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Beyond What We Avoid

“One must consciously ask each day: In what way am I so afraid that I am avoiding myself, my own journey?” — James Hollis

My bride has a strong fear of heights, and I have a nasty habit of challenging her to try things that test that fear. Examples are rattled off in conversations with friends of times I pushed her beyond her comfort zone: helicopter on to a glacier, zip-lining through an Alaskan forest, The London Eye, driving the narrow, twisting switchbacks on the Pacific Coast Highway or the Italian roads to the Dolomites and then riding the cable car to Seceda. There is a pattern of seeking experience beyond her comfort zone, and I greatly appreciate her willingness to put fear aside just a bit to give it a go. In every case the end result was worth it.

She asked me the other day what I’m afraid of. We’ve been married for almost 27 years, so for her not to know outright was interesting to me. But then again, I also have a hard time thinking of something I’m afraid to try. I can think of many extreme sports that I’d never do, but it’s not for fear but a healthy respect for keeping my body in one piece that keeps me from trying them. There’s a reason most people aren’t surfing 26 meter tall waves like Sebastian Steudtner or attempting Alex Honnold’s Free Solo climb of El Capitan. These are the very definition of extreme, because in the entirety of recorded human history nobody has ever survived such a feat. And yet they pushed through their own fears and did it.

My own fears aren’t challenged in extreme sports or public speaking, but in putting my work out there for all to see and having it measured. There’s a reason my early blogging was anonymous, for it took me some time to want to have my name tied to it. Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar in your own writing. This fear first expressed itself in college, when I chose to avoid creative writing classes where my work would be judged by my peers and chose classes where I simply analyzed other people’s writing. A few decades later I still regret the lack of courage to simply put it all out there right then and there. But regrets aren’t productive unless we burn them as fuel for becoming something more.

My greatest fear is leaving my best work on the table before I check out of this world. To develop the talent and the habits necessary to produce something of consequence but never actually putting it out there for the world to judge for themselves nags at me. Blogging is a necessary hammer and chisel chipping away at that block, but deep down I know it isn’t enough. It is absolutely a necessary part of the journey, but it must never be the journey itself. Blogging daily can be a form of avoidance—as if I might quench my thirst for doing more simply by putting out a blog post every day.

There’s much more to do, friends. Much more on the table that needs to be put out there. And that’s the comfort zone I need to push beyond. If life experience tells us anything, it’s that the end result will be worth it.

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