Why Do We Let Fear Consume Us?

When did you peak? When exactly was that time in your life when you said, “I’m done being brave”, and collapsed?

When we give up on a dream, our heart remembers it forever. Peer pressure, cultural norms, the “dark night of the soul” all team up to convince us that the challenging, inspirational task was simply not worth it. We tell ourselves that we didn’t really want to go to college, risk moving to a new city, or stand up to our friends. Our hearts know better.

Each of us remembers the opportunity we had to become great.

For me, it happened a decade ago, while sitting in the barracks room of Camp Geiger, NC.  My Platoon Sergeant had called our platoon into a formation, so we quickly threw on our cammies, sprinted down the stairs, and lined up.

“I want eyes front, ears open, mouths shut. Today we’ve got Recon tryouts. Sergeant Serber is here from Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) to see which one of you weak noodles thinks he can make it into a Recon unit.” My Platoon Sergent barked.

I perked up. Recon!? The Navy Seals of the Marine Corps! Aren’t these the guys they make video games about? Why are they here, at Infantry school, looking for recruits?

It was a good 10 minutes of eyeballing and grunts before Sergeant Seber began his speech. “Good morning future Infantry Marines, I’m Sergeant Serber. I’ve been sent from MARSOC to find out if any of you think you have what it takes to make it into a Recon unit. Before you seriously consider wasting my time, I’m going to outline what it takes to be a Recon Marine and exactly what we will demand from you. You can take your boot camp cakewalk and throw it right out the window along with your infantry training; this will be the most significant challenge of your entire life. Your 3-mile run time will be under 18 minutes. You will get your 20 pull-ups. I will hold you under water until you drown, and take my sweet time reviving you. So let me stress again– don’t waste my time. Step over here if you think you’ve got what it takes.”

My mind quickly did a mental checklist before I began my rationalization. “…..ah. Nope! I don’t think so. I mean c’mon, I’ve been through hell, like, twice already…I’m not going down there again.”

4 or 5 hopefuls did, however, step over to side with Sergeant Serber, while the rest of us went back to our barracks rooms. As I walked away, I looked back at the handful of Recon hopefuls, and for a fleeting moment, my heart leaped into my throat. I suddenly felt as if I had failed an important test, been too shy to ask a girl out, or was lazy when someone needed me to be there for them. I had failed myself. I blew it. As I sat back down on my bed, I realized, “I just chose when I’m going to peak.

fail-plane-aboardIn life, we’re presented with so many invitations to grow every day that we don’t realize we’re letting most of them slip by unnoticed. These catalysts for change and growth slip by silently, because we’ve subconsciously chosen to wedge ourselves firmly into a place where life can’t get its greasy paws on us. It’s easier to play Call of Duty than to do your homework. It’s a lot less complicated to date the girl who doesn’t demand anything of you. It feels better to get high and ditch work than to harsh your mellow.

It’s less of a hassle to settle with feeling warm and comfy than to stand up and punch life in the face.

[clickToTweet tweet=”It’s less of a hassle to settle with feeling warm and comfy than to stand up and punch life in the face.” quote=”It’s less of a hassle to settle with feeling warm and comfy than to stand up and punch life in the face.”]

It’s a question that continues to pester me – why? Why do we watch these invitations to become more walk on by without taking advantage of them? Why do I allow phrases like, “eh, my wife will still be there tomorrow” persuade me that I can simply mail-in, instead of showing up as a husband?

We’re afraid to fail, and that fear keeps us stuck butt-deep in a couch. I can easily tell myself, “It’s not that I’m afraid”, and become trapped in that putrid, stagnant place where I cease to grow. There’s a reason swamp water stinks. It doesn’t go anywhere.

Even as I reflect back on that day in the military, I don’t think that I would have passed the qualifications to make it into a Recon unit. Those are physical-fitness levels that I’m utterly unfamiliar with. What I regret more was my failure to try. A failure to believe in myself. Instead of climbing to a new height and reaching a new level of awesome, I let fear slap me back down to the couch. And so that phrase that I just used will forever be, “I don’t think I would have passed.

I would rather my memory be, “I assaulted this challenge with all of my strength, and I didn’t make it. I know where I stand.

Don’t fear failure. Fear what will happen to you if you forget how to try.

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