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Fear: The elephant in the room

I’ve quit many things in my life out of fear. I've quit sketch writing classes and improv classes. Years ago I even quit a comedy show that had already started, telling the booker my wife was sick, because it was a rough crowd and I was sure it would go horribly. On the drive home I convinced myself that I had not only made a good decision but a smart and astute decision, when in reality it was fear that had made the decision for me.

Fear effects the biggest and toughest of us. Seven foot one, Wilt Chamberlain was one of the greatest basketball players of all time and the only person to ever score 100 points in one game. He was however, a notoriously terrible free throw shooter with a career average of 51%. One night in 1962, the night he famously scored 100 points, he was 28 of 32 from the free throw line. That season turned out to be his highest free throw percentage ever - the only season he shot "granny style" - where you shoot underhand with both arms. After the 1962 season he went back to shooting overhand and his percentage went back down with it. In his autobiography Chamberlain wrote, “I felt silly, like a sissy, shooting underhanded. I know I was wrong. I know some of the best foul shooters in history shot that way. Even now the best one in the NBA, Rick Barry, shoots underhanded. I just couldn’t do it.”

Shaquille O'Neal another dominant center and terrible free throw shooter would be substituted out at the end of close games because opposing teams would "Hack a Shack". Teams would purposely foul Shaq, putting him on the free throw line where he would typically miss one or both shots, in order to stop the clock and get the ball back. In preparation, Shaq's coaches would often take him out of the game. How valuable of a player are you if you're not playing when your team needs you most? When Shaq was asked about shooting "granny style", he famously replied that he would rather shoot 0% than shoot underhanded. Thus putting his own fears above the needs of his team.

Fear effects us all but is rarely common conversation. It does however seem to play frequently in peoples thoughts when they look back at their lives. In Bronnie Ware's book, Top Five Regrets of the Dying two of the top five regrets had to do with fear including the top regret of all:

"I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."

If this is one of the most common thoughts people have when they are on their deathbed then it's important to ask...How are we tackling these fears while we are living? What are we teaching our kids and our students about developing courage to handle hard things?

Social pressure can be seemingly insurmountable at times. But it's what we do with these daily scenarios that makes all the difference in the long run. And just because we quit something one day doesn't mean we can't saddle up again and take it head on the next. That's when we grow. Every day we have the opportunity to do just that.


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