Have you ever wanted to accomplish something truly great, but you talked yourself out of it?

My guess that part of your justification for not pursuing your goal or interest involved feelings of uncertainty of success and fear for your safety (e.g., emotionally, financially, physically).

But, here is the thing, should we ever expect to accomplish great things without uncertainty and fear? Unlikely.

Because we prefer comfort over uncertainty and fear, we hold ourselves back from doing great and being great.

I was reminded of this in a simple yet powerful way this last week.

Mammoth Camping Adventure

Last week, I had the opportunity to go camping with my family near Mammoth Lakes, California. This is the second year in a row that we have done this.

One of the things that my children were looking forward to doing was fishing on a small river that ran through the campground.

Having fished in this river the year prior, I knew a couple of good fishing holes. So, upon arrival, I checked them out to see if there were any fish.

Normally, the state stocks the river and there are a lot of fish. But, because of the amount of snow they received this year and the river being elevated, they had yet to stock.

I didn’t see fish in the best fishing hole, so I went looking for another one. Not too far from our campsite was a large fallen tree that was being used as a bridge to cross the river. The top of the fallen tree had been cut down to make a flat surface that made it relatively easy to navigate. At this bridge, I saw a pretty big trout, and anticipated fishing there with my kids.

The next day, while my wife and daughter were off riding four-wheelers, I took my four-year-old son to the bridge to fish.

This was his first time at the bridge. I was leading the way and immediately crossed the bridge to look to see if I could see any fish.

Not seeing any fish, I looked back at my son who was on the other side of the bridge. He was scared to cross.

Scared to Cross

How often do we find ourselves in my son’s position, faced with a choice between:

  • Going back from where we came
  • Standing there frozen, looking at what looks scary and uncertain
  • Stepping up, take one step at a time, and crossing?

This was a difficult choice for my son. He wanted what was on the other side of the bridge (i.e., fishing), but he was scared to death about the possibility of falling off the bridge into the cold and rolling water below.

Too scared to cross, he asked me to come back and help him, which I gladly did. I took his hand, and together, we walked across the bridge. He held on tightly during this first crossing.

Shortly thereafter, one of my son’s cousins came to join us. Upon her arrival, he bravely and slowly walked back across the bridge to greet her.

Then, wanting to continue to fish, he crossed back across the bridge at a little quicker pace.

About 10 minutes later, he caught a fish! I beautiful monster of a trout.

We continued fishing for another 40 minutes with less luck. But, by the time we were done, my son was a pro at crossing the bridge, freely walking back and forth. He had conquered his initial fear and uncertainty.

What it Takes to do Great Things

I recognize that this is a simplification, but doesn’t doing great things require doing what my son did?

It takes stepping up onto the bridge, perhaps initially with a little help, and taking it one step at a time. The first time is going to be a little shaky. But, every time thereafter, it will get a little easier and a little easier until we become a pro.

This is a process that children, like my son, traverse on a regular basis. Being new to life and growing into their bodies, they are consistently presented with opportunities to do and learn new things. That is their norm. As such, children are quite agile.

As we grow up and older, such opportunities come less frequently, and we get accustomed to comfort. So, when something uncertain and scary presents itself, I think we make it a much bigger deal than it needs to be, simply because we are not used to the process of learning and doing new things. We are generally quite rigid and stuck in our ways.

What Great Things are You Missing Out On?

Is there something new that you want to learn, but keep putting off because it seems too daunting?

Is there something you have wanted to do, but you have not acted on because it seems too scary, difficult, or time consuming?

For the majority of my adult life, I became reluctant to cross bridges.

About two years ago, feeling stuck, I decided I would try to cross some new bridges. I decided to try my hand at public speaking, corporate trainings, and writing a book. I wasn’t sure how to get started. It seemed like a scary and costly proposition.

Fortunately, during this time there have been many iterations with speaking (i.e., lots of opportunities to cross the bridge). I am feeling more and more confident not because I have now been doing it for a while, but because of how many times I have done it. I have spoken over 60 times in the last 18 months.

With writing a book, it has been a long process. So far, just one iteration. But, after just submitting my final manuscript, I can look back and see that it was not as scary as I initially thought it would be. And, I imagine that future attempts will not be as shaky nor as slow.

What are You Waiting For?

What bridge have you been hesitant to cross?

I hope this helps you to see that the bridge you are hesitating to cross is something that you can do, and the simple fact is: the more you cross it, the more comfortable and successful you will get with it.

It is my wish that we will be more childlike in our approach toward life. Explore, learn, traverse and accomplish great things!