This is a theme I’ve talked about before and is really central to this entire blog. We have to trust ourselves. Yes, no man is an island and of course we build trust within our relationships with other people but fundamentally if we cannot trust ourselves we’re basically screwed.
I’ve skydived a few times. Nothing major and something I’d like to do again but I’ve jumped about 20 times. Not tandem but solo – that’s important. Now, it’s not a very fair example to use because it’s extreme (literally, it’s called an extreme sport for a reason), it’s scary, and it’s not very accessible. However, it teaches one really important lesson – to trust yourself. When you jump out of a plane at 15000 feet, you accelerate to terminal velocity of around 130mph very quickly and then you have about 45 seconds of freefall before you hit the height where you should deploy your parachute (there’s a lot of training that one has to go through before they just throw you out of a plane and on the first jump you’re with two instructors just FYI). Quite a lot of people I’ve talked to about skydiving say that they “couldn’t trust themself” to deploy their parachute. As I say, it’s not for everyone and it is scary (or at least it is a sensory overload that amounts to the same thing) but if you had to do something like that, could you? With skydiving it’s a choice but what if you had to? Trust your own innate ability. You can do it, whatever it is.
The other day I saw a young person give a public speech. It was a high profile event with lots of important people and must have been scary. They read from notes, in fact it wasn’t notes it was a script. The words were all there and were read out but because they were read from a script, there was no feeling behind them, despite it being about a subject personal to them. In addition there was next to no eye contact with the audience because any time that might have been spent looking up was spent looking down at notes. Don’t read from notes. It’ll scare the hell out of you but you have it within you to deliver a better speech without them.
There are loads of things in life that scare the shit out of us. Asking people to move down on the train. Giving a speech. Having a difficult conversation. Changing jobs. What’s on the otherside of fear? Fuck all, that’s what. You’ve done it, whatever ‘it’ is. You’ve done scary things lots of times. Think of just one. Are you still here? Above ground and breathing? Yep, because you’re reading this. Will Smith talks about it a lot, in this talk he happens to use skydiving as his example (a coincidence I promise). He says “God placed the best thing in life on the other side of terror.” Wise words.
Someone I know well is terrified of flying and particularly of turbulence. When she flys I say (pretty unhelpfully) “When was the last time you flew through turbulence and the plane went into the ground like a dart, erupted in flames and everybody on board died?” The answer is of course never. The chances of dying in a Virgin flight from London to New York is around 1 in 5.4m. To put that into perspective you’d need to take that flight daily for 14,716 years to guarantee crashing.
What’s the worst thing that could happen? How likely is it? Surfing trains is a bad idea, everything else you can give a shot. Nike knew what they were talking about when they came up with their slogan of ‘Just Do It.’ Feel the fear and do it anyway.