Almost six years ago I stood on the Auckland Harbour Bridge in New Zealand for a bungee jump. The idea was: if I can throw myself off a bridge, I can do anything. Back then I thought my greatest fear was hights & falling. Or in other words: to die. Let's overcome that greatest fear, so no other fear could ever touch me.
That was the idea.
So there I stood on the platform of the Auckland Bridge. 40 meters above sea level. Having a total panic attack. The first one in my life. My body was shaking, my knees wobbly like rubber. I was swearing, I was shouting, I was crying. And in the mean time I shuffled with tied ankles to the edge.
I squeezed the guy's arm. Politely he told me: "Please let go of me, I will hold you." I shouted in his face, not trusting him: NO, I WILL HOLD YOU!
Through my fear and rage I also understood he was trying to tell me that there comes a moment I must let go of him. Underneath all the uncontrolled noise that was coming out of me, I could very calmly tell him, as if I knew what I was doing: “I will jump, just give me time.”
It took me about 15 minutes to eventually make the jump.
On that platform I repeated to myself: "It's just another event, nothing more, it's just another event." All I had to do was to make the move.
I raised my arms - if I had to go I wanted to go like Jesus. I looked up to not see the abyss below. I said one more time "It's just another event." And then I made my body go over the point of no return.
"Fuck!" I thought, "I'm going."
And in that moment they took a picture of my face.
The falling itself wasn't the thing. That was fine - over in a split second. It was the fear and the panic on the platform, that was the true horror. I had never had a panic attack. But my knees were frozen. My body was shaking. In that moment I experienced what 100% fear feels like.
Back to daily life. In the days after the jump I had several encounters with that fear again. And it had nothing to do with dying or hights.
During my travels I was working as a freelancer. One day I had to do an online presentation for a branding project. As always I didn't want to, I was nervous, insecure, afraid to be a failure. But this time I recognized the feeling: it was the exact same thing I felt on the platform. Fear. Not as intense as a panic attack, but still... the same thing.
And to be honest, I felt it every morning in bed: finding myself not wanting to get up to start the day. It had nothing to do with my bed being so warm and cosy - no, it was a dark and depressed feeling. And since the bungee jump, I recognized what that feeling was in the morning: fear. Fear for starting the day. Fear for being awake. Fear for life. (Note: once I was out of bed, all was well.)
This bungee jump showed me that the fear of dying is the same thing as the fear of showing up, and it's the same fear for phone calls or presentations. Fear is fear - there is nothing else. There is no such thing like different kind of fears. The cause may be different. But fear is fear.
And I knew now: all I had to do is just jump. In any case. Get of that platform of fear as soon as possible.
Two weeks later I returned to that Auckland Bridge. To jump again. To experience that fear one more time, and to see if I could get it under control.
So there I stood again. Feeling the fear. Feeling the panic. Feeling the contra-intuitive thing I was about to do for the second time: to throw my body into the void. But now I knew: get of that platform as soon as possible. If my plan is to jump, then jump!
The only way to get control over fear, is to jump out of it. Or through it. Just jump. So that fear has no control over you.
It is fear, and only fear, that is holding me back from doing whatever my plan is. It's the fear that takes away the joy of being alive in the morning when I wake up. It's the fear that ruins the fantastic adventure that my job brings to me.
With every new step I'm about to take, I ask myself: how long are you willing to stand on that platform of fear?
Honestly: I can still linger for hours, days, weeks, months on that platform of horror. But I know it now. And: sometimes I also realize it's not time yet to execute the plan - then I walk away from that platform.
But when it is the right time... Then all I need to do is jump, as quickly as possible. Not knowing what will come next.
- Do that presentation.
- Quit your job.
- Record that message.
- Send the request.
- Get on stage.
- Make the phone call.
- Start the project.
- Post your new blogpost.
- Whatever you want and are afraid to do.
Do it. Jump. It's just another event. Nothing more.
THE ART OF BEING HM DE GROOT
On one hand creating is a matter of just doing. Simple is that. But on the other hand it takes a lot to get to that point of creation. Besides techniques and materials it's a lot about... yourself. It goes up and down. From being in the flow to being convinced it all makes no sense. From exhilarating discoveries and breakthroughs to lonely moments in the endless desert of emptiness.