Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr said “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
Ironically, I had to give a speech the other day around the theme of liberty and chose the topic “Freedom from Fear”.
You see, as children we are fearless – well certainly we were when I was a child, growing up. I remember hearing the scary stories around the table or the campfire – you know the ones I am talking about. The ones that make you giggle and squirm deliciously whilst you try and show the grown-ups (or grups as I called them then), just how brave you were.
To be honest, I never really heard the ‘traditional’ Grimm’s Fairy tales because I preferred to sit at the cook’s fire at the staff quarters on the farm, and there I heard the traditional African stories – stories of a different kind. I heard tales of the tokalosh and skelms that hunted stealthily at night on unsuspecting prey. I heard tales of witchdoctors who were shape shifters and magic muti spells or ‘juju’ and I along with the other children would squeal with delight as we listened intently to this strange and mystifying folklore. The tales and stories that we feasted on were handed down from generation to generation. We would giggle behind our hands and try and make ourselves as tiny and as little as possible so as to be a very small target for the magic that was sure to come out of the darkness and we shivered in delicious anticipation and our toes curled in terror and we peered into the night to see if we would be the first to see which shape the witchdoctor had become.
Were we terrified – oh absolutely! But we were also fearless and brave! Our ancestors demanded it and we were willing to face the test to be recognized.
Slowly but surely as time passed, our fearlessness, our confidence in ourselves and our abilities, have been stripped away from us. Slowly but surely, the fear that most adults carry with them as part of their baggage, was shared with or indoctrinated into us. You know the ones . . . . the ‘don’t climb up there, you’ll fall” or “Don’t do that you’ll get hurt!”
And you know what? They were absolutely right . . . we did get hurt!
We lost our fearlessness and we replaced it with fear. We lost our self-confidence and we replaced it with insecurities. We lost our trust – trust in ourselves and who we are – and we replaced it with self- doubt – how terribly sad is that!
For many of us, this meant the end of our risk taking days. We could no longer be Captain Kirk going beyond time to exotic galaxy’s. We could no longer be Captain Hook sailing off to unmapped lands to face untold dangers. We could no longer be Zorro or Tonto or General Custer or Huckleberry Finn or even Tom Sawyer, going on wild and carefree and fearless adventures . . . and how incredibly sad is that?
As Entrepreneurs however we have once again become fearless. We have taken that first step into the unknown and unchartered territories. We have faced uncaring bank managers and unsupportive spouses and nagging children and hungry pets – oh yes! My cat bites me when I have been out of the house too long!
We have struggled to make sense of the numbers and battled with business plans or marketing or branding or the logistics and HR and hell . . . even government red tape and legislation, much of which many of us had never even heard of, much less had to contend with. We have faced our most ardent critics and judges – ourselves – and we have prevailed. We have once again found our fearless selves – even if it is only for a few moments at a time.
Fortunately for me, I never entirely lost the ‘wild child’ that I was and many of my friends will attest to that. I can often be fearless, but I long for the days when it was the natural order of things – when my toes curled in terror and I shivered in delicious anticipation of seeing the frightening apparition taking the form of the witchdoctor as he appeared out of the swirling mists and the darkness.
And so I challenge you to let go of the fear and to find your own freedom from that fear.
Take that step, irrespective of how scared and frightened you are – take that first step, you’ll find the next one will be so much easier.