It’s a warm spring day, the snow is soft, the sun is shining and there’s not a single cloud in the sky. It’s my last day of snowboard mentoring in the Catskill mountains; life is good. We’re halfway up the mountain when one of my mentees bursts into tears, crying uncontrollably and barely able to speak. Little did she know that her sobbing would later be a turn around point to unlocking my fearlessness.
When faced with fear, we have two options: run or face it head-on. When we run from fear, we shut down. We shut people out. We hope it goes away and we lose control. When we face our fears, we become empowered, courageous and resilient. The solution is recognizing that we have a choice. The problem is sometimes we forget that it’s OUR choice.
This is why it’s critical to have the right relationships in our lives: they can offer perspective on what we don’t see and remind us that our fears are merely an acronym:
Through our relationships, we learn we have people to support us in times of trouble. When our fears look insurmountable, nothing is more valuable than the support of those we trust. They accompany us in our troubling times and they’re willing to share their wisdom in order to help us triumph over fear.
For me, fearlessness is directly proportional to your emotional well-being: the better off you are, the more fearless you can be. One of the key pillars of positive psychology is that wellbeing is tied to your close relationships. Therefore, having closer relationships = being more fearless. Notice that I’m saying “close” relationships, as all relationships are not created equal. Close relationships are those in which you trust the other person and can be vulnerable in.
Psychologists Dr. Jackson and Dr. Soderlind in their 2000 study found that “to form close relationships requires an increasing amount of vulnerability and a willingness to reveal personal issues and feelings and often leads to deeper meaning and value.” Yes, forming these types of relationships can be intimidating and difficult, but they are always worth it.
Let’s go back to my tear filled chairlift ride and how vulnerability on the chair lead to fearlessness on the slopes.
So there I am, enjoying my last day teaching my mentees how to snowboard in the Catskill mountains. That day, I had three kids who had been with the program for three years and were all snowboarding at an intermediate level. Before we set out for the mountain, I lead my mentees in a series of warm-up stretches and solidified their goals for the day. One of their goals was to ride a black diamond (most difficult terrain) without falling. Pumped to get out there and help my mentees accomplish their goals, we strapped in, took a few warm-up laps and headed to the black diamond section of the mountain.
As soon as we got to the top, two of my mentees were fearless and bombed down the hill like two missiles, but the third tentatively side slipped down most of the run, eventually coming to a stop at the bottom of the hill. Visibly upset, she hung her head while making her way back to the chairlift. As we were heading back up the mountain, she asked if she could ride up with me again, explaining that she wanted to talk more.
As we approached the mountain’s halfway point, I looked over and could tell she was crying underneath her goggles. As we ascended the mountain, her tears became more frequent and her lower lip began to quiver from anxiety. Knowing that she was on the verge, I whispered “let it go,” and with that, she began to sob. Embarrassed she tried to apologize, but was barely able to speak. I assured her there was no need. I told her that I too was a crier and placed my hand on her shoulder. Relieved, she let it flow and you could feel the negative energy leave with each tear.
Not only was I honored to be part of something so raw, but I was also amazed by the courage she displayed in being vulnerable. She began to tell me how disappointed she was for side-slipping the black diamond and how scared she was to try again and fail. I explained that trying and failing is much better than not trying at all and that every time we try, it’s never a failure if we learn something. You could see my words wash over her tear stained face and her eyes finally looked up. I asked her what she learned from the first run and it was like watching a light bulb go off over her head; something clicked.
We talked more on the lift and after a good cry and some laughs, the energy on the chair was completely transformed. What started off as an anxiety and tear-filled journey, ended with a hopeful arrival. We exited the lift, skated to the top of the run and side-by-side stared down the steep slope. Before descending, I looked into her eyes and said: “you got this.” She looked down and forced a slight smile. I looked her in the eyes again and said: “you got this.” She stared intently at me, her smile becoming more natural, she nodded her head in agreement. One more time, I uttered, “you got this and I got you.” We both put on an ear-to-ear grin, nodded our heads and pointed our boards forward.
What had earlier been a run of frustration, a chairlift ride of anxiety and tears, turned into not one, not two, but three victorious laps without falling.
How did she do this? She made the choice to be open: to be open to vulnerability, to be open to learn and to be open to fear, but then to be open to inspiration, open to relationship and open to fearlessness.
That day on the mountain, I was able to participate in something inspirational. Because of my experience in these exact situations and because I was currently going through something similar, I was able to speak wisdom, sympathy, and encouragement into her life and completely change the outcome of her circumstance. Here’s the beauty of relationships: because of what I did for her, she was unknowingly able to do something for me.
Just like her black diamond run, I was intimidated by the task of launching my own business. Just like she possessed the skills and ability to navigate a black diamond, I possessed the ability to launch a business and make it successful, but like her, I was fearful and intimidated. We both had the talent, but, we both had the fear as well. She didn’t know that we were going through similar circumstances, but she decided to be vulnerable and her vulnerability inspired me.
Two days later, I launched my this website, making my dream a reality while being vulnerable, but fearless at the same time. I made a choice, a choice to be open to my vulnerability and open to my fear. Then I made a choice to be open to inspiration, open to fearlessness and open to relationship.
In the end, being vulnerable as individuals in our relationship lead us to be fearless as a team.
Deep down, we’re all fearless, but we don’t always remember it. This is why we need people in our lives that we trust. Sometimes, we need to be inspired by their fearlessness and other times, we need to inspire them. It’s not always the case that we’re all fearless at the same time, so it’s critical to ensure you have the right people surrounding you.
If you really want to truly achieve Peak Performance in your Health, Wealth, and Relationships then ask yourself these two questions:
Who in your life can you be truly vulnerable with?
Who have you allowed to be truly vulnerable with you?
Next, I’d like to encourage you go out and start developing close relationships with these people.
I would like to leave you with this closing thought: Sometimes our breakdowns can lead to breakthroughs and oftentimes, it takes being vulnerable to learn to become fearless.
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