Dancing with Fear

Fred & Adele Astaire. ca. 1906. The photograph...

Fred & Adele Astaire. ca. 1906. The photograph is a publicity photograph illustrating Fred Astaire and Adele Astaire in a vaudeville act entitled “A Rainy Saturday”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The hills above my town are filled with trails for running and hiking. Rolling green hills, creeks, and beautiful canyons invite the adventure seeker. By day, its beauty pops and inspires, by night, it is hidden in the mysterious shadows, barely visible in the moonlight. What made me decide to shake things up and run into the dark? Forty dollar headlamps and a desire to conquer my fear. Running this the first time, two years ago was scary. Today, it’s a walk in the park.

 

Fear comes in many shapes and forms. Physical fear of the dark, inner city gas stations, or rattle snakes is your body’s way of protecting itself from dangers. Seth Godin refers to the Lizard Brain, the amygdala. This is the survival portion of your brain that only cares about the NOW and protecting you from immediate dangers. In our civilized society, we don’t face the same dangers humans did a million years ago. Our brains, however, don’t know the difference. Stephen Pressfield wrote about the Lizard Brain in a his brilliant work “The War of Art”. He calls it the resistance. I have written extensively about this subject throughout this blog. The resistance lurks in the comfort zone of your psyche, trying to pull you away from greatness and into the safety of mediocrity. Your brain works much like a parent who in an effort to protect his child from embarrassment or disappointment tells him not to try out for the school play. Like a child, we tend to listen to our Lizard Brain/resistance. Sometimes, like a rebellious teenager, we push away the resistance and end up with something amazing. Pressfield has articulated one of the most fulfillment zapping phenomenon in modern history; writers’ block, procrastination, distraction, self-doubt etc. Whatever shape or form you may experience, you WILL see the resistance. Pressfield suggests a WAR; a fight. Perhaps he’s missing an opportunity to dance.
In his recent work, Seth Godin challenges the notion of a “war”, in which we challenge the resistance. He instead, suggests that we must dance with it. I nearly drove the car off the side of the road (listened on Audio) when I heard this. The WAR concept is etched in stone in the creative world. Godin, however, is becoming the William Wallace of creative battles. Perhaps, instead, he would rather be the Fred Astaire. A day of writing without distraction is typically considered a good day. Not anymore:
The resistance (in its many forms) doesn’t show up when we are busy average.
I have never procrastinated sleeping in. Never has my Facebook exploration been interrupted by the desire to pray, or write, or do something meaningful. The opposite, of course, is a daily occurrence. The resistance, like the oppressive government in The Hunger Games, only comes after threats to the status quo. All the other “things” are safely locked behind a fence, unable to affect change. If working toward your fulfillment does not yield any resistance, no “Peacekeepers” coming in the night to take you away, there is no threat to the status quo.

Unless your status quo is complete fulfillment and you’ve achieved everything you were designed for, “status quo” is “status NO”.

You must pose a threat to invite the resistance. Start making progress and you’ll see resistance in its many forms lurking. Mother Theresa faced almost an entire lifetime of spiritual dryness known as the Dark Night of the Soul. The warm and fuzzy we get when we go to church was replaced with numbness. Mother Teresa was a real threat to the status quo of the poor being poor, body and soul in Calcutta. She did not fight the resistance, she danced with it, and many souls are dancing toward heaven for it. Replace the warm and fuzzy, the desire to do something else, the urge to question your ability, with the new dance of fulfillment. It’s coming whether you like it or not. Give up now and be average or put on your dancing shoes! Embrace the desire to procrastinate. If you feel it, you’re on to something. Welcome the inner voice that says you’re not good enough. Laugh a giddy laugh at the desire to check Facebook while your halfway through marathon training. You are a threat to the status quo. That, my friends, is moving the needle toward awesomeness.
I overslept and almost didn’t write this article today thinking inspiration will be here tomorrow. I chose to dance instead of procrastinate. How will you dance today?
Rocco De Leo

You Are An Impostor And Everyone Is Going To Find Out

In a recent  movie, Batman was called upon to “sacrifice” himself to save Gotham city from a ruthless and powerful tyrant hellbent on exploding a nuclear device in the middle of the city.  Superman will soon be on the silver screen again saving the world from assured destruction.  Who can forget ‘Spidey” flying around saving the pretty girl on flying skateboards?  Who is Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, or Peter Parker? These guys are my hope on my struggle from mediocrity into awesomeness.

