Brave People Don’t Wait for Courage, They Do It Afraid
The first was from a blog post by Benjamin P. Hardy that popped up in my email list this morning:
“We are at our most alert when we are in danger of failing. The greatest growth comes from being alert, scared, and striving.” – Dan Sullivan
The second was a statement made by Jeff Goins as part of a training podcast I listened to this afternoon:
“Brave people don’t wait for courage. They do it afraid.”
Courage or Crazy?
I remember a phone call I received from one of my sons one afternoon. “Mom, I just booked a one-way ticket to China.”
That was totally illogical. He doesn’t speak Chinese. He did not know a single living soul in China. He had no living accommodations, no travel visa, no job, and no money to spend once he got there. Still, he had purchased a ticket. One way.
“I want to go to China this summer and I knew that if I didn’t commit myself, I would find some reason to back out,” he reasoned. He learned to really, really love dumplings while he was there, by the way.
Waiting for Courage
I have been thinking about this concept of fear a little bit lately–about being willing to feel it, first of all, and then about what to do with it when it comes. How do you develop the ability, in the moment, to see the fear for what it really is–an imposter from the future who has convinced you that the worst will happen, when in fact, nothing at all has happened yet?
The photo above is of me. I’m giving the photographer a big thumbs-up to let her know I’m having a great time scuba diving. The truth was, I was not having a great time at all. You can see it in my eyes if you look closely. Nope. Not really having fun yet. Just kind of faking like I am because it will make a better photo.
I think jumping into the water that day might have been the closest I’ve ever come to having a panic attack. Panting for breath in the frigid water and unable to maneuver efficiently with the heavy tank strapped to my back, weights strapped around my waist, and flippers on my feet, I floated helplessly further and further away from the boat while my husband waved to me to come back and join the rest of the scuba group. They were ready to descend, and I was drifting away in the current. The instructor noticed me, and swimming toward me and taking me by the hand, said in a thick accent, “Come. Near tu familia. Find tu confidence.”
I was only sure of one thing: There was no way I was putting my head under water. This was going to be a very shallow dive.
Doing it Afraid
And then a brief wave of courage (or maybe it was embarrassment) washed over me. I was holding everyone else up. Somehow I needed to find enough will to put my face in the water, and the instant I did, the heaving in my chest gave way to calm. The tank and regulator were doing their job. My panic eased and my confidence returned little by little.
I didn’t get to see what I had planned to see that day. The water was murky and visibility was low. Only one shimmering school of fish floated past us as we strained to see the coral reef below us. Due to the low visibility, the dive instructor kept the novice divers together by having us hold a bright yellow cord. Tethering us this way kept us from accidentally swimming beyond his sight.
As it was, I had sucked most of the oxygen out of my tank during my panic-laced float on the surface. This meant I had to return to the surface after only 30 minutes, but despite that, I don’t consider this scuba dive a failure. It reminded me what panic feels like, gave me a new empathy for anyone who feels it on a regular basis, and helped me understand that both fear and courage are a choice. You can wait until your confidence is restored while you float around on the surface, or you can do the deep dive while you’re still afraid. The view at the bottom may be lovely enough to make the whole trip worthwhile.