If you had to rate yourself on a scale from 1-10, how competitive are you? If you’re like me, I hover at about a 1.5, until an overly aggressive, “chicken” remarking, self-absorbed twat challenges me…to anything. Even then, it’s much less about competition and much more about shutting this guy down (or gal, but mostly, it’s a guy…sorry, guys). I am simply not competitive. Maybe it stems from my non-athleticism in childhood throughout my teenage years, as I watched my friends win awards and scholarships based on their exceptional athletic performance. I knew I would NEVER spike a volleyball, or hit a homerun with bases loaded, or score a winning 3 pointer with 2 seconds left in the game. I was good at other things. Things that were not nearly as valued and promoted, such as, well…writing. No one chants your name or rallies in unison when you’ve written an article that pleases the masses. It’s a quiet achievement, but deeply satisfying, to a writer. It took discovering dirt bikes in my late 20’s to learn there was ANY sport in which I could not only participate, but could become damn good doing. Later, an amazing group of rock climbers invited me out to a crag and that marked the first of hundreds of climbs that I would eventually conquer. Having climbed with some of the best, I don’t call myself a “good” climber…there was always a harder route, a tougher line, an intensely challenging top out that was simply beyond my skill level. But, I do feel secure enough in my abilities of the sport to call myself a climber. Who knew. Later, I learned I could jump out of planes and save my own life. With dirt biking and rock climbing coming so much more naturally, I was baffled that skydiving wasn’t as easy as relying on gravity to do its thing. I struggled. I read somewhere, that when you become a skydiver, all your friends will think you’re a badass…only you will secretly know you’re the least cool person on the face of the planet. This isn’t wrong. I grew so humiliated in trying to conquer stability that I almost gave up entirely. I repeated my last category jump 10 times. TEN. Most jumpers are signed off to jump solo before 10 jumps with an instructor. After a particularly horrific shit show in the sky, I asked my instructor, “Why haven’t you just given me the bowling speech?” (slang for, “Skydiving is NOT your sport.”) He said, with more than a little exasperation, “Because you have clearly demonstrated that no matter WHAT happens up there, you CAN save your own life.” Ironically, this did nothing for my confidence. I was forced to take a long break from the sport when I took a job that required working weekends, the only days my drop zone was open. So, I STILL was not cleared to jump solo. Skip forward a year. A year. Those with whom I started the sport were already in triple digits. And, I was still not allowed to get out of an airplane alone. I had to make a choice. I was lamenting to an old skydiver with thousands of jumps, my plight. He stared off into space and said quietly, “Well…at this point, you’re either a skydiver or an ex-skydiver.” That stuck. It stuck not just in relation to jumping, but to life, in general. It spoke to my fears, my insecurities, my self-doubt and frustration. He had just shouted, in a barely audible tone, “Don’t give up. Or do. But, you’ve already begun the journey.” I didn’t want to be an ex-skydiver. I also didn’t want another 10 jumps before I was cleared. So, I humbled myself, went BACK to the same drop zone, saw more than a few surprised, familiar faces, and I manifested for load 5. If panic accompanies your first leap out of an airplane, this instance could be upgraded to near clinical shock. I was terrified. I botched the exit. I spun. I flailed. But, I pulled. And, I got myself, once again, safely to the ground. My story obviously goes on to being cleared, conquering stability from intentionally unstable maneuvers, and sticking with it until jumping was actually FUN. But only God Himself knows just how much I dreaded the smell of jet fuel and the sight of that student rig, to the point that I was sure I needed to either poop or puke. The things we go through to achieve our goals… I can look back now and see how much I would have missed out on living my best life had I quit. This concept is applicable to most everything we attempt. Nothing that requires a new skill set or a new mind set is easy. Starting is harder than never taking a first step. But, eventually, if this “thing” is a part of your calling, it won’t be silenced. It’s louder than your initial failed attempts. It won’t let you sleep. It will plague you to live your truth. I think one of the most tragic things about the human condition is the fear to try. From obesity, to addiction, to hoarding…we truly don’t know where to start. Hell, I have felt that way about something as simple as cleaning out my closet. Then, I found a book called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up- The Japanese Art of Decluttering. Life changing, it was. I highly encourage anyone to read this game-changer. It reaches far beyond organizing one’s closet. It walks you through, in beautiful detail, how to let go of all that does not bring you joy in the material realm. But, I had to read a BOOK to get started. I am most at peace in an uncluttered space. But, I knew lurking behind every cabinet door and in every closet of my deceptively orderly home was the accumulation of life-stuff that I didn’t know how or what to let go. There is help, I’ve found, for literally every nameable problem