Fear and Sailing into Infinity

You’re Going to Feel Fear

One of the big rules of going after your wild idea? Fear. You’re going to be scared to death.  You’re going to not sleep at night. You going to either – or maybe even both – stop eating all together or eat so much that you think you’re going to weigh twice as much as you did when you started the project.

You’re going to wonder if you are galactically stupid to have tried this, you’re going to wonder if this was an absolutely catastrophic mistake. I had moments where I laid awake in bed, thinking, “I’ve destroyed our lives. I took us from this very comfortable world, we took all of our life savings, it’s now gone, and I’m never going to get it back.” And this was not just off in the distance, fantasy worry.

In our particular instance, one of the big ones, was that we’d spent all of our money and we were ready to open Spillian and the New York City Watershed decided that the septic system that we had wouldn’t work for a commercially licensed facility. (Much of the Catskills is a part of the city’s watershed, which brings gifts and challenges.) And so, even though it functioned, even though it was built for more buildings than stood on the property at this point, our septic didn’t grandfather with the current agreement in the area about older systems, and we got bad advice from several different directions. People meant well, but they weren’t paying attention.

And suddenly it looked as though we were going to lose the entire project. The possible solution was so enormously expensive, and such a bad solution, that it looked like we were going to have to foreclose. Before we had even opened our doors.

So, fear is real.

Sailing into Infinity

Man, this is a part of it. If you’re really going after what you really want, and you’re really having and adventure and living your life, if you’re not feeling absolute, down-to-your-toes paralyzing fear at some point in the process, I don’t know if you’re actually going after what you want.

(Maybe you’re one of the handful of people who maybe get into the heart of what you are dreaming for without having this experience, but I have my doubts.)

And, sometimes it’s existential fear. Sometimes it’s the fear of the unknown, the fear of over-reaching, the fear of not knowing…  If you’re doing this right, you’re sailing, swimming, canoeing into uncharted waters. All at the same time. You’re heading into a place where you don’t know you’re going to land. As philosopher Gaston Bachelard wrote, “Imagination is the voyage into the land of the infinite.” To which I’d add, infinity is scary.

Fear and sailing into infinity go hand in hand. It’s glorious. But it’s really, genuinely scary. Existentially, metaphorically, literally.

So what do you do about that fear? Here’s the first step: you need to recognize that it’s going to be there. It’s just going to be there. Know that it’s going to happen.

So, by feeling it, you’re not failing. You’re not destroying anything. You’re acknowledging the enormous risks that you’re taking to make this thing happen that you want to make happen.

And if things are real, more often than not, they carry big risks. Think about in a non-project way – maybe it’s a marriage, or the birth of a child, maybe it’s a move – think about the really big moments in your life. How many of those have you experienced and not had some moments of just “I can’t breathe, I’m so scared.”

Sometimes they come and go really quickly, and that’s great. (Or is it?) But they’re going to be there.

And that’s okay. Maybe even good, hard as that is to believe in the moment. And just because you’re scared to death, you keep sailing on.

How do you keep sailing? Please feel free to share your intrepid captain stories in the comments!

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