"When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen; either there will be something solid for you to stand upon, or you will be taught to fly" Well, those are the words of Patrick Overton taken from his poem "The Leaning Tree". Unfortunately though, not many of us ever find out whether they would have grown wings or not. They allow fear to grip them thus depriving them the joy of making new discoveries and conquests.
This scenario was played out so clearly sometime this week as I was serving one of my clients. This gentleman had come to buy airtime for his modem from our shop but unfortunately, he couldn't remember his number. He decided to remove the SIM card from the modem and put it in his phone, an action that triggered the conversation that happened thereafter.
You see, I knew this guy is a BlackBerry diehard but on this day he was using what we call "mulika mwizi" - those feature phones whose main highlight is the FM radio and torch. When I asked him what happened to his BB, he told me it had died on him and worse still, he had also lost his Samsung Tab the same week his BB conked out. As a result, he was downgraded from being a smartphone user to a dumbphone user. I asked him whether he had insured those gadgets and what came out of is mouth left me somehow disturbed and surprised at the same time.
According to him, no insurance company covers gadgets and if they do, then the premium must be unaffordable. When I asked him where he got that information from, he told me that this is what most of his friends had told him and that as far as he was concerned, insurance covers were very costly and could only be afforded by big organizations and people of a certain class. I really felt sorry for him because I realized at that point he had been very misinformed. To help him out, I called our insurance broker and set up a meeting for him primarily to get educated on insurance.
If you are out there and like my friend you think that Insurance is for certain people, how wrong you are. We all have things in our possession that need to be covered to reduce the risk of us having to incur additional expenses should the unfortunate event of losing them occur. What you need to do is get a knowledgeable broker to advice you on the best covers to take for yourself, your home, your office, your car, etc. Please be advised that not every company that has the words "insurance brokers" is reputable and professional enough to offer you authentic and customized insurance services. Just like some doctors are quacks, there are some insurance brokers/agents who are quacks too, so be careful as you make your choices because making the wrong choice could be worse than not having an insurance cover altogether. Enough about insurance.
So what did this conversation with my friend teach me? Fear makes you blind. You stop seeing things as they are and start seeing them as your fear projects them to you. My friend did not have his facts right and as a result, he made conclusions based on false information he had been given by insurance quacks. He is not the only person who lives live on the fear-lane because unfortunately, many of us do. What would happen if you realized that whatever you were fearing is actually non-existent?
I am reminded of a story shared by one of my all time favorite motivational speakers, Les Brown.
There was this family that had just moved into a new neighborhood. They had a bulldog that was fond of chasing this one particular neighbor. Every evening when he came home from work the dog would chase him all the way to his house. This went on for a long time until one day he decided he’d had enough. On this particular day, as he was approaching the usual “chase-corner”, he picked up a stone and decided that should the bulldog run after him, he would scare it with the stone.
As always, the dog came rushing after him but instead of running away, he decided to face it and hurl the stone at him. Before he could throw the stone at him, he discovered that the dog was toothless! All this time the dog had been chasing him he didn’t have teeth, which means even if he had ever caught up with him he would not have done anything to him. This man had been running through the neighborhood all this time, never once even stopping to enjoy the sights and sounds of his environs for fear of being bitten by what turned out to be a toothless dog.
What do you think happened to him after he discovered the dog was toothless?
Unfortunately most of us are like this man. We go about our lives scared about things that have no teeth in them, thus living in unfounded FEAR. What are the things that have caused you to be so fearful that you have refused to live up to your purpose in life? Are your fears really justified or like this man are they a big bulldog with no teeth to bite you? It is not wrong to have fear, what is wrong is allowing that fear to have you because when you allow it, then it controls you and you stop thinking.
Being afraid is actually a good thing because when managed, fear can be used to catapult us to a higher level. For instance, if today you were told you only had 6 months to live unless you lost weight, went on a diet and did regular exercises, would you need anyone to push you to do any of these things? I’m sure you’d be up before dawn to run a marathon, then back to make healthy meals for yourself. Junk food would never see the inside of your stomach and if necessary, you’d probably be fighting for greens with rabbits. In short, you would do whatever it takes to make sure you reverse that 6 months life-line. Indeed like someone said, courage is not the absence of fear but the mastery of it.
So how do we master fear? The first step is to ensure that we do not fight our fears. Instead, we should learn to embrace them by confronting them. Like Lucas Jonkman said, "fight your fears and you’ll be in battle forever but face your fears and you’ll be free forever". In other words, if you resist your fears, they will keep persisting, just like the toothless bulldog kept chasing the neighbor until he found out the dog was harmless. Chances are likely that once you confront your fears you’ll realize they were just the perfect acronym for the word FEAR - False Evidence Appearing Real.
Secondly, avoid feeding your fears. For instance, if you have a phobia for flying, it will do you no good to watch every movie or documentary available that talks about airplane accidents. This will just ignite your fears to the point that any time you get on a plane and you hit turbulence, let’s just say you wouldn’t make it to the toilet in time.
Another thing you need to do is see yourself as a worthy person capable of being successful and not a failure. Encourage yourself always and learn to instill positivity into your mind. Yes you may be afraid, accept this as a fact and move on, but do not accept it as a force because the moment you allow fear to force you into a corner, then fear gets the better of you. If necessary, look at yourself in the mirror and have some pep-talk with yourself, encourage yourself and build yourself by using that fear as a building block, but not as a block to keep you away from a great life full of promise.
My parting question to you is; what would you do today if you decided enough is enough and opted to face that bull-dog that keeps chasing you daily? How would your future look like if you confronted your fear? As we start a new month I hope we shall leave our fears behind and step forth boldly to take the future in our hands. FEAR is nothing more than an obstacle that stands in the way of progress. In overcoming our fears, we can move forward stronger and wiser within ourselves.
Wishing you all an overcoming week and month ahead.
PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 1st June, 2014, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".