I have a good friend named Fred. Fred is an inspiration. His self-given nickname is Two-Foot Fred. But Fred is quick to point out that he is actually 37 and one-half inches tall. Fred does not use the term, but I think the proper term these days is “little people.”
There is nothing little about Fred except his height. He lives life large. He has parachuted out of airplanes, rappelled off mountains, and done many other stunts most of us regular folks are too scaredy-cat to do. (Intentional disrespect to cats.) I taught Fred to water ski one summer, and the biggest challenge was not getting him up or his willingness but finding a life jacket that he could control.
Any time he faces opportunities or challenges, which is every moment of everyday, he just says to all who will listen, “Why Wouldn’t I?”
I thought about him today because we were having dinner with some friends who told Sharon and I they wanted to use that motto for their year as a personal challenge. Why Wouldn’t I? Sharon liked it.
If money and time were unlimited what would you do or try that you are not trying or doing now? If time were short what would you do? Start a business, get that degree, ask that girl on a date, buy a sports car, run a marathon, become a millionaire, raft the Grand Canyon, scuba dive, go to Paris, write a book, cut a record, as Tim McGraw sings, “go 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu,” or a thousand other things that seem out of reach?
Sometimes when something really big or beyond my control is presented, I can freeze. I don’t like pain. Physical pain, spiritual pain, financial pain, relational pain . . . they’re all bad. I don’t like them. I am a wuss. They scare me. Sometimes instead of saying “Why wouldn’t I?” to life’s opportunities and challenges, I freeze with fear. I get paralysis of the analysis. My friend Seth Godin says, “I define anxiety as experiencing failure in advance.” Sometimes I am very good at that.
Sometimes when something new or something big is in front of me I say, “If we try this, it might not work,” which sounds stupid as I write it because my mind immediately answers itself with “Of course if you don’t try it, then it CERTAINLY won’t work.” But that is the voice of Fear and his cousins Doubt and Shame which overshadow simple logic at times.
It is interesting to me that the most fun and reward I have ever had was when I embraced the fear, held it close, and tried something I was not sure would work. I might fall, I might fail, I might embarrass myself or my family, but I do it anyway. Why Wouldn’t I? The Bible says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV). So, why wouldn’t I?
The thousands of very public business mistakes I have made seem to fade behind the things that worked. The times I do something or try something that might hurt are never fatal. The more I embrace the fear—try something anyway—the better I get at it.
A couple of years ago, my family was snow skiing during the holidays in Telluride. Over the decades, I have been on some pretty tough hills. My kids are great skiers and athletic, so they push the old man pretty hard. At the end of the day, we decided to end on a nice groomed Black Diamond. For the non-skier that is a very steep but smooth ski run. No big deal. I have skied that type of run hundreds of times. Maybe my blood sugar was low, maybe I was tired at the end of the day, or maybe fear is real because when we came off the lift at the top of that run, it looked like a cliff, not a run.
We are standing there looking down on Telluride Village knowing that if we fall, this run is so steep we may fall for a mile all the way into downtown. Actually, as we looked over the edge, downtown was the first thing you could see a mile away. Maybe I was tired, maybe it was blood sugar, but all I know is I suddenly got really terrified. Physical reaction terrified. My heart started racing, something was pounding in my ears, and cold sweat started forming under my ski suit. I seriously considered taking my skis off and walking down. But, why wouldn’t I? I told the family, “I have to go NOW because if I stand here any longer I am going to freeze up with fear.” So, I started slowly skiing with big turns.
Guess what happened? I didn’t die. I didn’t break my knee. The more I skied, the more my fear left. By the time we got to the bottom, we were all high-fiving like we won the Olympic downhill. It was EXHILARATING! And you know what I realized? Pushing through the fear was the big accomplishment—not the super difficult ski run.
I know this about you ’cause I know it about me. You are better than your fear tells you. You will fail at some things you attempt, but so what! You will succeed at others. You might embarrass yourself, but it will make a great story, and no one will remember the stumble but you six months from now. You have what it takes. You can do this big thing God has set before you. He knows you can do it. If He believes in you, then I for sure believe in you. You got this. Go for it.
Why wouldn’t you?