Feeling the fear (24 September 2012)

Work took me to Zimbabwe recently (long story....), and in a quiet moment lying on my bed in a darkened room recovering from full-on Harare life I watched a little CNN, and chanced upon an extraordinary story. Against all the odds, a young Sierra Leoneon woman who survived the horrendous civil war in the 1990s, and was adopted by a family in the USA, has gone on to become a successful ballerina.

It was a very inspiring story involving her overcoming many barriers, including racial ones in the States. I spent time in Sierra Leone in early 1991, when people fleeing violence that would later engulf the country were arriving from Liberia. But what caught my ear was that she was interviewed in South Africa, her first trip back to Africa since she left as an orphan and refugee. She described her experiences in Sierra Leone, especially the dismemberment in a machete attack of the only adult in the orphanage who was kind to her. Unsurprisingly, she was afraid to return to Sierra Leone; but she saw her trip to South Africa as the first step to confronting her fears and going home. In other words, she wasn't going to let her fear stop her doing what she felt she had to do.

"Feel the Fear and do it anyway!" by Susan Jeffers is my favourite "self-help" book (well, it is the only one I've read all the way through - whoops), and the title itself is really all you need to know. That Sierra Leoneon ballerina is doing it. And so is the young Asian man I met at some awful "networking" event recently, who is scared of heights, and so thought: what can I do to confront this fear? He chose to go...... parachuting! He's still scared of heights, but it isn't holding him back.

So if those two people can confront huge fears, and carry on anyway, why can't you? Whatever is holding you back, confront it - and do it anyway.

Just like I do with networking events...

all the best


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