I have one of those Quotable magnets on my fridge that says: "What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?" This magnet has traveled the globe with me, from college in Philly, to my fridge in South Carolina, bar stand in New York, cooler in Ghana, classroom in South Korea, freezer in Togo, and now my mini little fridge here in Bali.
When I was younger, I really loved that magnet. As a quiet little cheerleader, it seemed to root me on as I auditioned for unlikely roles (that I was told I would never get), learned to surf (when I was afraid to swim in the ocean), managed exciting theatre projects (when I didn't think I had the credentials to get THAT job) decided to deliver a baby in Africa (against the wishes of all who loved me), and uprooted my family to live in South Korea (when we were far away from all support) and then moved to Togo and Bali,a mom and son all on their own.
All of these afore mentioned tasks came with extreme challenges and many failures along the way. Despite a laundry list an arm's length long of mishaps and failures, I have a considerably longer list of reasons why those steps were all successful/great learning opportunities. Recently though,when it comes to the topic of following/fighting for my dreams, I find myself less willing to dive into the unknown, less willing to take risks and push the envelope of safety and security.
Somewhere along the line, after the birth of my son, that magnet stopped cheering and started to annoy me. Yesterday, I contemplated ditching this sun faded and slightly warn out quotable grocery list holder. Why? I am not fearless anymore. I am not the renegade twenty something who threw all caution to the wind and followed her heart at all costs.I know how things SHOULD be done now; I know how hard it should be to succeed; I know what could happen if I don't succeed. And so I don't take some of the risks that I am hungry to take. I tell myself it is because I am a grown-up now who realizes the 'costs' of my earlier adventures- right before I get wistful and recount the magic of those days. While in the past my only true fears were centered around what would happen to me, these days I dress my fear up in another cloak: The Edem Wrap.
I fear that I won't be able to provide for my son if I throw caution to the wind and do what I REALLY want to do. I fear that my adventurous spirit will mar him and provide too may hours worth of talk on some psychologist's couch. I could list a lot more, but you get the point: I fear that I will attempt something big, fail majorly, and will then adversely impact the life of my sweet and trusting boy. Very, very legit fears, right? Reason enough to take the more "secure road," right? This is what adults who become parents do, right?
Not according to some people. Not according to the very successful independent business owners with whom I have been speaking. Not according to my friends who took the step off the safety ledge and followed their calling. And while the grass may appear greener, these feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway-wonder-folks do seem to be deeply happy. They are pleased with the risks they took that led to the sense of accomplishment that they feel today. They will never have to ask the question: 'What if..." A question I swore I would never allow myself the opportunity to mutter in my twilight years. I wouldn't need to because I would have done all the things that I might some day wonder about.
Anyway.... I go on too much. This TED talk just kinda struck a chord and made me want to blabber on about what is in my head. Made me want to say out loud that I am starting to wonder if I am letting fear of failure rule my decision making process a bit too much. We will never know, until we do. Maybe it is time to replace that nagging magnet with something else- something more appropriate, like one that boldly states:
FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY.
After watching this TED talks, I am starting to think my little dreams that seem so HUGE are nothing compared to making a Hummingbird Drone. Or Gecko Man. So, maybe...
How about you? What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?
Yours in feeling the fear,
Brené Brown did it again. She gave another amazing talk that resonated with me in a very profound way. Just as the first TED talk that I alluded to here did, this one has found me at a very appropriate time: following a mini melt -down, (okay,let's be honest: a full-out exhaustion-stress-induced-I've-reached-my-max cry fest) or as Brené might say, a break down. Ms. Brown's well spoken words reminded me that it is okay to not have all the answers, to be open with where you are, and to fail with grace and courage. She has also reminded me, at a very important time, to stay in the arena- no matter what the critics have to say about it. Because while I may not always feel that what I do is good enough or great, at least I am willing to be in the arena, covered in the dust and dirt, ready to get up again and do it better. I am printing and hanging this quote with haste:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."- Theodore Roosevelt
I highly doubt that Ms. Brown will ever read this, but if she does, I have this to say: THANK YOU for taking the risk and sharing yourself with the world. You have made a difference.
Yours in Grit and Striving for Grace,
Erin Michelle Threlfall
Theatre Artist, Activist, and Educator, Erin is the mother of a budding genius in his 7th year of study. Erin and her little man, Edem, have a plan to investigate world theatre and influence education one continent at a time. Ghana, South Korea, Togo and Bali have been checked off the list of places to live; these days they call Brooklyn home.