternate route to a frequent destination down roads you've never traveled, selling something you don't use but think you'll eventually need, being extra friendly to a family member who you've never gotten along with, standing up to your boss or manager when you know you're right. I'm sure if you think carefully you can find plenty of harmless things you've avoided simply out of fear of the unknown.

Be more open to new experiences and grab life by the horns. Get out of your comfort zone and face challenges head on. Do one thing every day that scares you. Don't be afraid to learn something new about yourself or to change something about who you think you are as a person. But remember, as Mrs. Roosevelt also said, "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself."

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  1. “Be more open to new experiences and grab life by the horns. Get out of your comfort zone and face challenges head on.” Having an open mind gives us more comfort to face our everyday challenges. We shouldn’t be scared to try new experiences/challenges because they help us to grow!:)

  2. Thanks for the comment, Euphrasie! Having an open-mind is definitely important because it removes the mental roadblocks that prevent us from seeing and experiencing the world from new perspectives. We can learn so much by trying to understand the way others see the world.

  3. I kinda have the same issue sometimes, particularly when it comes to paperwork. What I do now is just race through my to-do list as quickly as possible. I find that I don’t have enough time to even worry about “what if’s” anymore. I also find that time really slows down when I do that.

  4. Yeah, I’ve noticed that when I’m really productive and just getting stuff done instead of delaying or just thinking about doing it, time appears fly by really fast (in the moment). But then when I think on a scale of days, my days feel longer. That’s probably because they were so productive that what normally would have taken many days took only one…

  5. Good post Raam! It fits me well again. I hate making phone calls to the unkown… like recently: CISCO help desk (India), NIFL (Gas company) and all the mortgage companies I had to call when buying a house. Of course the only one I felt comfortable with was our friend Livingstone’s work place.

    Our Natural Gas Bill is extremely high, I would almost rather pay it than to call them to see if there was a miss-reading. Like you said, what’s the worse thing they could say, “no” and I’d pay the bill and move on with life.

    I took a job as a ad rep for the local newspaper…. eeek!!! (1997 – 1998). The job didn’t help me with getting over the fear of phone calls, but it did help with 1on1 talking.

    My comfort zone is face to face or email. It’s taken several attempts to make a call before. You would think I’d be more afraid of 1 on 1 than phones, but I’m not.

  6. I used to have the same issue (although I also feared face-to-face, and still do more than the phone). I can remember writing down a list of all the possible questions I could be asked and the answers I would give, along with a pre-written opening to the call whenever I had to make an important call. I had a genuine fear of talking to people on the phone.

    My first big tech job was at a call center. I had two weeks to learn everything I needed to know and get over my fears. A year later I was taking 80 – 100 calls a day and felt very comfortable; I totally got over my fear of the phone. I realized that no one is expected to know everything and it’s pretty easy to say “I don’t know” or “I don’t have that paperwork in front of me, so I’m not sure”. Besides, what’s the worst someone on the phone can do to you? Yell? Hang up? They can’t reach across the wire and grab you, or make a big scene for those around you to see.

    Phones are easy now, but I still prefer email way more!

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