Runaway

Runaway (Photo credit: Cayusa)

As a man wearing many masks (Dad, full-time employee, writer, husband-to-be, etc) I am constantly assuming many “superhero” roles.  Over time, I  have developed a pretty good work flow to manage the things that need to get done.  That has opened up many doors on my journey toward awesome. It was easier to complain that I didn’t have any time to do things rather than face the learning curves (and many of them) I face on a daily basis.  Now that I have figured how to move forward rather than treading water, I face new challenges everyday.  Managing a household and a full-time job while still making room for myself comes with a lot of  “awe”.    I get a compliment on how well I am doing with my kids, I think “if they only knew”. “Sure my son said please and thank you. But I forgot to feed him breakfast, he didn’t brush his teeth, and his lunch money is sitting on the kitchen counter and he’s already at school”. “Good job with that account, the sales are looking good”.  Of course, the customer needed my product, I was just the right guy at the right time.
I am just a big faker and afraid every one is going to find out!
Are these words of a crazy man?! Certainly not. I’m hearing a similar story from many artists, including one of my heroes, Seth Godin.  The fact that I am consuming content from these artists implies that they  have succeeded enough to be relevant and have a large enough platform to reach me.  That is awesomeness! My guess is that guys like Seth Godin, Dave Ramsey, and Rick Warren all have feelings of doubt and feel like they are faking it too.  Godin speaks directly to this in the Icaraus Deception. What separates me from them (besides a bunch of New York Times Bestsellers) is that they have mastered the art of singing along with the voice of doubt and have learned that they have something important to say.  Like the superheros, I must wear my different masks, and say what I have to say because it too is important. Batman, Superman, and Spiderman are not superheros because they are fearless or never doubt themselves.

They are superheroes BECAUSE they have fear and ACT in spite of those fears.

I will continue to be the superhero my family needs me to be.  I will be my own Superman and soar toward awesomeness.  You are reading this because you are either my mom and  are obligated to read it, or you are on your own journey toward awesomeness.  Well, my friend, you are not alone.
What things are faking your way through today?
Share this post. Tell your friends you are an impostor and you don’t care who knows because at least you are showing up!
Rocco  De Leo

Swimming Greatly into the Unknown

Scuba Diving in Mexico at Clint's Wedding

Scuba Diving in Mexico at Clint’s Wedding (Photo credit: Mark & Andrea Busse)

The trails around my house are inviting and adventurous for the running type. Several of the trails exceed 10 miles with high elevation gains into forest and massive peaks with views of Southern California that will take your breath away. I have traversed most of these trails seberal times. A few weeks before Christmas last year, my buddy and I ventured an early morning run in sub freezing temps (very rare in Southern California). The run was ultimately around 17 or 18 miles. We didn’t know exactly where we were going, and that’s how we wanted it. It was one of the best trails we have discovered to date. As a type A personality who always wants to know every little detail, I run the risk of outsmarting adventure. My buddy has all the confidence in the world that he can point us in one direction and we will discover great adventure. I have learned to trust him to take me into running ambiguity and deliver me home safely.

This ability to embrace the unknown is what separates “good” leaders from the “great”. Ken Coleman, in his new book One Question asks Jim Collins about leadership and he digs deep with his answer. The fear of the unknown paralizes the “good not great leader” as he attempts to cross the bridge to greatness. The challenge, as Collins puts it, is not that leaders are risk averse, they are ambiguity averse. This is a commen thread in today’s literature. Seth Godin in the Icarus Deception discusses the idea of “playing it safe” as out dated and destined for failure. Brene’ Brown talks about the need to be vulnerable to failure in order to succeed.

If everything is safe, nothing is safe.

Is knowing this any help?. “So what?”, you say. “Don’t be afraid of the dark anymore?”. What do we do with this information. The current pop psychology is repeating a resounding “just go out and do it” mantra. There is something to be said about the act of “doing”. Most people will “plan”, have “ideas”, “wait until a better time”, to move toward their greatness. This is just fear winning the battle.

The first step is always the hardest…then it really gets hard.

Face your fear of the unknown by experiencing it. Like a child learning to swim. You might need to start in shallow waters. This blog is my shallow water. I’m learning in a low stakes environment. As you begin to adjust to the unknown, you will feel comfortable again and the unknown will no longer be the unknown. This is yet another trap. As the child must eventually swim into deeper waters, you too, must move away from comfort in order to move toward greatness. This is a truth many people never want to hear. Greatness is not a destination. It is a constant tidal ebb and flow of moving away from comfort and into uncomfortable ambiguity. It is not just a simple “face your demons” and “meet challenges”, that would be too easy. Greatness comes with the challenge of anticipating comfort and moving away from it when everything in your nature says to embrace it.

