I was frozen with panic standing there on the edge of a piece of volcanic rock tenuously protruding 60 feet above the glistening and beautifully translucent aqua blue water. As I looked down, I could see big mounds of volcanic rock and coral below. Of course, they were submerged 20 feet underneath the surface, but they looked as if they were right at the water’s edge waiting to crush every bone in my body.
I had a huge lump in my throat and a pounding in my chest. Alarm bells were blaring in my head as if I had a thousand mini-me’s running circles in my head screaming frantically that the end was near.
The noise in my head was deafening and kept me firmly planted. My toes hugged the volcanic rock like a baby to its mother. Beads of sweat started to drip into my eyes and I swear a shiver ran down my spine. I couldn’t move.
And yet, I had to do something.The crowd in the water was chanting (including my kids who had already successfully taken the plunge ahead of me). The line of people behind me blocked my way down, threatening mutiny should I even try to head back down. I had nowhere to turn.
What was I to do?
So, I jumped and screamed my fool head off the entire way down.
Welcome to Black Rock at Kaanapali on the beautiful island of Maui. A picturesque landscape surrounded by the piercing screams of insane people like me jumping to what felt like certain death.
But it wasn’t. I survived. I even did it all over again.
The second time was only a little less scary than the first, and I still screamed the whole way down. But I did it anyway. This time without any pause.
Bravery and courage are not an absence of fear but an ability to overcome it. To overcome fear, you must first face it.
Facing fear and overcoming it doesn’t mean the fear magically goes away, though. My experience on Black Rock was that the fear remained but just to a slightly lesser degree, which allowed me to do it all over again.
You may have experienced something similar in your life. Maybe you went skydiving or you obliged a fearless child who is so amped to ride that crazy rollercoaster that looks like a vertigo-inducing deathtrap. Once you jump out of the plane or ride the coaster and survive, you realize that while scary, it didn’t in fact live up to your fear. Indeed, you might think that it really wasn’t all that bad.
Yet, some fears are so deeply rooted in our psyche that it’s just not possible to dissipate them. The win we are looking for here is to embrace the fear such that we don’t allow it to paralyze us or to impede the progress on our journey in life.
So how exactly do we do that when the fear is that deeply ingrained?
First, don’t ignore the fear or pretend it’s not there. Confront it head on instead. Being macho or in denial is like bringing only a windbreaker to climb Mount Everest. The windbreaker might help to deflect some of the initial gusts of wind, but the cold air of fear will ultimately freeze you to death. Instead, chuck the windbreaker and grab a parka. Acknowledge that your fear is real, is there, and give it a name.
After you’ve identified and personified your fear, then look for a way around it. Much like a big boulder blocking a path, the chances are slim that you will be able to move it. So, don’t even stress or waste energy on trying to do so. The fear isn’t going away. Figure out how you can go around it or over it to get to the other side.
This begs the question of what’s on the other side of that boulder of fear? What’s the path look like on the other side? Will there be additional challenges or an easy road?
The truth, of course, is that we cannot know for certain until we get there. The boulder of fear is too big for us to peer around to see the other side with any clarity. We don’t have a GPS map of our lives to see the road ahead perfectly. There are no crystal balls.
We must instead envision the road as we want it to be and carry the faith that it will actually be that way. We must also believe in ourselves and have the self-assurance that if the road is harder than imagined, we still will have the same perseverance, strength, and guile to pick our way through it successfully.
And the biggest “must” of all is to have the courage to make the first move.
Jump off the rock.
I did and it’s made all the difference.
Keep being amazing,
If you Need Help, It Would Be Our Pleasure...
Kevin Snyder is a husband, father, and an Orange County estate planning attorney and elder law attorney at Snyder Law, PC in Irvine, California. He's all about family and passionate about estate planning, elder law, and veterans. He founded Snyder Law to help people be prepared and have the peace of mind they are protecting their families and aging parents for when life happens.