things that scare you

AdamFfaith, fear, missionary 11 Comments

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?

Comments 11

  1. “Laugh every day.” My RM sister told me that, just as I was about to leave on my mission––but I think it’s great advice for anyone.

  2. Adam,
    I got pretty much the same advice. For me it was from Elder Packer, who spoke at BYU. His advice to those graduating was “don’t take counsel from your fears.” This is the best practical advice I have ever received, and is useful in many a moment.

    By the way, did you like “Yes-man,” that Jim Carrey movie? Your post made me think of this movie except that your examples are more oriented to education, service, and raising a family.

  3. I learned to scuba dive even though I don’t swim. I love scuba diving, but I’m still a crappy swimmer. I’ve also bungee jumped, despite my fear of heights. (I’m still scared of heights.) There’s really no feeling like truly understanding how powerful gravity is.

    Adam, I worked with adolescents with mental problems (depression, drugs, alcohol, anorexia, self-harming, harming others, etc), and I quit after 3 months. More power to you. We need people like you, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.

  4. Ltd – that’s important to me as well. I never want to lose the ability to laugh, even if the humor has to be dark some days.

    Paul – yeah I saw it, it was fun. It kind of gets at the same idea.

    MH – working with that population outside of their family context is really hard… It ends up becoming more like babysitting. Working with the whole family is challenging but more effective I think, having done both.

  5. Adam,

    That is a great post. My Mission President offered similar advice and then related it to a daily task. He asked us to do something we didn’t necessary like to do fisrt thing in the morning, like exercise. He said it would make the rest of our day better. It has been good advice.

  6. Post

    TH -thanks, I agree – in fact, yesterday I bore my testimony in Sacrament mtg. precisely because I was nervous about it and I had just put this post up the same day. I had to live up to my word! lol. On the other hand, when asked to sub for the primary chorister (I was subbing for the primary pianist yesterday) I politely declined. THAT idea was not only scary, I just can’t sing well enough, haha. Guess I still have some growing to do.

    SimplyMe – Care to elaborate? Is that scary because it’s a big change or because of what it means?

  7. The scariest thing I ever did was tell my mother I was becoming a Latter-day Saint. I’m probably happier with than arrangement than with living a lie with my father. Probably.

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