Monday, May 23, 2011

Message #13 - Confront Your Fear!

Everyone is afraid of something. Wait, that’s not quite accurate. You and everyone else are not afraid of something, you’re afraid of many things.

So there’s nothing unique about being afraid. You’re not alone. The important question is, “What do you do with your fear?” My message is simple:

Confront Your Fear!

I’m afraid of heights. When I watched “Man on Wire,” and saw Philippe Petit walk between the two World Trade Center towers I felt it in my stomach. I knew it was a movie and I knew he didn’t die, but my reaction was still visceral. I couldn’t imagine doing what he did. No way.

Does this mean I should try walking on a dangerous high-wire just to prove that I am bigger than my fear? No, of course not. That would be stupid. But how about a controlled situation with clear safety precautions built into the process? Where I wasn’t risking my life but was doing something I wouldn’t ordinarily do? Where I had a chance to confront my fear?

Many years ago I had an opportunity to do that during a self-help course that included high ropes events. A zip line was rigged atop a high cliff, we were hooked on to it, and our challenge was to jump off. I knew there was virtually no chance I’d be hurt. The system was triply safe. But that didn’t lessen my fear one iota. I was terrified. I don’t know how far down it was to the floor of the little valley below me. Probably not more than 100 feet. But it could have been 10,000 feet. My fright level would have been the same.

I jumped off into the void. I survived. I felt like I’d really accomplished something. I had demonstrated that I could be bigger than my fear.

Philippe Petit says he is not afraid on the wire. He plays on it. He bounces, he sits down, he stands up. I believe him. But I’ll bet there are challenges that frighten him, common challenges, and I’ll also bet that in some cases what frightens him doesn’t frighten me.

How about you? What frightens you? The usual suspects are relationships, job changes, financial issues, big decisions. On the surface they may not be as dramatic as the high-wire, but when they are in your face, and you’re afraid of them, they are equally able to inspire terror.

The question often comes down to what are you going to empower? You can choose to empower your fear. If you do you’ll struggle with whatever the issue is and maybe even back away, and fear will have won.

Or you can acknowledge that the fear is there and move ahead anyway. Moving ahead doesn’t predetermine what you decision will be. Let’s say you’ve got a new job possibility that appeals to you, but for some reason you are afraid of changing jobs. Facing your fear doesn’t mean you have to take the new job just to prove you’re not afraid to make the change. It just means you don’t allow your fear to make the decision for you.

Don’t kid yourself into believing you can wish away your fear. If you’re afraid you’re afraid. It’s a genuine emotion that may not be easy to control. Wanting it to go away doesn’t help. Granted, there may be various therapies that will help you cope with your particular fear(s), but I’m not a therapist, so if that’s a path you’d like to pursue I suggest you find a competent professional to support you.

Nor need you be embarrassed if certain things intimidate you or scare you. You’re human. You are hard wired to be afraid at times. If someone says, “I’m not afraid of anything,” he’s lying.

Finally, don’t hide behind real or phony fear as a strategy to get you off the hook. That’s neither giving in to fear nor overcoming it. That’s simply using it as an excuse to avoid being responsible. Sooner or later you’ll be busted, so don’t go down that road. Actually, don’t go down that road even if there’s no chance your strategy will be revealed. You’ll be compromising your integrity, which is too high a price to pay.

There’s only one thing you have to remember about your fear: Confront it!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Not A Good Day!

When was the last peaceful day in the Middle East? Who can remember? But even by their standards yesterday was particularly unpeaceful.

Palestinian protesters confronted Israel on four borders – Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank. Not surprisingly, many were killed and wounded.

Thousands took to the streets in Turkey to protest new regulations on Internet activities.

In Egypt, Muslims and Coptic Christians clashed violently again.

Libyan rebels and government forces continued to kill each other.

Various political groups are not getting along in post-revolution Tunisia.

In Syria, Assad continued to slaughter peaceful protesters.

Protests continued in Algeria and Morrocco.

