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Ordinary People Taking Action
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Back in November, I had coffee with a long-time colleague, who said to me, “If it scares you, do it.” Afterward, his comment stayed with me. It made me think of all the times I’ve heard that same, recurring theme. If it scares you, it’s meant to be. If it scares you, you’ll learn from it. If it scares you, opportunity is right there.
I was coaching a high school student recently and she was afraid to make a change – it required telling her parents that there was something she no longer wanted to do. In many ways, she’d be starting over. I am careful with my words when working with students, so I said, “If it scares you, you should think about why. Then consider this. Is the ‘why’ a reality or a story you’ve made up in your head?” She thought about the why. Although she was scared, she did it – she made the change.
Fear doesn’t only strike those who are just starting out in life. I was coaching a professional who wanted to change careers yet feared starting over – being at the bottom. Scared of the judgment that would come from others. Scared that bills wouldn’t be paid. Yet, in the end, he made the change. His only regret now is that it took him so long to make the change.
I remember the first time I drove across the snowy mountain pass from Washington State University to Federal Way, where my parents lived. It was November 1996 and I drove a sports car – a small red Toyota Celica. It was two-wheel drive, not designed for snow, but I had tire chains in the car. My Dad had taken the time to show me how to attach and remove them.
Initially, I felt prepared, even though there was a snowstorm expected in the mountains. Based on reports, I should have had plenty of time to cross the pass before storm hit. I left Pullman with my friend Julie, to head home. This was before cell phones were widely used, so although we had one in the car, I was told I could only use it for emergencies – which meant a life or death situation.
When we got to the mountain pass, it was already snowing. The storm had come in several hours earlier than expected and the pass was a disaster. They hadn’t closed the roads yet, but Julie and I were scared. Julie had already told me there was no way she was driving in the snow. She would help with the chains, but it was up to me to drive.
By the time we got the chains on, snow covered everything. The snowplows couldn’t keep up. Some cars were moving slowly forward, some were spinning out. Julie and I were on the mountain with two options: turn around or continue forward. No matter what we chose, we were driving in several feet of snow, in a car that didn’t belong on the mountain.
I decided that this qualified as a life or death situation and used the emergency phone to call my dad. I was scared, literally to death – I wouldn’t have made the “emergency” call home otherwise. My dad gave me a couple of pointers for driving in the snow then told me to face my fear and drive home. “Just do it – you’ve got this,” he said.
It took another 10 minutes for me to hang up the phone. Then another 10 minutes after that to get the courage to start the car and drive forward. I remember clearly to this day exactly how scared I was.
“Slow and steady. Accelerate carefully. Hold a consistent pace. Do NOT over-brake or brake too quickly. Give space between cars. You’ve got this. See you at home,” I said to myself over and over while driving. It was much of my dad’s advice on repeat in my head. Almost 10 hours passed from the time Julie and I had left college to our arrival at my parents’ house.
The drive may have taken us twice the time it should have, but we did it – I did it. I conquered my fear. I was scared and full of doubt, but I did it. We made it home, safely. During break, my parents traded in my sports car for a 4-wheel drive vehicle. I have never driven a 2-wheel drive sports car across a snowy mountain pass again in my life. Yet, I do know, without a doubt, that I can, if ever needed - even though it has been 22 years since I have had to do it.
Today, I continue to be a very confident driver in the snow now, many, many years later. I am a better driver because although I was scared, I just went for it. There is a key point in the “just do it” piece – be smart, be strategic, be resourceful and ask for help along the way. The best lesson, maybe the most important lesson, I did it and learned a lot while doing it.
So, today, if it scares you, do it.
Maybe these tips will help: