Life at the Edge of the Cliff: Pushing Past Fear
If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?
We've all heard the question many times before, and we rarely pause to think about how we really would respond to this seemingly rhetorical question. But let's think about it now. Imagine you are standing at the edge of the cliff, with the wind blowing all around you. You look down, and the bottom seems so far down. Your belly tenses, as your heart pounds with the exhilaration of fear. Suddenly, you see one of your friends take a bounding leap, and hurl themselves off the edge. Soon another one jumps. Then another. Eventually every single one of your friends has jumped, with your final friend calling out on the way down "Why aren't you jumping?"
Let's take a step back for a moment, and consider the factors involved. What would motivate all of your friends to take a leap? Is there a finisher's shirt and a beer at the end? Is there a tiger at the top of the cliff? Is the cliff perhaps not as high as you first believed, and is the water refreshing at the bottom? Have all of your friends gone mad? Why have all of your friends determined that the benefits of jumping off the cliff outweigh the risks? How could you benefit from taking the leap? These are all reasonable considerations, which may affect how you respond to the original question. If all your friends jumped off a cliff, why wouldn't you?
The obvious answer, of course, is fear. We fear what will happen at the bottom of the cliff. Fear is a powerful force keeping us alive. Fear protected our ancestors from falling prey to saber-tooth tigers. Today fear protects us from being smashed by an oncoming freight train. Fear warns us that something is not quite right with the stranger who is trying to grab our attention. Fear keeps us from falling off the cliff. As a survival tool, we must tune in to our sense of fear and learn when to listen to it.
Rather than succumb to fear, we must learn to manage it, and even thrive from it. Many people fear flying, but because of all the brave men and women who pioneered in flight, it is one of the safest ways to travel. Starting a new business can be terrifying, yet entrepreneurs have taken up the challenge, created a product or service that filled a need, and thrived by doing so. We all fear failure. But we must face failure over and over to succeed. There is no greater failure than to spend your whole life having never failed. The chaos of freedom can seem frightening. What if someone uses their freedom to harm themselves or others? What about the bad people who will take advantage of the system? People all too often will eagerly give up their freedom for the illusion of security. In reality, the chaos of freedom is much safer than the iron fist of tyranny.
Over 100 million people lost their lives for the false security of socialism just in the past century.
When you exercise, you cause slight damage and discomfort to your body. You put it under strain that it is not used to. By doing this, your body becomes resilient, and bounces back stronger. When you strain your body a little every day, you live longer, and avoid major complications down the road. Running is better for your knees than a lifetime on the couch. The same is true with fear. When you learn to manage fear and push through it every day, you avoid living a life of fear. When you face your fears every day, you learn to push through your limits and thrive in ways you would not have thought were possible. When you fail often, you avoid a lifetime of failure.
When you live a resilient life, you prepare for the worst so that you will not have to experience it. When you learn to protect yourself, and plan your defense, you will live with less fear of an attack. When you prepare yourself financially for a future financial disaster, you may avoid the disaster altogether. When you do not depend on the authorities to protect or sustain you, then you will be free.
Let's go back to the cliff. Maybe you are not ready for the big leap today. Find a leap you can take today. Take a risk. Face a fear. Fail at something today. Becoming resilient is not easy. It is not comfortable. It is not quick. But if you don't take the leap, you will not thrive. If none of your friends dare to jump off the cliff, will you?