On the flight to Florida yesterday, a strong storm rocked the airplane. The pilot aborted our landing twice as high winds pushed the plane sideways and lightning filled the sky. Looking out the window I realized that I wasn't afraid to die. I'm ready to go when the time comes because I've been living my life with awareness, following my instinct, my intuition, and my heart. With every step, no regret. I love my life.
With each step, the ambient light from the house dissipated. The ground was cold and my eyes strained to see where I was going. I dared not turn around or look up, too afraid that doing so would cause a giant creature to materialize from the darkness and swallow me in one gulp.
I was nine years old and although I had long since overcome my fear of the darkness inside the house, the dark forest surrounding the yard still held me hostage.
It was holding me prisoner, preventing me from exploring those places that my siblings wouldn't dream of going. I wanted to take that next step. I wanted to conquer darkness altogether.
One evening, without telling anyone in the house, I opened the back door and stared into the forest. The darkness was incredible. It shrouded everything in mystery, turning the daytime-yard that I was so familiar with into an unknown world of terrifying possibilities. Continue reading
The cage rattled and the creature inside gnawed and pulled at the metal bars. It was a Grey Squirrel, one of several that had chewed a nest into the side of my parents house. My dad was catching and releasing them several miles away with the hope that they would find another place to nest. The trap was designed to cage, not harm, so thankfully the creature inside wasn’t hurt.
Due to the design of the trap, tipping the cage over would cause the doors to unlock and open. The squirrel was definitely big enough to tip the cage over, but instead he paced back and forth and occasionally stopped to gnaw and pull on the metal enclosure.
That’s when I found myself wondering what a human would do if placed in the same situation. Despite there being no indication that tipping the cage over would open the doors, a human would surely try that anyway.
I realized that’s what makes us unique: When the outcome seems hopeless, we test the impossible.
"Fear of failure is a ticket to mediocrity. If you're not failing from time to time, you're not pushing yourself. And if you're not pushing yourself, you're coasting." - Eric Zorn
That quote came across my screen after having spent almost twenty minutes aimlessly passing time on Facebook. I suddenly realized that for the past few weeks I haven't been pushing myself or risking failure. I've been coasting.
Case in point: I wasn't going to publish anything on this blog today. I had already decided that my next post would be on Friday. It was easier that way. I had no idea what to write and I was relying on inspiration to strike at some point between now and then to write a great post.
If I could take the past four months of traveling through third world countries and compact them into two days, it wouldn't even begin to explain how life-changing, eye-opening, and humbling the past few days have been for me.
I'm still digesting everything so I hope you'll forgive me for not going into too much detail, but it should be enough to say that I gave my first, second, and third public speech, entirely unprepared, in front of almost one hundred children and adults, after climbing up through the clouds to the highest elevation I've ever ascended on foot.
I was welcomed and treated like a king.
And what had I done to deserve all this? Nothing.
I had to keep reminding myself that although I hadn't done anything to deserve such a grand welcoming, my ability to reach the world through my writing gave me a potential that none of them had; I had to constantly remind myself that my life contains such an abundance of opportunity that I needed to find some way to give it back to them. Continue reading
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."