We all want to do it.
Whatever it is.
Try something new.
Make a change.
Take the proverbial plunge.
We want to stand proud and erect, bounce lightly, then jump gracefully off the high dive and plummet swan-like into the pool, striking the water at the perfect angle, barely splashing, rising up to smiles and applause.
We want to, but we’re afraid.
Afraid of failure.
Afraid of shame.
Our head understands there is no shame in trying, that the shame is in not trying, in shrinking back from the edge of the board, slinking down the ladder, and slipping quietly away.
And our heart, though it is pounding, screams “Jump!” with every beat.
But fear strikes the gut, radiating outward, freezing our blood, paralyzing our limbs, eroding even the firmest resolve.
Fear drains the buoyant liquid joy from “what if something amazing happens?” and leaves us staring at a dry pool bottom terrified we will crack our head.
And from the time we are infants, we are trained to be afraid.
Afraid of risk, strangers, germs.
Afraid of doing anything that might cause injury—physical or emotional—or require us to be rescued or saved.
And yet, we are also trained to admire risk takers—to laud astronauts and mountain climbers, channel swimmers and deep sea divers, embedded journalists and documentary filmmakers, international travelers and entrepreneurs—anyone who relentlessly pursues a vision, pushes aside or through the obstacles, achieves greatness, and makes an indelible mark on the world. These people are called visionaries, leaders, or heroes. The disconnect is this: our protective parents want us to be visionaries, leaders, and heroes—as long as we don’t fall and get hurt along the way.
Fear is a conditioned response to perceived danger.
And our perception is influenced by what we’re told.
Wars are won with bravery and courage.
And though you may not know it, the conflict rages every day for possession of your soul.
People who profit from your fear-based need to play it safe—which means not playing at all—use every tactic in the battle manual to keep you dependent on them and their system, encouraging you to spend your wages to buy more stuff, shiny new stuff they make and profit from, so you will need to keep working for them to pay it all off. These bastards—for many of them are—will indeed wear us down if you let them. Because like us, are ruled by fear. The fear that without a continuous supply of craven, docile, cubicle-bound workers, they wouldn’t be able to man their profit factories and make more stuff or services to sell.
This is not a polemic against capitalism.
And I could—and will—write another post on emotional enslavement.
But imagine if we could all do more—a lot more—of what we wanted. Imagine if we weren’t afraid. It would be, well, wonderfully disruptive.
Employers would have to offer meaningful, challenging work with opportunities for growth—to everyone.
Imagine if we said fuck you to the consumer culture of new and shiny and embraced the beauty of the reconditioned, of the soul reconditioned to perceive the truth behind the fear.
Originally published on Tom Aplomb