If you haven't read Daring Greatly by Dr. Brené Brown, I highly recommend it. I've read it three times now, and each time I learn a little bit more about the importance of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable if we want to live a more joyful and authentic life. We have unfortunately become really good at shaming and judging others, while we simultaneously hide our own vulnerabilities so that we won't be shamed and judged in return. However, Dr. Brown's research shows that having the courage to be vulnerable is actually one of the biggest keys to avoiding the exact shame and judgement we fear so much. In other words, what we tend to avoid the most (vulnerability), is the exact thing that frees us the most.
"If we are going to find our way out of shame and back to each other, vulnerability is the path and courage is the light. To set down those lists of *what we're supposed to be* is brave. To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly."
I just finished a book called Relentless, by Tim Grover, who was the athletic trainer for many NBA greats, including Michael Jordan, Dwyane Wade, Charles Barkley and the late great Kobe Bryant. Grover described what it was like to train such elite athletes, specifically which traits he observed these GREAT players to possess, which the merely GOOD players did not. What set them apart? While there are many things that made these men exceptional, what stood out to me most as I read the book, is that all of them were willing to sacrifice EVERYTHING to achieve their goals. Laser focused; every practice, every game, every day, no matter what. They worked harder, longer and smarter than anyone else, and weren't afraid to step on others along the way, if necessary. They would literally do whatever was required to rise to the top, and to remain there. They didn't know any other way and were relentless in their pursuits. Often that meant climbing up to such a high level that they were all alone. That was the price of greatness and they would have paid it again and again and again.
"Most people are afraid to climb that high, because if they fail, the fall will kill them."
Fear. A remarkably well-designed, primal defense mechanism, with the sole purpose of keeping us alive and safe. Which was absolutely crucial when we were living in caves and facing impending death via saber-tooth tiger on a daily basis, yet it's something that holds us back in many aspects of today's society. I'm experiencing this personally as I envision what my future life looks like. I've always hated the question "where do you see yourself in 10 years?" because I never had an answer, but for the first time in my life I am actually forming a much clearer image of what my future has in store. And while that future looks SO good in my mind, the path to get there is full of new risks, new challenges and new sacrifices. While I'd like to tell you that I'm tossing my worries aside and charging forward fearlessly, I'm not. I'm afraid. I'm afraid that I won't be skilled enough, smart enough, hard working enough or even liked enough. And that even if I am all of those things, some unforeseen event would come along and ruin it all. These things are hard for me to admit, and from the outside may seem trivial, but it's the truth of what I'm experiencing right now. However, with that being said I am also acutely aware that I am having a biological experience; that the fear is present because my body senses risk and therefore thinks that I need to be protected, and it will do everything it can to keep me "safe." I also know, with absolute clarity, that if I want to grow as a person and improve my life, facing these fears is crucial and will require massive amounts of determination and courage. I know that the fear will be present either way, my job will be to overcome it.
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
Often the clearest view of the largest peak is enjoyed from the second largest peak. I had this thought as I was photographing beautiful Mt. Shasta from the top of Mt. Lassen. It reminded me of setting goals and progressing forward in life. From lower elevations, there are often trees, hills, buildings and other distractions blocking our view, redirecting our focus and obstructing us from reaching our goal. But when we elevate ourselves and start gaining some traction, those distractions tend to remain at the bottom. Meanwhile, as the elevation increases, we enjoy an even clearer view of our next target, as well as a more well-defined path on how to get there.
"The great danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."