What are you going to do TODAY to learn how to “swim” greatly into the unknown?

Rocco De Leo

God Doesn’t Care How You Finish

This is the season for the SAT test.  As I sipped my cofee Saturday morning waiting for my 17 year old daughter to finish getting ready for her second round with the SAT, I openned up Feedly to read Seth Godin’s post, Measuring without Measuring.  In his witty, and for the moment “timely” manner, he states that the SAT is the best measure to see how a person will do on the SAT.   In two weeks we will have results showing kids who showed up and “fell” into great scores, kids who showed tremendous effort and growth to get “average scores” and very smart kids who struggle through tests only to get bad scores.  What are we hoping to gain from making hundres of thousands of kids take this test?  Colleges want results. They want to stack the odds in their favor that accepting more freshman with higher SAT scores will provide better results (ie, grades, student involvement, graduation).  The measuring stick of our life is results.  This is not one of those egalitarian posts about giving every kid a trophy or the self esteem movement anyone in thier 30s can remember.  We must measure results because we are not God.  We get paid to deliver results.  God is all knowing and measures something greater because he is reading the entire story.  He measures intentions.  He knows your heart. He paid the price on Calvary 2000 years ago to guarentee the results. All he asks for is you to love him, to have faith like a child (Luke 18:17)

Praise God

Praise God (Photo credit: GlacierTim)

What God gives us that the rest of life doesn’t, is a place to put our heart where we are guarenteed success.

We can put our efforts on sales numbers, amount of blog posts, and the soccer score. Yet It doesn’t matter. The results don’t change the core of who we are. In a world that will accept results regardless of intentions, we will never accept intentions without results. Only God will do that. True purpose is aligning your results with your intentions. In other words, you are not only good at something, but you want to be good at it as well. As I push through the self doubt about my writing ( I am not good enough, not writing enough, etc. ) and my parenting (who am I to raise these kids?) and my work results (numbers are down again?), I am comforted by the true measure of who I am by my heart.  This fuels my ambition to take on the self doubt through intentionality and  consistently “showing up”.

 
Only you and God know your true heart.  What’s your intention with him?
 
Rocco De Leo

Be a Faker and Remain Authentic

No Hunting (OR TRESPASSING)

No Hunting (OR TRESPASSING) (Photo credit: Nathan James)

You’re asking yourself, ” how can a guy who published an article on AUTHENTICITY write an article about being fake?”. Keep reading.
You are in the midst of a good [not great] and productive life.  You are moving along nicely with a decent career, family, and some personal goals.  Yet, there’s something missing…fleeting.  You are staring down the barrel of a rather intimidating milestone age and hear nature’s time clock tick…tick…ticking away.  To be honest, When I say “you” I mean “me”…and “you”. With the birth of our 5th child, I have had an awakening.  This is why I am writing this blog.  You have these moments.  I have more to offer.  You have more to offer. Do you know how much Barrack Obama spent to become President in 2012?  Nearly a billion dollars.  Crazy?  For a job that pays $400,000.  Not crazy enough.  Mitt Romney spent nearly the same  NOT get the job.  Presidential candidates have their lives, and their family’s lives, torn apart, researched and flushed out.  We all know where all the bodies are buried.  Why do they put themselves through this?  Ego.  Not in the sense of I’m cool and you’re not.  Obama so believed the world must have him as President that he would endure almost anything.
 I’m assuming you are not running for president.  But, almost as intimating, you are or are trying to step out of your comfort zone and SAY something.  You are timid about pushing forth your dream, especially when you have yet to perfect your message. Permission has yet to be granted for you to “intrude” upon the world. You fear this vast land filled with great minds. You feel guilty just listening in on the conversation.  Like you don’t belong. You sit in the back of life’s classroom and half raise your hand to say something in the ongoing conversation of society.  Quietly you apologize, in essence telling the world that you are an intruder rather than an active and worthy participant.  Today, through my FAKE power and FAKE authority, I am granting you FAKE permission to speak.  Seth Godin, one of the most respected blogger/authors in the world was once a FAKER.  He granted himself persmission to speak.  It’s time for you to grant yourself permission.  You have something important to say.  The world WILL be BETTER for having heard your message.  FAKE your confidence until you make your confidence.  The world can’t wait for your confidence to catch up to your message.  We need you NOW.  SPEAK!
Rocco De Leo