The first time I got into the boat for a barefoot water ski lesson down in Florida I asked the World Barefoot Champion instructor a crucial question.
“Are there any alligators in this lake?”
Yes, was the casual reply. “Alligators don’t come near the boat as the engine noise scares them away,” the World Champion explained.
I don’t think I caught anything after the word, “Yes.”
Alligators in the lake. I pictured a hungry 13-footer slithering through the weeds… I had to quickly get that movie out of my head because I was about to attempt my first barefoot water ski run more than 20 years after becoming deaf from a fall while barefooting as a teen. I was going to get into the same body of water that was home to at least a handful or perhaps a couple hundred reptiles.
Passion was about to out-weigh fear.
Sure enough, the moment I put my feet on the water, the years literally melted away. In one quick rush, the old passion for the sport came flooding back. I didn’t give the alligators another thought that day. Now that I was hooked, I wanted more. The second time I went for a lesson, I still didn’t give the lake reptiles much thought. I was too darn excited about being able to walk on top of the water again.
The third time was a different story. It was Women’s Barefoot Week and the thought of spending an entire week in the same water with leathery creatures certainly wasn’t a thrilling thought. I didn’t tell anyone about my fears at first. That is, until the nightmares began. Let me tell you, when an alligator comes at you in the middle of the night it creates a heart-stopping, oh-my-gosh-I-can’t sleep situation. After the second night of this, I shared my fears with the other gals. Admitting the fear seemed to be the logical first step in dealing with it.
But…admitting your fears and dealing with them are two different things.
What Price Are You Paying for Fear?
When it comes to pursuing dreams or doing new things, fear is one thing that holds many people back. Fear of success. Fear of failure. Fear of mistakes. Fear of disappointment. Fear of _____ fill in the blank.
Most fear stems from the imagined and the unknown. The human mind is very powerful in dreaming up scenarios which feed on fear. “Most fear and doubt arises out of ignorance and feelings of inadequacy,” Brian Tracy writes in his book, Goals, How to Get Everything You Want Faster Than You Thought Possible. “The more you learn what you need to know to achieve your goals, the less fear you will feel on the one hand and the more courage and confidence you will feel on the other.” So you know what that means–the only way around fear, is right through it. Right smack dab through it. As Jack Canfield says, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” The biggest challenge is often taking that first step and moving through the fear. When you get to that other side, you’ve gained an experience that changes you forever.
It might surprise you to know that my fear of alligators is still present, despite facing my fears over and over each time I slip into the water to take a barefooting run down in Florida. My coaches and fellow barefooters are well aware of those fears and I’ve taken some good-natured ribbing along the way. A recent Christmas present from a fellow skier was a stuffed alligator. Another bought a t-shirt with an alligator on it.
As I look back on the last four years, the lesson of fear has played out in various areas of my life time and time again. The fear of the unknown. The fear of trying something new. The fear of failing over and over again. The fear of looking like a fool in front of people. I know if I had given into the fears, I would have let a lot of dreams fall to the wayside. I would have never known the passion that comes from the other side. I would have never known that I could barefoot water ski backwards on one foot at the age of 48.
Every time you face a new fear, a new apprehension, or a new challenge, ask yourself what’s on the other side of that. Chances are, on the other side you’ll find growth, passion, and joy.
Isn’t it worth it?
Karen Putz is an author, speaker, and Passion Mentor who helps others unwrap their passions at any age. For fun, she walks on water with the assistance of a rope, boat, and driver. Connect with Karen via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and her website: Ageless Passions.