4074 We’re All In This Thing Together (Walking The Line Between Faith And Fear)

We're All In This Thing Together (Walking The Line Between Faith And Fear) - LEANING TOWARD WISDOM Podcast Episode 4074
Photo used courtesy @SamiPaju on Flickr

As different as we all are, we’re sure an awful lot alike. Things – and people – aren’t always as they appear.

Sometimes I sit across from leaders I’m coaching and think, “How can you not be more confident?” High flying, hard charging, ridiculously competent and very educated people can suffer the same fears the rest of us do. I the last episode I questioned our perceptions, mostly due to our inability to get our attention off ourselves long enough. That surely plays a part in this. We get wrapped up in our own lives and look over at somebody else we think has it all together. Mostly we go through life never knowing how much fear and anxiety rule the lives of our seemingly confident and competent friends.

But this isn’t about crying in our soup together. Misery may love company, but Misery is going to have to look elsewhere today. I’m not interested in harboring Misery today. Maybe tomorrow, but not today. It’s mostly about our common experiences, feelings and fears. The world isn’t so large that we’re in a place terribly unique from everybody else. It’s a small world.

Heartache. Happiness

Everybody experiences these 2 H’s. It’s our common goal – and challenge – to chase away heartache as fast as we can. And to hang onto happiness for just as long as possible. Mostly we’re trying to speed one up and slow the other one down. I don’t know anybody who succeeds, but still we try.

If pain or heartache didn’t last long, then we wouldn’t learn what we need to. Patience. Thanksgiving. Empathy. Grace. Forgiveness. And all those other things that happiness just doesn’t seem to provide. Are you struck like I am with the thought of positives that come from negatives? And negatives that come from positives?

Back in the late 90’s Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, hired Calvin Hill as a consultant to help the young players on today’s Cowboy roster cope with the problems facing young million-dollar athletes. Calvin was from a different era, but he’s gone on record that he’s driven to help today’s young NFL players learn to manage their resources by preserving them for a time when they’ll no longer be earning the big money they are today. And he’s intent on helping them learn some self-discipline and self-control so they won’t derail their careers. All their good fortune – happiness – can destroy them if they don’t have the skills to cope. Unfortunately, a lot of these young men have never learned the lessons Calvin Hill is trying to teach them. Their disadvantages in life go far beyond any financial difficulties they may have grown up around. The biggest disadvantage is a lack of knowledge and wisdom.

Hard lessons are often the best learned. Unfortunately for most of us, they take time and repetition. Heavy doses of misery serve us well.

“Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.”

Sounds good. It’s complete crap, but it sounds wise. Tough times can last a lot longer than most tough people. And desperate times aren’t nearly as merciful as Ronda Rousey. Tough times like to wrestle us to the ground, bind us up and then just keep messing with us until we’re exhausted. And just when we think we might be able to get our wind back, tough times laugh at us and body slam us to the floor to start the process all over again. We can tap out, but there’s no referee to stop the fight so what’s the point? You better just fight because you’re only hope is make that trite statement not be crap – but to make it come true. You have to outlast tough times!

But catch your breath quickly and start learning all you can when trouble is absent ’cause happiness lessons are the speed reading lessons of life. They go by in a blur so you’d better absorb all you can, while you can.

No wonder we’re afraid. So much can go wrong. Most of us have experienced enough to know the odds don’t seem favorable for something good.

Are you a pessimist? Do you just naturally gravitate toward thinking of everything that can go wrong? I don’t care if it’s unpopular to admit it, own it – if that’s you. You don’t have to be Lewis Black to feel that way. It doesn’t mean you’re fatalistic. You just think, “Well, this is likely not going to end well.”

Or maybe you’re at the other end of things, always thinking how great things may turn out. That just seems like an exhausting way to go to me. I mean, how often must you be disappointed if this is you? Talk about a blind-eyed beat down. Time after time life shows you who’s boss and still you delude yourself into thinking, “No, I’m your daddy.” The only thing you’re the daddy of is idiocy. 😉

But that’s not you. I know you. You’re in that over populated middle ground of people who say, “I’m not a pessimist or an optimist. I’m a realisist.”

Sure you are. Keep telling yourself that. I keep telling myself that. I tell myself that every morning when I fill out that entry for the HGTV Dream Home and the DIY Blog Cabin. I’m a realistist. That’s why I think I’ve got a fighting chance to win this thing.

I’m thinking how much I’m a realist when I enter the Publisher’s Clearing House $5,000 a week for the rest of your life contest. Well, actually, I may veer toward optimism on that one. I’m almost convinced I can win that one. One chance in about 7 billion and I actually think it could happen.

You still think you’ve got a solid grip on reality? Yeah, me too. Guess what? We’re both wrong. We’re crazy as bed bugs. Both of us.

But it’s good, isn’t it? Good to dream dreams. We’re so crazy that we think it may happen when it’s only happening in our dreams.

Escape. Imagining. Thinking of what might be. What could be. There’s no hard in that.

Do you watch NCIS? The original one with Gibbs and Denozo? Tony’s dad, played by Robert Wagner, is a bit of a con man with dreams of grandeur. Every time we see him he’s just a deal or two away from hitting big. Tell Tony Sr. that it’s healthy to live under the delusion that you’re just one big score away from a jet set lifestyle.

Self-awareness is hard work. Recently, our local ABC TV station interviewed Dallas resident billionaire Mark Cuban. Dale Hanson is our local sports anchor rockstar. He asked Cuban about the difficulty of raising kids, especially in such wealth. Mark said it was the hardest work he’s ever done – to raise kids who aren’t entitled jerks (that’s his phrase).

Cuban knows the value of self-awareness for himself and his kids. Yes, we see the public Mark Cuban on Shark Tank, but is that really who he is? Partly. He has to put on a show just like all public figures. That’s part of his self-awareness. Might make a good topic for another show – the different personas that make us who we are. Just because Mark is one persona on Shark Tank doesn’t mean that’s who is it at other times. Go to YouTube and watch some snippets of the biggest stars. You will see WAY OVER THE TOP personalities. ET, TMZ and other shows on TV have hosts who behave the same way. Super excited, very enthusiastic where everything is THRILLING. It’s a persona and clearly people are attracted to it because it drives viewership. You could think, “How fake!” But you could also understand it’s a persona – a ploy to display the personality that fits the setting.

Call it acting. Or amplifying. It’s a good topic and I’ve got some opinions (you knew I would) about it. But let’s table that for another day and another episode.

Self-awareness isn’t just about YOU being aware of who you are. It’s also about being aware of where you are and who else is where you are. We’re in it together, but not necessarily at the same time.

That line between faith and fear isn’t necessarily a line involving religious or spiritual faith, but it might be. For me, that line is very distinct and established. Any waffling I do these days is between the line of faith in myself, or others, or a strategy or a process — and my fear about those things! It doesn’t matter what your faith vs. fear line looks like, we’ve all got a line to walk.

Lately Donald Trump has been making an enormous splash. Somebody asked me what I thought Donald’s fears might be. I told them I had no idea, but I know he’s got them. I suspect he’s got more of them than you think because anybody worth $4 billion likely has more fear than us simply because he’s got more money to lose. Money ain’t everything, but 4 billion dollars is a whole lot of whatever ain’t everything. Thankfully, I’m spared all those worries.

Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing or a belief not based on proof.

That definition came from Wikipedia, but I don’t agree with it. Namely, I disagree with that last part – “a belief not based on proof.” That’s delusion and faith isn’t necessarily (although it can be) delusional. But the way I mean it today is the belief based on what’s possible, namely your belief in yourself. Some prefer the term “confidence.”

If We’re All In This Together Why Do I Feel So Alone?

Boy, that’s a question we could wrestle with for a very long time. Mostly, I think it’s because we all wear masks. Necessarily so.

Complete candor, including showing our anxieties and fears all the time, isn’t practical. Or safe. Do that at work and you’ll quickly end up in your boss’ doghouse. Do it in your family relationships and you be too needy. There’s a balance there we’re always trying to strike. Some of us are better at it than others. It ranges from people who don’t mask anything and we know them as the drama queens who seem to always be chasing sympathy and attention from others. At the other extreme are people who are so stoic you just never know what’s going on with them, or what they’re thinking or feeling.

