Have you ever been so afraid to do something that you’d do anything else just to avoid doing that thing?
Like being so afraid to write your keynote speech that you organized your silverware drawer?
Or so afraid to have the conversation with your best friend about how your feelings were hurt, that you washed all the linens in the house?
Or so afraid to go for that promotion at work, that you decided to start training for a marathon?
I’ve been there SO MANY times.
But a couple of years ago, I realized that some fears are buried so deeply, and their black magic has worked its way into our lives so seamlessly, that we can’t even see them. Sometimes someone else has to point them out to us.
Earlier on the blog, I introduced you to Dr. Stuart Grauer, and an amazing touch point he engineered for his brand. He’s the founder of The Grauer School, where our son will be attending his third year this September, as a high schooler! (Oy, vey!)
Before Christian started seventh grade at Grauer, I bought a stand-up paddle board lesson from Dr. Grauer at a silent auction. And it was on a glorious Southern California morning, as he taught me how to balance and paddle through the majestic San Elijo Lagoon, that Stuart got a glimpse of who I was.
I’ll digress here for just a moment to say that I’ve never much believed in “moments of clarity” that immediately result in huge life changes. I generally find that we bring our awareness to something, and then we go through a series of experiences – forward and backward – inside of that new truth, until we end up with long-awaited change.
I don’t much believe in an a-ha moment on Monday that leads to a different life on Tuesday.
Change BEGINS with clarity, but BECOMES through action.
As I wobbled on that surf board, both tentative and determined, Stuart came to know something about me and about the way I parented my son as a result of that thing.
He didn’t mention it in the moment. But some months later, I had a meltdown over Christian’s grades. He wasn’t performing the way I thought he could. He wasn’t participating in the way I thought he should. He wasn’t giving it his “all,” in the way I thought I would have. He was missing a big opportunity.
I turned to Stuart to discuss it.
And he took that moment to ask, “Julia… what are you so afraid of?”
My response was automatic.
“I’m afraid he’ll get too far behind. I’m afraid he won’t make it to college. I’m afraid his life will be limited because he won’t apply himself.”
And that was when Stuart said something that has replayed a thousand times in my head since:
“You can’t parent from fear. You can only parent from love.”
And he proceeded to tell me what I know was hard for him to say, and even harder for me to hear:
“You need to take your focus off Christian. You need to back off. Because Christian will be fine. You need to find out what YOU are afraid of. And then go do that thing. Go throw yourself into something that terrifies you.”
And there it was.
Right out in the open.
This wasn’t about Christian. It was about me.
I was afraid that I wasn’t performing the way I should.
That I wasn’t participating in the way I should.
That I wasn’t giving it my all.
That I was missing an opportunity.
And I saw that I’d been organizing my silverware drawer for more than 25 years.
I saw I’d built a career that comfortably sat in the shadows of what I really wanted to do.
I wanted to be heard.
More importantly, I wanted my words to be read.
I wanted to share my truth in a way that it would move others.
I wanted to be influential and thought-provoking in a way that would change people, and change the world.
And the thought of doing that was absolutely terrifying.
None-the-less, I began untangling myself from the messy web of expecting things from my son. And parenting only from love.
I began untangling myself from the messy web of selling myself short in order to avoid pain. And I began speaking to myself with love.
In action after action, I lived inside that new truth: that I was missing out on my own opportunity.
I quietly packed up the corporate consulting business I’d run for 15 years, and I went for it. One small step at a time.
Almost two years later, I successfully speak my truth for a living.
On this blog, in one-on-one coaching sessions, in live speeches and presentations, in daily emails to more than 25,000 people, to thousands of fans on social media, to thousands more in weekly webinars, and in my online branding program.
I influence lives, with my words and my beliefs… for a living.
And with each passing day, I am less and less afraid that people won’t read my words or won’t like them. (Or at least I am less and less defined by that fear.)
Stuart was right. Christian is much more than fine. He’s become a creative, independent thinker with a spirit and energy far beyond anything I could have dreamed of. He’s done it all on his own. Unsolicited advice from me is not helpful for him; he’s 15 now… a young man.
I no longer say anything to Christian about fear and opportunity. I show him.
He sees me, day after day, put myself out into the world, doing the thing that I fear the most. He sees me being honest and vulnerable on the days that turn to shit-shows, in the moments I feel the sting of failure I fought so long to avoid. And he sees me picking myself up the very next day, to do it all again. He sees me wanting, chasing, doing, living… LOVING.
And when he says things a teenager would say, like “I want to be a YouTube star,” or “Can I go to DJ camp?”… I don’t call him a dreamer or judge his plans as fruitless fancy. I show him my newest Instagram ads, or the microphone I just got for podcasts, or the email I just got from a fan. He sees me doing what two years ago seemed utterly ridiculous. He sees me going “world-wide” right from the kitchen table.
But you know what’s even better? I see me.
I share this with today in the hopes that you’ll ask yourself: “What the hell am I so afraid of?”
So you’ll step away from your silverware drawer or your teenager’s report card to go do the thing that terrifies you the most. Because that’s the thing you were meant to be.
I share it so you won’t miss the boat that’s scheduled to sail to your true destiny.
So you’ll manage your life from love… and not from fear.
I went first. So share with me in the comments below:
What are you so afraid of?