As I wrote in this space a few columns ago, I’ve become an avid runner. Even writing a statement like this feels out of character for me, but it’s true. I’m an avid runner.
On the morning of the day I write this, I set a record. I ran for 25 minutes without stopping. For the first time in my life, I ran close to 30 minutes without stopping!
Truthfully, I’ve always been scared of running. And I know when it started.
It was the spring of 1988 on the playground of Westlawn Middle School in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I was in sixth grade.
Funny enough, the last few months of my work with my therapist has been healing my relationship with my past Self from when I was in sixth grade.
That spring, we took the President’s Physical Fitness Test. And I can safely say that this test is the bane of existence for fat kids in gym class – which I sure as hell was.
The only event which I did even remotely well was the “sit and reach” test. This was a test of lower-body flexibility.
I’ll never forget this one gym teacher. Coach D – he scared me to death. Granted, my shadow terrified me back in those days – but Coach D scared me to death.
He said something to the class about me that I’ll never forget.
“Yeah, you’re good and flexible because you don’t have a lot of muscle down there.”
Keep this in mind. I’m in sixth grade. I had just turned 11 (I think. I don’t remember the exact timeframe.) And even in those days, masculinity in boys was measured by what you could do with your body. Could you run fast, do a bunch of pullups, that sort of thing.
I caught loads of grief for that. I remember sitting in the locker room after gym class simply dumbfounded after that. This was while the athletic boys (who ALWAYS got the girls) made endless fun of me.
Anyway, the final event was a mile run. I went out there and was absolutely terrified!
To my memory, the playground had four full-size tennis courts (which I never saw anyone use.) The class would make laps around the courts to make their mile run. And of course, it was timed!
And every time you finished a lap, you got handed a rock. This was a little garden pebble that didn’t weigh anything. When you got eight rocks, you finished your run.
I was dying! Gasping for air! I was hurting all over!
I spent most of the time walking very slowly around the tennis courts, between sprints that lasted anywhere from ten to 50 yards.
Trust me, I was in awful shape!
And of course, I was the last one to finish. I think my time was well over 20 minutes. When an excellent passing score I think was 8:30 or under.
I was horrified! I was so embarrassed!
I snuck into the locker room and got dressed quickly without a shower. This was because I was about to be late for my next class.
The events in this story were well over 30 years ago. Yet this story has been deep in my space as of late.
I feared running. It scared me to death. Because I’ll be damned if I was ever – EVER – going to be embarrassed like that again!
Today I wanted to talk a little about my current relationship to fear. And boy is this a doozie.
I believe it was in May. I was about to get put on furlough from the new job that I hadn’t even started yet. I’d been doing some work from home. But I wasn’t yet in the store actually doing the job for which I was hired.
I was trolling fakebook one morning and I saw a posting by a coaching colleague of mine. This was a woman I was Facebook friends with, yet I didn’t actually know.
I knew she was an author as well as being a coach, which intrigued me. Because…y’know…I relate.
Liz asked a question in this post that intrigued me to no end. “What has COVID-19 done FOR us? What has the pandemic taught us?” She was putting together a collaborative book.
I reached out and shared a bit of my story of getting kicked out of my apartment right as the pandemic started, being fired from what I thought was my dream job after a month…and the story of the 3:15 train to Grand Central that I didn’t walk in front of.
She invited me to write a chapter! I also had many of the other 24 authors in this book on my podcast over the next few months.
It was simply a divine experience. It really was. I believe it was divinely planned.
The book was recently released. And even before the paperback was released, this was only the e-book, it went to number one on something like five different Amazon bestseller lists! And we did it in one day!
I was scared to share my story. There is a ton of shame in my story. But it’s a story of resilience and of rising like the phoenix.
Not only is my name and my words associated with this amazing book, but I have a hive of 24 other brilliant men and women who I can call friends and colleagues for the rest of my life.
And I’m also going to be participating in yet another collaborative book with Liz’s new publishing company coming out in January. This new book has taken on a life of its own. And I also had another idea of something I want to do in collaboration with her.
If I can get over being scared to bring her the idea…
There’s nothing I do better than write. And I was able to overcome this fear
On the flip side of this story is another story of fear. This is a tale of one of my oldest stories coming back and biting me.
There’s a coaching business building course that I desperately want to take. This is a course led by three certified coaching colleagues of mine (including my longtime former coach). Based on everything I’ve heard; this is what I need to help me get over the hump in my business.
But there’s one not so small problem. These sorts of things cost money. And while I am doing better financially since starting back to work fulltime, I’m not there.
I’m scared that I’ll be a mental guppy in the shark pond. Also, I’m scared that the coaches in that virtual room will be way better than I am.
But also, the way my job is right now, we’re only one big surge in the COVID pandemic from me being back out of work…AGAIN!
And as I write this, I’ve got an unanswered text message from one of the leaders in this program that I’m terrified to answer.
The way I see it, this program is frivolous. Either I can chase a dream that may or may not work out, or I can risk being homeless.
I can’t afford to be chasing waterfalls and chasing dreams right now.
But I can’t go to the grave without trying!
Not all fear looks the same. Not all fear feels the same. But sometimes the one thing you fear the most may be the thing that launches you into the stratosphere.
In closing, I want to go back to my run this morning. Something subtle happened that showed me that I may be onto something in this whole fear conquering thing.
I usually run on the streets of Stamford, CT where I live.
I turn a corner and about 200 or so yards up the street is an adorable blonde woman wearing a purple shirt going on her morning run.
As we get closer, I flash this woman a warm smile. She not only returned my smile with one of her own, she also gave me an adorable wave.
And at that moment it hit me. Conquering fears drops our walls.
I was a guy without any walls at that moment. And she could see that. And that made me attractive in that moment.
Maybe I should at least return Jeff’s text message?