Wisdom Wednesday: Kara
I read an article recently from a writer who had solicited advice from his readers, aged 37 and older, about what advice they would give to their 30-year old selves. He had just celebrated his 30th birthday, and compiled the the advice into a list of the top 10 recurring themes from over 600 responses. At the same time, I was in the midst of reading The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan W. Watts, a part philosophical, part spiritual book about the futility of worrying about security and the future at the expense of your present.
Having turned 30 this year, almost every piece of advice from the article and every page from the book resonated with me. But one recurring theme within both gets to the heart of my life-long inner struggle: fear.
Don’t be afraid to take risks.
Don’t let fear guide your life, decisions, career.
Don’t be afraid of change, of the unknown, of not having a plan.
This is solid advice. And yet, so many of us live our lives guided by fear, day-in and day-out. I allow it to guide me more often than I’d like to admit. We conform to societal norms and expectations for fear of ostracism, follow paths of least resistance for fear of doing hard things and possibly failing at them, find comfort in routine and regularity for fear of the unknown.
Think about the people in your life that you admire. They are not perfect. I can say with 100% certainty that they have faced some form of failure countless times. But chances are, they have taken a big risk, or several big risks, to become the person you admire. They took a leap of faith at some point, they didn’t have a fool-proof plan and they didn’t know if things would work out the way they wanted. And it probably took doing something hard, and sacrificing something significant, to become the person that you admire. Through my fair share of regrets, I have learned the hard way that you can’t short-cut this part of the journey. I’ve spent a lot of (wasted) time trying to figure out how I could have all the things I wanted in life with minimal-to-no risk, no chance of failure, no chance of embarrassment or pain. Life-hack my way to success and happiness. It ain’t happening for me, and it ain’t happening for you, either. And the sooner we (me, you, and all the other talented, weird, wonderful and fearful souls out there) accept this reality, acknowledge fear’s presence but refuse to empower it, the sooner we can meet our potential of a full life, complete with wild successes, painful heartbreaks, unimaginable setbacks, and extraordinary joy.
“If we are to have intense pleasures, we must also be liable to intense pains.”
— Alan W. Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity