The best advice I ever received was about a month into my mission. I was naturally struggling to learn the first few principles of the first discussion in Japanese, and struggling to stay interested every day in repeating the same brief sentence to everyone: “chotto ii desu ka?” (roughly, “Hi, do you have a minute?”). I met one day with my Zone Leader, who was short, with dark hair and huge hands. He was from Kentucky. We knelt down on the tatami mats and he asked me how things were going. I explained that I was really glad to be on my mission, but that I was struggling. His response was a little surprising, but I felt his love, concern, and caring:
“You need to do things that scare you.”
Somehow I managed to volunteer to speak in sacrament meeting the following week. All in nihongo, of course.
That advice stayed with me throughout my mission and into the next phase of my life:
- During undergrad I took some acting classes, precisely because I am normally shy and introverted, and the thought of acting both excited and TERRIFIED me. After a rocky start, I loved it.
- Coming home from my mission I was at a book store and saw the book “The Places that Scare You” by Pema Chödrön. Of course, I bought it immediately. 🙂
- I agreed to sing in a quartet in sacrament meeting a few years ago. I had never done this before (not in a small group, anyway).
- I have two kids. The first time around was really scary. I love it now.
- I turned down an offer to move back near family for the next round of grad school, for a slightly better (but who knows?) offer to move further away.
- I started working with foster kids precisely because I had no desire to work with adolescents, and generally found them to be intimidating. Now I work with juvenile offenders who punch people and deal drugs and throw rocks at houses. It’s still a little scary, but I’m learning.
In my life, I generally follow this principle – If something I know would be good for me also happens to scare me, I seek it out, I try to experience it. I owe much of my growth to that Zone Leader, on that morning in Japan, from a simple sentence, spoken with authority and love: “Do things that scare you.”
What was the best advice you ever received? What things scare you that you think you should probably do?