Finding lines and being able to successfully able to walk those lines is just part of what this is all about. Wisdom is partly seeing the lines, knowing what they properly represent and being able to successfully navigate them. Most days I’m doing good to just see the lines. Better yet, I’m mostly seeing the dots I need to connect to draw the lines. So that’ll show you how far behind the curve I can sometimes be.

I’m sitting with an incredibly talented, competent leader. It’s a professional hazard I suffer – working with supremely capable leaders (and some who are less than stellar). This particular leader is suffering a bout of low confidence. Nothing caused it really. Just a sweeping feeling that came over her weeks ago. And here it is still persisting today with no end in sight. As we talk about it I jot down a note that becomes this episode. That was months ago, proving once again that the line between what I want to do and what I ought to do is a line I don’t walk nearly enough. Instead, I sometimes just sit down on the curb and watch the world pass by ’cause watching people is fun.

Super successful people walk the same lines as the failures — sometimes. And this particular line, the one between fear and faith, is common to us all. Probably because we’re all interested in profit and survival. I know those concepts represent different things to each of us. My idea of profit isn’t likely what Mark Cuban or Donald Trump think. Ditto for survival. But we’re each interested in it as it fits what we think, what we want and what we know to be realistic. More zeros in the numbers doesn’t make the line disappear.

We assume that guy over there – the guy earning tons of money and experiencing wild popularity – he’s not suffering the worries we are. We’re wrong. He may be experiencing them at double speed compared to us. Or at an intensity that would put us in a coma. You just never know.

Look at the stories we most enjoy. They’re stories of success or failure. We love the success stories because they inspire us and give us hope that it can happen to us, too. We relate to the stories of failure because it’s such a common experience. Happy to hear the suffering of others might be attractive to some, but I suspect most of us love to hear the stories of struggle because we so understand them. Those are universally relatable stories. The most successful people on the planet have failed.

But that aloneness isn’t filled by simply hearing or seeing the stories. They can help, but connection is more than hearing a story. It’s getting to know the person who experienced it. It’s making an investment to help them move past it – if they’re currently experiencing it. It’s knowing that we’re important enough to them to have help lifting our own burdens. Genuine togetherness in walking the line between faith and fear without embarrassment or hesitation. That’s the deep connection most all of us seek.

Knowing that others share our experience doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to share, or to foster sharing. Probably because it’s so personal and makes us so vulnerable. My question is…

Vulnerable to what?

Does it really matter? What matters is we’re afraid to let people know we’re afraid. Funny, huh?

Pride. That’s the crux of it. Even losers have their pride and dignity. We’ll hang onto that, even if it costs us improvement — and success.

You know it’s true. It’s happened to you. Maybe it’s happening to you right now.

John’s singing about love, but failure may be more universal. Fear even more so. And pride, too.

It’s pride that stops you from pursuing that job you’d really like to have.

It’s pride that stops you from writing that book you’re always claiming you’ll write.

It’s pride that stops you from telling somebody how much you care about them.

Why? Because it’s risky. It might not work out as you hope. You might fail.

Too often we let the fear drive our pride higher and our willingness to give it a go lower. A no growth proposition for sure!

It’s time to take a chance. Time to risk failure for the opportunity for success. That’s right – time to risk failure instead of success.

As for pride…well, who cares? Maybe it’s time to take pride in your growth and in the outcome of the things you’re willing to attempt, even in the face of risking failure. So today’s the day. The day to make the phone call that scares you. To start writing the book, recording the podcast, to solicit the sale…or anything else you’re really wanting to try, but too fearful to do.

Step over the line. Walk or run past fear and failure toward a new line, the line between trying and doing nothing. Then keep walking until you’re on the way toward doing. Because doing gives you feedback. Feedback is vital to figuring it out. Nobody figured much out by just sitting around without doing anything. And leaning toward wisdom demands we figure this out. So get busy. And I’m here if you need me ’cause we’re all in this together. Besides, I want to hear about what happens. Good or bad.


Photo courtesy of @SamiPaju on Flickr

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