Kilometre Markers: Getting Wet

I was moved by a story the researcher Brené Brown told in her book Daring Greatly. She described a parenting moment where she was trying to help her daughter deal with anxiety about an upcoming swim meet. Brown describes her daughter’s fears. “I won’t win. I’m not even good enough to get second or third place. Everyone is going to be watching.”

Her response was great: “But what if your goal for that race isn’t to win or even to get out of the water at the same time as the other girls? What if your goal is to show up and get wet?”

I loved the way Brown reminded her daughter that she was a total and complete success simply by getting wet. That’s it, just get over your fear and dive in. Whatever happens after that, happens.

I cannot tell you how many times I have used that for myself, or my own children in the face of pressure or performance jitters:

​Just sign up for the race.

Just step up to the podium and smile at the audience.

Just pick up your pencil and read the first question.

Just get in the car and head that way.

Just put some words on the blank page.

Just cross the start line.

Just begin.

We can get so consumed by outcomes that we are intimidated to even start the process. When Brown told her daughter she was doing enough simply by getting wet, she released her from the tyranny that traps the try. That tyranny is fear, perfectionism, embarrassment, doubt, and the arena of the unknown.

It’s like we want to control or perfect how we try. We feel we need to lose weight before going to the gym, get faster before joining the running group, get healthy before seeing the doctor, or become more attractive or lovable before opening up to loving someone. Really what we do is put things off because we’re afraid of the result. We avoid the very thing we need to do in order to get better, in an effort to appear better.

To be a better swimmer, you have to get wet. To be a fitter or faster runner, you have to run. To become a better writer, you have to read and write. To become more lovable, you have to start loving. To be all in, you have to gather and integrate your all, and then step all the way in.

To me, the starting line of a race is the perfect example of breaking the tyranny of the try trap. First you have to muster the cajones to sign up. You have to get up, get going, and start training. You have to push through when you want to be through. You have to wake up and lace up and show up on race morning. And then you stand there, listening to the anthem, often fidgety and freezing until the gun goes off and you put one foot in front of the other and begin. Crossing the start line, not the finish line, is the most important thing. Because when you do this, you willingly enter the unknown, accept uncertainty, and simply head in the direction of your dreams.

Committing to commence is totally brave and badass.

Where are you holding back? Where has tyranny been trapping your try?

Where is your next start line?

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