I recall a trip to the zoo with my kids when they were quite young…..
At one exhibit we were watching zebras and ostriches in a large enclosure. The zookeeper was offering to let the small children hold an ostrich egg. These amazing eggs are approximately 24 times the size of a chicken egg and weigh about 3 pounds! But rather than embracing a once-in-a-lifetime experience, almost without exception the parental caution heard was – “Now, don’t drop that egg.” I think that fear actually kept me from letting my kids do it.
Little did I realize what I was doing at the time.
Just what do you suppose was at the top of all the little kids minds as they carefully took that big egg into their arms? Do you think they were marveling at the size, wondering how long it would take to hatch, imagining using that egg as a volleyball, or basking in some kind of educational enrichment of the moment? No, I suspect that the thought foremost in their minds was – “If I drop this egg, I’m in big trouble.” I doubt that the teaching experience went much beyond the fear of dropping that egg.
I’ll get back to this in a few paragraphs, so be patient.
My point is: Fear masks our natural ability to see the world as it really is.
The date was March 3rd, 1943. An air raid siren sounded in London. England was at war with Germany and knew that a retaliation attack was possible. But with nothing but the sound of the siren to alert them, panic and mass hysteria were the only result. Fifteen hundred people tried to get down the steps of the Bethnal Green Train Station tunnel for protection. One lady, carrying her small baby, tripped on the stairs and fell. Within a few seconds, that mis-step resulted in 300 people being crushed into the tiny stairwell. Some thought that they were being blocked and became even more aggressive at forcing a massive domino effect. The panic lasted less than 15 minutes, but 172 people were dead at the scene, with one more dying the next day. I remember reading about this, unable to comprehend the fear that people seemed to perceive, even in the absence of an actual threat.
No German bombs fell that day. And just for the record, the largest number killed by any single bomb in the entire war in England was 68. I just looked it up. The crush at Bethnal Green was the largest loss of civilian life in the UK in World War II.
But bombs didn’t kill those people – fear did.
"If a man harbors any sort of fear, it percolates through all his thinking, damages his personality, makes him a landlord to a ghost." ~ Lloyd C. Douglas
Ok, maybe the threat of bombs dropping is an unnecessarily harsh analogy. For those of you sensitive to that, I’m sorry.
I tend to get a little overly dramatic at times. (my four kids and wife just rolled their eyes, I’m sure) Fortunately, most of us do not live with that daily possibility anymore, even though our soldiers are facing that potential threat as you read this.
But if you’re focused on the fear of “dropping the egg,” you:
- Will not start a business in this economy. It’s too risky.
- Will not buy a house. If I ever get behind on payments, the bank could foreclose.
- Will never love deeply. What if I’m not loved in return?
- Will not give generously. There’s no guarantee of return.
- Will not dream richly. I’ve got to be “practical” and “realistic” in these trying times.
When times are tough, it’s tempting to be fearful. Isn’t it “natural” to fear the company you work for, the economy, the IRS, the creditors, and the terrorists?
We don’t want them to “win”!
But fear cripples us. It creates a damaging psychological and spiritual dullness that will suck the life right out of you and deaden any chance of creativity and initiative.
In the Bible, Jesus issued 21 commands challenging us to “not be afraid” or to “have courage.” Did you know that?
His second most common command, to “love God and our neighbor,” appears only eight times.
It seems he recognized how fear stops us in our tracks, and so the one teaching he gave more than any other was “don’t be afraid.”
If you’re living in fear, you are never going to reach your full potential. I am very cognizant of that these days. Yes indeed.
You’re stifling your ability to create, earn, give, love, and receive. I know you don’t want to live like that. I know I don’t want to live like that! And even in times like these, you don’t have to wait on “things” to get better. One of my favorite speakers, Brian Tracy, once said, “Things will get better when you get better.”
When you increase your faith in yourself and your fellow man, you take the first step in breaking that chain of fear and release a brand new season of success in your life.
And I’m not talking about some blind faith in which you ignore reality. No, I’m referring to a faith that is grounded in research, supported by a clear plan, and implemented by bold action.
Expect success; eliminate fear. Fear of failure paralyzes action, just as much as fear of success does for many people. Confidence is learned by taking specific action. To think confidently, act confidently. Plan to win – prepare to win – expect to win. When you step into the game, play to win. Always.
People living in fear of “dropping the egg” see limitations more easily than opportunities. At the risk of seeming simplistic, I truly think we have the choice. If we focus on the “bad economy” or our own inadequacies, we’re going to have fear, doubt, and failure as our constant companions. But when we focus on the new opportunities and our unique strengths, we will see courage, confidence, and success show up from all sides.
Have you ever noticed that people who are quick to tell you about their limitations are very slow in seeing their opportunities – even if the opportunities are obvious to others around them? We “see” what we focus on.
"Whether You Think You Can or Can't, You're Right." ~ Henry Ford
Now then, back to the egg we talked about; Most people will go through life having never held an ostrich egg. They base their experience on routine exposure to chicken eggs. And we all know chicken eggs are fragile and break with the tap of a spoon. Most people don’t know that an ostrich egg has a thick shell that can only be cracked with a hammer or drill. With the exception of the hyena, no predators are able to penetrate the ostrich egg. Thus, based on limited experience, the perception of most parents (teachers, bosses, politicians) is that the “risk” of holding an ostrich egg is much greater than it actually is.
Maybe the people holding you back have also had limited experience with the new possibilities. Maybe they’ve experienced too much pain, shortage, and disappointment for them to remain objective. They may be watching too much news on TV. They don't know the thrill of living out their passion.
Don’t let their fear deprive you of completing your "bucket list." Go ahead, take that trip, write that book, open that ice cream shop, or buy that little house you’ve been wanting. As Nike says “Just Do It”.
And hey, if you drop the egg, call 20 of your friends and enjoy an incredible omelet. Isn’t there an old adage about that anyway?
"Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do." ~ Pope John XXIII
This column will be on hiatus for a short time due to upcoming changes and schedules, but we hope to return to these columns at a later date. In the meantime, some of you may get a “best of” repeat of previous columns.
Happy Holiday’s to all!
Thanks for reading…