When did you last take a chance? Make a change? Take a risk? Step out of your own comfort zone with just one small step?
Eleanor Roosevelt once remarked when asked about fear and courage: “The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it. If you fail anywhere along the line, it will take away your confidence. You must make yourself succeed every time. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Oh, to have someone today stir our spirit with such eloquence as did Eleanor, and tell us with conviction that, we should “…know beyond all doubt: Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, ‘It can’t be done’.” (You Learn By Living, 1960).
This Fall I witnessed acts of courage by some of the youngest members on Earth. I attended a science fair, the annual Google Science Fair, where young students from around the globe have taken steps to solve human and planetary problems, with experiments that detect the Ebola virus early, that find news ways to learn using artificial intelligence, and that save lives using new ways to clean their drinking water. Wow. Not only wow because these many of these students are only 16 years old, but because they had the courage to work a problem and tell about it so all could understand, hear their enthusiasm for the passion they put into their work, an offer new possibilities to help us all. As I met these finalists, I asked one of the students if he was ever scared along the way, leading up to this level to stage his results at Google (in Mountain View, CA). “Yes,” came the simple reply. “I had to learn how to not be afraid to communicate to all kinds of people.” (I was trying hard not to come across as an intimidating mid-life adult.) “But it was all worth it,” he said.
When great change-makers gather to tell their stories, comes a moment of great courage, lifting us all higher and pushing the limits of our knowledge further out. Those students, and all the others who dare to ask ‘what if’—and act on it—are our heroes. There were times when they could have quit. But they didn’t. And you can bet it wasn’t easy for them being around other kids who scoffed (or who, at least, used to scoff).
What about the daily fair of life? I received my share of scoffing too when I took up my lifelong dream to learn to fly, at 47, a time many thought was too late, too old, and too risky. I nearly believed them. If I had and decided to quit, and defined my limits based on fear alone, I wouldn’t have the experiences of profound exhilaration that became mine as a pilot, or gain several other pilot licenses that helped me reach into space today, and with a project that will go on the orbiting laboratory, the space station.
I encourage you to look at the coming year, 2016, as your year of living beyond boundaries. Consider the NASA logo, the blue circle with the red wing through it. Notice that the wing is outside the logo, beyond the blue. The entire NASA logo is symbolic—with the blue the symbol for the planet, and the red wing? It is in the shape of the constellation Andromeda, fully beyond our reach, for now. What would be your logo? How far does your vision take you? What are your limits? Does yours have flair? A swoosh to indicate a dream? Or do your fears hold you back?
“We need imagination and integrity, courage and a high heart…. But first we must learn to cast out fear. People who ‘view with alarm’ never build anything,” Eleanor once told us. (Tomorrow Is Now, 1963).
Live boldly. Move out of your comfort zone. Feel the fear, but follow your dreams.