04 November 2010

Things I'm Learning - Living Fearlessly

I have always hugely admired and deeply envied those who live fearlessly. Or appear to live fearlessly - perception, after all, is everything. I've often looked at friends who just jump in to new experiences as if they were exhibits in a science museum; an interesting diorama on the life cycle and thought processes of a new species, a rare specimen to be dissected and understood. (Metaphorically speaking, of course. I've never actually cut any of my friends open to check out their spleens or anything. Hey, where are you going? It's just a little scalpel, it won't hurt a bit!)

Without realizing it, I have sought these people out, The Fearless Ones who take chances, strivers who reach higher, and artists who aren't stifled by the opinions of others. I've surrounded myself with them as if their courage might rub off on me, as if I might be accepted as an apprentice, as a member of the tribe. And I've always felt like a bit of an imposter.

A few years ago, I was telling HWSNBN about a friend of mine, who after working in her chosen field for years, chucked it all and started over again, doing something completely different. She threw herself into her new pursuit with abandon, and was quickly quite successful. I mentioned how envious I was of that kind of daring, how I yearned for that, how I wished I possessed it myself.

At the exact same time, I was going through a career change myself. I was leaving the film industry after 12 years, after working really hard to be one of the best Second Assistant Directors in the city. I was going to work for a property development and management company - a field I had precisely zero experience in and knew next to nothing about.

HWSNBN looked at me like I was really not-clever. "Um. Why do you think she's brave and you're not?" he asked. "You're doing the exact same thing."


The courage to be myself. Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, 2000

Perception really is everything. If I look at my life objectively, I've taken lots of chances. I've leapt in, figured things out on the fly, and gotten things done. My high school English teacher, who I adored then and still adore now, (and hi, just figured out is on twitter) told me she used to read my letters to her students, to prove that you could aim higher, that you could dream big, no matter if you're from a small town in the remote north. I, me, I was held up as an example of fearlessness to others.

In the last three years, I've run a tech startup (another industry I knew nothing about until I jumped in to the job), become a parent (and anyone who is a parent will attest that you know nothing about that job until you're thrust into it) and started my own business (again in an industry I love but in which I have no educational background or practical experience.)

So there's some fearlessness there. Right? Why do I need other people to point it out to me? Why can't I see it in myself, and celebrate it? Why do I discount my own accomplishments while envying those of others?

Here's what I've learned so far: everyone deals with fear at least some of the time. Those who appear fearless are usually struggling with the same obstacles as everyone else. They just have more practice, or a better game face, or have somehow managed to shut the voice in their head up long enough to actually get things done.

I don't have all the answers yet. I probably never will, and that's okay. But I'm determined to keep working on it.

And more importantly, I'm determined to pass on whatever I learn to The Imp.


  1. I spend far too much time being afraid. I want to change it. I'm trying to change it. I'm practicing stepping outside of my comfort zone.

    I hope it's taking. At least a little.

  2. I have a book called Feel the Fear and do it anyway and I think that's a great piece of advice. I'm trying to change my life too, work for myself as a freelance communications consultant/writer and plus I just started a blog and took over an online meetup group. All new things. All scary. And you know ... all good!!

  3. When I stayed at your house, on the cusp of going to Blissdom, I was terrified. How could I fly to Toronto all by myself and talk to hundreds at a conference?

    The reality is that a few yrs ago I never would've done it. I learned, by blogging, that pushing myself outside of my comfort zone has huge rewards. You can do it. :) And maybe, sometimes we'll do it together.