Fears and Limitations

I was thinking about something seemingly trivial the other day: When I was a teenager, I had a friend who could do a backflip on a large backyard trampoline. When I was younger, it bothered me that I thought I could not do the same. I wondered, could I not do a backflip because I was too scared to attempt it, or I had physical limitations—my back not being flexible enough, or my legs not being strong enough, etc.—that disallowed me from successfully completing a full backflip?

To me, now, this query does not cause me any personal distress. I have always been a pretty competitive person, and this is probably why I wanted to be able to do what my friend could do. However, I have since learned a few things about life. For one, you often choose your own battles. But even more importantly, there is a very fine line between fear and limitations and that those who are successful are not afraid to toe that line, often failing many times before finding success.

However, you also have to incorporate into this equation costs and benefits: Is it worth taking the risk to complete the task? Let’s say that I attempted to do a backflip on a trampoline and my intuition was correct: my back is not flexible enough and I don’t have the type of coordination it takes to do a backflip on a trampoline. The result could be me severely injuring by body, including breaking my neck. However, let’s say that I successfully completed the backflip, overcoming my fear. All in all, a successful backflip really has no major impact on my own life. Therefore whether I attempt the feat or not does not matter and I get to choose my own battle. For the record, I have never attempted to do a backflip on a trampoline and because of the possible negative result, I have no desire to.

On the other hand, I know that everything carries some measure of risks. For instance, I know that every time I write a piece of text or a piece of music, someone could have something negative to say about it, and that could upset me. But what are the costs and what are the benefits? If I write something that a critic or friend dislikes, that is a cost. However, that same piece could give a person an insight into his or her own life, and that person could make better life decisions as a result. In this situation, although I sometimes become fearful and feel vulnerable before writing something, I know that the potential negative costs are well worth the potential positive benefits.

This whole thought process was spurred by what Michael Jordan stated during his controversial 2009 Basketball Hall of Fame Speech. Although his speech at times seemed rather pompous and self-absorbed, he did end it with something that has stuck with me. Jordan stated:

“Although I’m recognized with this tremendous honor of being in the Basketball Hall of Fame, I don’t look at this moment as a defining end to my relationship with the game of basketball. It’s simply a continuation of something I started a long time ago. One day you might look up and see me playing the game at 50 [audience laughs]. Oh don’t laugh. Never say never, because limits (limitations) are often like fears—an illusion. “

So starting this week, I personally pledge to stop negative self-talking myself out of doing things I desire and believe I have the capacity and facility to do. I could be wrong, but if I keep in mind the costs and benefits—the risks involved—and that failure is not a bad thing as it will steer me towards success, then what is to stop me? What is to stop you?

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