that plagues us. It is the thick, dark fear that is the starting line that keeps us from stepping past the terrifying layer, into the light of achieving our heart’s deepest desires. I can’t tell you how to buy the BMW or earn a million dollars, but, these things are not callings. They are just that…things. I am talking about the stuff that requires grit, dedication, blood, sweat, and maybe a lot of tears and snot, if you need to cry on your path to your holy grail. And, likely, you will. I know we’ve all heard the age old question, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” (Robert Schuller coined it, and we’ve revised it many ways, but it doesn’t change the meaning.) It was a huge leap for me to go public with my writing, switching over to accountability vs whim, if ever I was going to be a published author of a book, the contents of which are deeply personal and, hopefully, beneficial to others. After conferring with some publisher friends, as well as some authors, the advice was all the same. Start a blog. I didn’t ask all the whys, as they seemed rather evident. People must first see and relate to my writing, and, unlike 30 years ago, authors have the advantage of proving their ability to produce readable articles that appeal to a following before submitting a manuscript to multiple publishers. They can develop some street cred beforehand. (Sidenote: free, signed copies of my book to all those who take the time to follow my blog! I need you) My plea to you is simple, and, yet, incredibly difficult. Begin. I have held the hand of the dying, many times, as they tearfully surrendered the drug of choice that was masking a world of pain. I won’t debate this. Addiction, be it food or another substance, supplies us with a false shelter from what lies underneath. Period. The bravest thing one can do in the bottom of this pit is give up that shelter and face it all. It is an act of sheer heroism. But, what about learning to play the electric guitar, going back to school in your 40s, 50s, 60s…opening the doors of your closets and facing artifacts that might remind you of a time in your life that you’ve buried… It can be done. And, I’ll go a step further and say it MUST be done. If you can think of nothing in response to that question above, about doing and not failing, you’re golden. You are ahead of the game if you have embraced your truth to the point that you are already where I am talking about being. But, most of us can answer it immediately and emphatically. We are so equipped, warriors. We are so incredibly suited for the tasks that lie before us that we haven’t even scratched the surface of our abilities. In general, I don’t use the words “lucky” and “blessed.” It dilutes the sheer fortitude and unseen hours of burning the midnight oil to manifest something that looks easy and appealing to the rest of us. I am careful not to tell another, “I know how you feel.” So, if I say it, it is because I can truly say I have experienced what you are experiencing. If you are afraid to begin, I. Know. How. You. Feel. I know the trepidation. I can recall with vivid accuracy, the day I discovered I could no longer live with alcohol, or without it. More recently, and less traumatically, I remember being afraid of the things I would come across from my past when I unearthed pieces of a life that I wanted to forget, forever. And, of course, if you’re a flailing skydiver, bless your heart, I feel your pain. While you will find what works for you, I would encourage the starting point be (of course) putting your calling on paper. It somehow magically and instantly seems more achievable if it fits on a few lines of a notebook. Next, tell someone. This vital step instigates accountability. Don’t choose someone that will validate you every time you don’t feel like excavating your gold. Tell a trusted individual that is willing to take on the role of coming alongside you and offering support and encouragement on the days you feel utterly defeated. That another human knows your path also makes the thing you seek more attainable. After all, it no longer lives in the back of your mind, silently shoved behind the busy-ness of daily, mundane tasks. No. Now it’s up front and accessible. Then, locate and contact people smarter than you. No matter your goal, somebody has taken their first step toward a similar, if not the same, goal and will likely be more than eager to help another fledgling. If you take anything away from this piece, please, take this one word…begin. You may not believe it now, and you may not have been told before, but you, dear human, are mighty. You are stronger than the dark fear that blocks the view of seeing yourself as having already won. You are smart enough. You have enough time. You will figure a lot out as you go, and that will nourish your soul to do it again when the sun rises. You absolutely can have it, whatever it is. From a thought, to a decision, to an action is, after all, how this world evolves. Your private world is no different. Decide. Act. Don’t be an ex-version of what you once started and gave up. You will do it better this time. If you don’t believe, believe that I believe. I know you can. I am giddy about the outcome and I don’t even know who is doing what, but I cannot wait for the inbox messages from this one. You all have inspired me to do this incredibly lofty thing of going after the writing of my book. It’s only fair that you practice what you preach. Anything you can do, you can do better. I’m rooting for you, you winner. Peace, Warriors.