Kigali, Kigali Province, Rwanda

February 7, 2016

My Big Secret

The most common question I get asked about this live-all-over-the-world lifestyle is, “How do you do it?”

It’s a question a little bit about logistics, but also about personality. It implies that I’ve got a super-duper secret that lets me do all these crazy things.

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized that I do. And that I want to share it with you. :)

So here goes. My Big Secret. You ready?

I am scared every single day.

That’s it. I’m not more capable, smarter, better-endowed with a gift of gab or preternaturally disposed for crazy adventures.

In truth, I’m a pretty average guy. I’m introverted, not good with crowds, and have the exact same “HOLY SHIT THIS IS GOING TO GO TERRIBLY WRONG AND I AM GOING TO DIE” reactions you probably do when you think about moving to Rwanda or selling all your stuff or publishing a book about depression.

Every day, I wake up moderately terrified of the world outside my door and the things that are waiting in my afternoon.

When I submit to a big publication, I literally squeal “Eeeeeeee!!” like a small child while I’m pressing “Send”, then run in circles around the room still squealing after it’s sent.

I know. It’s not a glamorous picture. But the funny thing is, over the years, I’ve learned that scared turns out to be great.

Scared means I’m heading toward something big. Scared means opportunity. Scared means “this could go horribly wrong but I’d sure learn a lot in the process”.

We’re told all sorts of stories about feeling scared, tales of ‘fraidey cats hiding in the corner. Told that scared people slink around and accomplish nothing.

But those stories were written from the comfort of a dull desk job, and they’re not true.

If we flip it around, we can see what scared actually looks like.

Being bold feels like scared. Taking on your dreams feels like scared. Looking a year, a day, or a life straight in the eyes without blinking feels like scared.

At the top of every field, all over the world, you’ll find people who feel scared.

Crazy, right?

The reality is that our brains are programmed to seek out comfort and safety - and that’s great. It’s easier to pass on our genes if we’re not tempting tigers, and we’re more likely to live long enough to raise our kids if we have consistent food and shelter.

But while those seek-safety parts of our brains are good at putting more years in our life, they’re no good at putting more life in our years.

That’s what fear’s for.

Maybe you’ve never put words to it, but when we stop to notice, we find there are multiple kinds of fear, lurking in our minds and bodies.

There’s the blind panic of a spider walking up your arm. The deep foreboding of a particular dark alley. The heart-pounding anticipation of a scary movie. The fidgety awkward of a sticky social situation.

And then there’s this kind you probably experienced when you were a kid, at the top of a big slide, jumping into the deep end of the pool, or raising your hand in class.

The kind that’s covering up a knowledge that technically, things will be fine, and you’ll survive. The kind that goes “Noooooooonooononononono!!”, but where, despite the screaming, you can still take a deep breath, step forward, and move.

That kind of fear is gold.

It adds life to our days, pushes us towards our dreams, and points us to the good stuff.

It’s also the stuff I try to experience every single day.

I call it “a little bit scared”. It’s one of core principles I built the Change Monsters around, and both in my life and in the lives of the folks I coach, I’ve watched it turn impossible, terrifying dreams into reality time and time again.

It’s powerful, reliable, and the best friend a person can get - and it’s sitting right in our minds, waiting.

So, now you know my big secret. :)

I don’t have a super smart brain or some crazy skill with languages or even a magical decoder ring.

I’m just scared. Pretty awesome, right?

This week, I invite you to join me in feeling a little bit scared. Find something you’ve always wanted to do, and take one small step towards it that scares you a little. You might be surprised what you find waiting. :)

Have an amazing week.

-Steven

p.s. The best thing I read all week was this piece on getting older, by a foul-mouthed 57-year old lady. It’s fantastic.

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