I stood there on the edge, leg shaking, pulse racing.   I’m gonna do it.  I’ve got to do this!  This is happening…do it, do it now! I thought.

One of the older regulars yelled up some words of encouragement.  “Do it, man!”  He looked tough with his sleeves of tattoos and his battle-worn pads.  I felt kinda cool just because he was paying attention to me.

His words of encouragement spurred me on.  “Yeah, I’m gonna do it… Uh…how do I do it?”  I was on top of a 7-foot high skateboarding ramp telling myself I was ready for this next challenge.   I had learned to put myself into situations that felt a little over my head.  I had been a fearful kid, and in my teenage years, I developed a deep desire to overcome this state in myself.  I started to take the feelings of fear and redefine it as adventure and exhilarating fun.

“You’ve gotta just commit all the way”, he says.  “Stomp down hard…you can’t go halfway or you’ll wipe out.”   Okay, stomp down hard, I thought to myself.  I just gotta commit and trust.  It’s going to happen, so there’s no point standing there forever.

I know that the longer we stand on the edge of anything that truly frightens us that it usually only gets worse.  Fear can settle into our legs like cement, crushing our spirit and self-esteem under its immense weight.   We’ve got to override that paralysis and take action.  We must transcend part of ourselves.

My back foot stood on the tail of my board, which was resting on the lip of the ramp—the rest of my skateboard hung out over the air.  My breath became labored as I crouched down over the center of the board.  Here goes!  I stomped hard and placed my body perpendicular to the vertical face of the wooden ramp.  Everything intensified as my body buzzed with endorphins.  Sounds faded into the background, and I entered the “flow” state.

Then came the strong feeling of gravity pushing up through my burning quads as the wheels of my skateboard rolled across the rounded transition of the ramp and out onto the cement floor of the indoor skate park.

I did it!  Yes!   I could once again hear everything, including the cheering and whooping from the guy who encouraged me.   Man did I feel awesome!

“Do it again!”  My impromptu skate coach yelled.   I understood exactly what he meant.   I needed to burn out the fear and prove to myself that I could to it, and it wasn’t just a fluke.   I needed to make it real.  And the more I did it, the more confidence I gained and the easier it became.  The feelings of fear had transformed into fun.

Over the years, skateboarding taught me a lot of valuable life lessons, including…

  • The value of challenging ourselves regularly to take on increasingly difficult and sometimes scary experiences:  This keeps our world expanding and growing instead of narrowing and shrinking from fear.
  • The value of making a decision and committing to action:  Don’t spend too much time mulling things over.  Assess, decide, commit, and act.   Get it done!
  • The value of overcoming fear by taking consistent and bold action:  When we consistently face fears head-on, we prove to ourselves that we need not be afraid.
  • The value of a supportive community of peers, mentors, and coaches:  The people we surround ourselves with can raise us up or keep us down.  Be careful whom you trust your confidence with.  Take advice from someone who’s been down your path and has succeeded.
  • The value of celebrating victories:  This helps us to integrate success into our identity and take on bigger and even more rewarding challenges in the future

What role does fear play in your life?  What strategies or techniques have you found to be helpful in dealing with fear?