What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Have you ever asked yourself this question? I’ll rephrase: have you ever asked yourself this question and answered honestly? 

If you’re anything like me, you read the headline of this post and immediately started wracking your brain for a “good” answer — a stream of cliché Fear Factor activities rushed through your mind: skydiving? No. Bungee jumping! No, no, deep sea diving?! And then, for just a moment, your mind is silent and you hear your answer, your true answer. As quickly as it presented itself it’s gone again — you shut it up and lock it away in the deepest caverns of your mind, too terrifying to be faced today.

How often do we, knowingly or unknowingly, allow fear to dictate our lives?

We’ve all heard the saying: if something scares you, do it. But do we? Really? Sure we take risks, some of us challenge what is comfortable and will shy away from complacency, and others are prone to flinging themselves to opposite ends of the world to see how well they land on their feet. But are we really afraid of all those things? Have we truly risked anything?

I was recently told about a website whose sole purpose was to provide an outlet for the masses to share their answers to the aforementioned question. When I scrolled through the pages for the first time I noticed the quintessential skydivers and scuba divers, but digging deeper there were an overwhelming number that talked about opening up to love, pursuing passions, and doing something noteworthy. Sure, it’s easy to post your personal manifesto when there’s a community of other brave souls there to catch you. But all I could do was marvel at the visual representation of how fear is holding us back from living.

I had my own experience with this question a few months ago when a date I was with posed the question over drinks. I sipped my cocktail (buying time) going through the usual motions and coming up with some stellar cliché answers. And then, out of nowhere, I heard “drop everything and pursue a more creative life”. I looked around for a second not realizing the words were my own. They had somehow, with little assistance from me, found their way past my lips and were now hanging naked in the air in front of me, seemingly suspended by my own disbelief.

The funny thing about acknowledging our fears is that once you hear your answer, you can never ‘unhear’ it. Once you know what it is you truly wish you were doing it will continue to pick away at you, it will ridicule you as you lie sleepless at night, it will taunt you as you go about your mundane daily tasks, and, worst of all, it will weasel its way into every idle daydream you have. You can’t escape it.

Until one day you find yourself no longer running away and, in my case, you’re sitting at a gate, waiting for a flight back to the motherland, having left your apartment, startup job, and comfortable life in SF.

You have no idea what adventure will unfold on the other end of the leap you chose to take but the thought of never knowing scares you more than anything.

Your turn, what would you do if you weren’t afraid?