I can still remember the feeling of outright terror.
Looking back I could see the edge of the sand about 100 yards behind. I was at the beach with my family enjoying a few days of relaxation in the middle of a busy summer. After playing with my kids at the edge of the surf, I had this idea to see how far I could swim out into the ocean.
From the beach, I could see a buoy bobbing in the distance. It didn’t’ seem that far away. That I could see it there was reassuring. Why couldn’t I swim out to it, give it a tap, and swim back to shore?
So I jumped in.
But 100 yards into my swim I was consumed by an overwhelming sense of terror. I felt like I was going to die. I was afraid to drown. I was convinced that a shark was going to pull me under.
I was frantic and irrational. And gave up on my mission. I turned around and swam back to shore — flopping on the sand like I had just finished an Iron Man Triathlon. Fatigued. And beaten.
It’s been more than a decade since that summer afternoon at the beach and I’ve never forgotten that feeling of overwhelming fear and the disappointment that followed.
I gave up when I was afraid.
I was capable of achieving my goal. I had the ability. What stopped me was my fear — which came from a memory in my childhood.
As a young boy, I was at summer camp for a few days when I woke up on the side of the pool looking at the ceiling. The lifeguard was kneeling over me. Asking me if “I was OK”. I didn’t know enough to know that I wasn’t OK. In fact, I didn’t really remember anything.
I had lied to the lifeguard and told him that I had already passed the swim test — so he let me head to the deep end of the pool. I then made my way up the ladder, past the small diving board, to the highest dive. I jumped off the 15 foot high dive, landed on my head, and had to be rescued by the lifeguard.
Too big a goal for my lack of skill.
And that memory convinced me that I was afraid of deep amounts of water. It paralyzed me. Robbed me of my perspective and will. And I gave up. Which is what happens automatically if you don’t have a plan to tackle it.
- Fear about your finances will convince you to take shortcuts and invest in “get rich quick”schemes.
- Fear about your relationships will convince you to “get yours” first — even when you know it will come back to hurt you later.
- Fear about your job will convince you that everyone is out to get you, making you belligerent, cynical, and unable to lead.
Fear will wreck your life.
What you do or don’t do when you are afraid indicates exactly what is missing from your life.
What you need to improve. What is missing from your life. What you need to do to be successful.
For breakthrough, start there.