Fear is a killer. It kills joy. It kills creativity. It causes inactivity and paralysis. Fear is not your friend. A few years ago, I attended a leadership workshop with my contemporaries in one of the largest corporations in the world. The company spent untold hundreds of thousands of dollars on the event. The idea was to take the organization the next level. To make the company world class in every way. To motivate the troops. To cause a groundswell of customer service. It was exhilarating to see 2500 of the combat leaders of this company swell with energy and pride as the presentation reached its apex. Our top level leaders in the corporation were revealed as former cooks and dishwashers who now, twenty-odd years later are Executives, Officers, and Directors in a multi-national, multi-billion dollar company. I found myself caught up in the enthusiasm.
I have one lasting memory from this leadership conference. It was the final exercise of many in the program, an exercise in self-empowerment and self-discovery. A motivational speaker rose to the stage and began slowly building the crowd to a frenzy. We were asked to examine or biggest fears. Each of us was asked to look deep into our hearts to pluck out the biggest fear that we had. I reached into my heart of hearts and found success. Yes, success. Of all the things to be fearful of, be it unemployment, homelessness, large rabid dogs, hunger, thirst, monsters, the end of the world- my biggest fear was success. Irrational right?
I know that I’m a bright guy. So why did I never finish college? I have an athletic body type. So why did I never strive for more on the field of play? I have been a competent manager of small organizations. So why did I never strive to be the best manager in the company? I love music. So why did I never learn to play an instrument? I have had many great friends over the years. Why have I never been a better friend to them? I am a talented writer. I am brimming with ideas and stories. Why can I not write them to completion?
Is it possible that I fear success?
Is it possible that I fear happiness?
Is it possible that I fear joy?
Is it possible that I fear love?
I believe all of these things to be true.
In the exercise that followed the speech, we were all given a pine board. On one side we were asked to write our biggest fear on one side of the board. On the flip-side, we were asked to write the things that we would gain by braking through our biggest fear. I was caught up in the company frenzy, so I wrote some inane things that would help the company. I should have focused on what I could personally gain from breaking through of my fear of success.
We gathered into small groups based on locality and began to break our boards. I believe that I was among the first to finish. Once our group crashed through our biggest fears, we joined a larger group. Then we joined a still larger group. Everyone from four hundred pound men to little old grandmothers were breaking their boards. Finally the group congealed around one last lady, as she tried again and again to break through her fear on the stage in the middle of the auditorium. Finally, we let out a deafening roar as her board broke in two and she leapt in the air. It remains to this day a frozen moment in time. Magical.
Once the thrill of the mass hysteria dissipated, we were given a final pep-talk by our peerless leader. We were to take the message to the masses. To inspire the next dishwasher-turned- executive. We were now world-class managers. Our company would soar to new heights as the shiny place on the hill that all other restaurant companies would look up to. Well, you can probably guess the results. All of this was forgotten until I sat down to muse on fear.
I read. A Lot. Lately I have stumbled upon a website that has helped me break through my jumble of thoughts and focus on constructive ideals. I highly recommend Philosopher’s Notes to any of you seekers out there who desire a lot of wisdom in a little time. Brian Johnson is truly inspirational. He has found a way to earn a living doing something that he would be happy to pay for otherwise. I spend the first twenty minutes of every day listening to a Note. It is my way of meditating on what he calls The Big Ideas. Through the Notes, I found this definition of fear from Yasuhiko Genku Kimura that rang particularly true:
In Japanese, the word for fear is osore. Translated literally, this means disconnected from the universe. The “o” stands for the sacred thread that connects the soul to the universe. The word “sore” signifies disconnection.
When we surrender ourselves to fear, we are weakening our integration with nature. We are out of balance. The same could be said of many emotions, but fear seems to be among the most damning, along with anger, rage, and hate. I call these the Four Deadly Emotions. I ask you to contemplate these emotions. How do you feel when you surrender yourself to fear and anger, rage and hate? Are you in balance? Are you at peace with yourself? Do you have the feeling that you can conquer the world? I think not. Rather we should seek the balance of any situation.
Humans are the only beings in the animal kingdom who hold onto fear. Other animals certainly feel fear. It is naturally occurring. But animal feel a rational fear for a brief period of time and then let it go when the danger passes. Can you imagine a koala bear getting a stress related ulcer? It is unthinkable. Does that make a koala bear a more evolved animal that you or me? Certainly not. But I ask you this, can we revolve to the point where fear ceases to be more that a momentary reaction to an immediate danger. A shiver in our balance rather than a hundred-mile detour.
I have had my issues with all of the Four Deadly Emotions. I have been called a scary person. I have been warned of my over-reactions. I lost a job once because I allowed stress to overwhelm me to the point where I was emotionally debilitated. I have wondered at times if I am truly bi-polar. I can laugh about angry Terry now, but I have been rendered temporarily insane by rage. I make a conscious effort every day to find a balance in my life. When I can keep my focus on happiness and joy, I find that I can accomplish anything I set out to do. Keeping the stress in check is the key.
I have made marvelous strides in the last six months. I have found a partner who is the yang that shines on my dark yin. If you were to ask her, I’m sure that she would claim that I am the sunny yang to her yin. That is the beauty of our relationship. We each give the other what we need, and take only what is necessary to live. We are a million times stronger together than we are apart. I was a broken shell when we connected. She has painstakingly put me back together. I pledge my life to her in return. She is beauty. She makes me beauty. WE are BEAUTIFUL. We are the LIFE that I have waited so long to live.
So I urge you to reach out. Find the things in life that make you happy. Share your joy. In this way you can cast out the Four Deadly Emotions and keep them in a tiny box within your heart. This way you can pull them out from time to time. Laugh at them. Affirm your rebirth again and again. Live. Just Live.