Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dreams, Failure, and Fear

Credit for the photo goes to:
Have you ever had someone put an idea in your head that is so attractive and seems like such a great idea that you suddenly believe it could really happen? At the same time, you are terrified beyond belief at the prospect that you might really be pushing your boundaries and getting close to accomplishing something really, truly great.
Am I really capable of this? Can I really do this? For me, the questions is even more basic than these. It is: Do I dare try?
I think this has been my basic obstacle my entire life. I am good at dreaming about the hard stuff, planning it, even beginning it. But in the end, I have failed because I do not dare to try. I do not dare to put myself in a position to fail spectacularly. In a way, this gives me the appearance of success. How many businesses have I had go bankrupt? How many rejection letters from publishers? How many dreams have I watched go up in smoke? The answer sounds impressive: None. But beneath the surface, we examine the reason for this impressive answer. Because I never tried. I have never submitted a manuscript to be rejected. I have never started my own business to be bankrupted. I have never pursued my greatest dreams to see them crash and burn. Instead they rot and moulder in the back of my mind, where I can pull them out and polish them off when I need an ego boost, but hurriedly stash them back when I have to return to reality.
Hard work is something I am not afraid of, in fact I relish the feeling of collapsing into bed at the end of an exhausting day. This is most likely what fuels my dream of owning a ranch. I remember the crushing labor of a farm worker from my youth. I love the feeling of seeing a problem, seeing the solution, enacting the solution, then standing back to admire my work. I am good at pursuing solutions to problems. I can think outside the box, approach it from several different angles until I find the one that works. I can even admit when something is over my head and ask for help, although that one is harder than the others.
What I dread is failure. Having someone point their fingers at me and say: Look, he failed. He no longer has a perfect record of no broken dreams. He finally pulled that rotten moldy dream out of the closet, dusted it off, polished it up and then promptly set it on fire and watched it burn. How can he live with himself? How can he stand to think of the damage he has done? How will he take care of his family now?
I took a half step towards a dream once. I actually paid $2,000 for a course in purchasing tax liens for fun and profit. I felt pretty daring jumping off into the cold water like that, without even an exploratory swim to see how deep it was. I was going to free myself from the drudgery of the wage earner by investing in real estate. It would take just a few years and I would be free. When I collapsed into bed at the end of the day I would know that my sweat and blood had been shed for the benefit of my family and not to make someone else rich.
After a few weeks, I found that it was not as easy as they made it sound. (Of course, what really is?) This dream required me to call people, write letters, and worst of all to risk failure! I truly could not find time to sit down and focus on it. Family, church, work all conspired to make it hard. Not impossible, just hard. It seemed that the people I needed to call were only available while I was working. I couldn’t call while I was working, I tried writing a few letters but got no responses.
I had leapt into the cold water of trying to make a dream work, but I quickly scrambled back on the bank and sat there shivering. This was just too hard! I couldn’t find the time to devote to it!
This dream, like the others finally got tired of standing around and wandered back to the closet. It sits there today, moldering and wishing that I could find the time to bring it back to life.
Today I got an email from an old friend proposing a new dream. It is reachable, although it will be some very difficult work to make it happen. It will involve facing some of my most deep seated anxieties and fears. However, underneath all of these fears is chiefly this: The fear of failure.
Loyal reader: will I accept the offer and make it happen? Perhaps if someone else is depending on me to do it? Do I dare? Can I face failure?
(Only 849 words, but then I didn’t intend this to be a regular entry…)

Thursday March 22, 2007 - 04:26pm (EDT)
© 2007 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

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