What scares you more?” asked Steven Pressfield.
“What do you mean?”
“In what you have to do, what you know that you need to do, what is it that scares you the most?”
“in respect to my art, you mean?”
“Yeah.” he replies. “Which one scares you the most?”
“Ah…um…” I ponder.
As I sit there across from my teacher I force myself to think about the thing that scares me half to death, the thing that makes me shake and shiver at night and leaves me in cold sweats at the mere mention of it. I’m forced to think about why it does that…and in what situation it happens. Trapped as I am, I sit in a forced position, unable to run or escape, I am compelled to sit and list all the things in my life that scare me half to death and why. I am forced to go through all of the feelings I get in trying to even attempt these things, the ice cold strike of fight or flight-in which flight always wins out. The sheer terror of actually making it at the thing that I fear the most and what would it be like to actually succeed at this thing? I am forced to ask myself the question ‘what will I do afterwards if this should work?’, what will I become, who will I become?
When I sit there in the tufted chair across from the man that has single handedly opened my eyes and ears to the truth as I should have heard it years ago, I make myself sift through all of the layers of fear and the terror that run through me of me doing the thing I fear the most, the thing that makes my insides shake and shiver and break out in a cold and icy sweat at the mere prospect of having to do this thing , never mind succeed at this thing, I can only come up with one thing.
“Photography.” I say. “My photography scares the living daylights out of me.”
“Why?” he asks calmly.
“…I don’t know…it just does.” I lie.
(…Unfortunately, the first of too many lies.)
“You sure you don’t know?”
I shift in my seat and try to think of other things that might be more interesting than what we’re talking about now: the birds outside, swinging in the breeze trying to catch each other, the plant I forgot to water that morning, The chicken I forgot to take out of the fridge, that giraffe that’s supposed to give birth any second now (what is taking so long?!)
But he’s better than me, he waits me out.
“Yeah, ” I say, “I really don’t know.”
“So when you say ‘it scares the living daylights out of me’ what is it about that that makes you feel so? What do you see when you see yourself doing it?”
“I see myself…failing.” I say finally truthful. “…Or…succeeding…if that makes any sense…”
“It makes perfect sense,” He replies with a huge smile. “Plenty of people are scared of succeeding. It’s a little known fact that success frightens the Hell out of people. It scares them into a standstill in their ives. It makes them take a step back and away from all that they’ve either worked so hard for or want so badly.”
“That’s crazy,” is all I can say, too stunned to say anything else.
“I know, but, it’s true. People are generally pretty cool with keeping the status quo, not shaking up the apple cart but they don’t realize that that is excatly what they have to do. It they want to break out of any stagnation then they are going to have to step out of their comfort zone to do it. They are mistaken if they think that the life they want is going to reside in their comfort zone, it’s not going to be that good, they are going to have to be afraid and scared and fall and get up and fall again, and get pushed, get stepped on and get up and go back at it, at the work that propelled them towards this new life that they so wanted but never knew.
I thought abut this and it scared me even more…then it made me angry.
How could I have not known this before?! How could I have not known my enemy had a name and it was the thing that was holding me back this whole time?
But, what was I to do about it now…?
…Where was I to begin…?