And, of course, you’ve got your usual bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan and, for the moment, quiet unease in Iran.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Does Anybody Really Care?

The Bay to Breakers was run today, ostensibly with less drinking.

Tiger’s knee and foot make it impossible for him to play.

Mike Huckabee is not going to run.

Newt Gingrich is going to run.

The rest of the Republican wannabees ain’t talkin’.

The Pakistanis don’t like us.

We don’t like the Paks.

The Lakers lost.

Rajaratnam will go to jail.

Cheney’s heart is failing – again.

The newlyweds are honeymooning in the Seychelles.

Pro football is locked out/on strike/both/neither

The space shuttle is scheduled for a final launch – again.

The Phoenix Suns President says he’s gay.

Grocery stores are selling brownies that make you stoned.

John Boehner cried – again – during a speech at Catholic University.

Networks are cancelling shows that never should have been aired in the first place.

Have a nice day . . .

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Pakistan is all over the news these days. And well it should be. Our relationship with Pakistan is a complicated mess. I won’t even try to sort out all the pieces, just a few.

We are reluctant allies who need and don’t trust the other.

We violated their sovereignty when we went into their country to get Bin Laden without asking or telling them. They didn’t like us doing that.

We don’t care that they don’t like what we did. We’d do it again.

We think they are playing a double game – supporting our war on terror while aiding and abetting terrorists.

We think that if we tell them what we’re going to do they’ll tell our enemies.

They have weak political leadership, a failing economy and a stockpile of nuclear weapons that could fall into the hands of the bad guys. They say the weapons are secure. We’re not so sure.

They think their main enemy is India. We disagree.

They say they are actively pursuing the bad guys on their border with Afghanistan. We don’t think they’re doing enough to stop the flow of men and materiel being used against us.

Since 9/11, and before, we’ve sent them billions of dollars in aid, much of which has probably been wasted, stolen or misused.

And so on . . .

While I’ve lived in South Asia for years and visited many times I’ve never been to Pakistan. I confess to holding a negative opinion of Pakistan since I was in India in the 1960’s. The Pak military was cozy with our military and seen as an ally against the Soviet Union. India was cozy with the Soviets. From our embassy in Delhi we tried to tell Washington that it was shortsighted to not question Pakistan’s motives. Few American policymakers bought our assessment. I was happy when E. Pakistan rebelled against W. Pakistan and became Bangladesh in 1971.

It is tempting but not smart to tell Pakistan to go fuck themselves.

If Afghanistan were no longer important to us . . .

If we had a constructive relationship with Iran . . .

If India and Pakistan were not at each other’s throats . . .

If Pakistan’s nuclear weapons were secure and not a threat. . .

In other words, if the world were totally different than it is today, then maybe we could ignore Pakistan. But it isn’t and we can’t. Nor can they ignore us.

So for the moment it’s an unpleasant standoff. I trust that cooler heads will prevail in Washington. I don’t trust that the same will happen in Islamabad. We can only hope.


Thursday, May 05, 2011

Not To Do Today!

What I promise not to do today:

I won’t pay attention to any conjecture about which Republican is or is not running/going to run for President.

I won’t try to follow various opinions about what will/won’t happen should politicians not agree to raise the debt limit.

I won’t try to remember which African murderers are going to be indicted for crimes against humanity.

Except to note that the Sharks are up 3-0 in their series I won’t read anything about the National Hockey League playoffs.

I hear another Einstein theory about time and space has been validated. I won’t try to understand it.

I won’t pay any attention to the Home and Style sections of the Times.

I won’t read anything about the ongoing ineptitude of the California Legislature.

I will not waste energy being pissed off at ongoing efforts by pro-lifers to restrict abortion rights.

I will not obsess about the religious right, the beatification of a pope who protected child-abusing priests, or the incessant deification of god (or is that an oxymoronic redundancy)?

I will only note that the slaughters in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and the suicide bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan are ongoing and needn’t be dissected in detail.

Have a nice day . . .