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I’m not a firefighter.
I’m not a cop.
I’m not serving in our military and I’m not deployed to a war zone.
I’m not a tight-rope walker.
Why do I bring this up?
I listened to Tim Ferriss’s recent Podcast titled, “How to Overcome Fear – Lessons from Firefighter and Luger, Caroline Paul,” and something really struck me . . . my “fear” is not real fear. Do you “fear” things that, truly, shouldn’t invoke fear and the natural biological reactions that usually accompany a dangerous situation? I remember one time, when my first-born was really small, I was out for a walk pushing her in a rickety stroller, and a stray pit-bull approached us. This thing didn’t look like it was doing well – it was trotting, but limping, and sat down. Then got up and started walking, again. It came right up and started sniffing my daughter and I tried to spin the stroller around and put myself between the dog and my 1-year-old. The pit-bull didn’t like this and my quick movements made it angry. The pit-bull stopped and barked. I grabbed my daughter out of her safety buckles and lifted her over my shoulder. She started crying. She was afraid. I was afraid. Dogs, I’ve been told, sense fear. The dog got excited because, now, the toy (my daughter) or meal (again, my daughter) it wanted was being taken away, and was making noise, and I was making quick, jerky, defensive movements. I tried to remain calm, fully aware that acting and being excited would be seen as aggressive. The dog started jumping on me. Kinda playfully. But kinda aggressive. Pit-bulls are full of muscle and strength. I spotted a fenced-in yard about a hundred feet away. I began slowly walking towards this yard with my daughter on my shoulder (still crying …the dog definitely startled her), and leaving the stroller in the road. The dog started barking more and more (I think it was barking, “give me the baby and no harm will come to you, old man …and I’ll only eat one leg …I promise.”) It was walking and barking a few feet behind me. My plan was to throw my daughter over the fence and then jumped the fence, myself, in hopes the standard chain link fence would be tall enough to foil the dog’s pursuit. The dog’s barking turned to angrier snarling as I got to the fence and moved my crying daughter from my shoulder gently to the ground in this stranger’s yard. Snarling. Barking. Then it was my turn to hop the fence and when I quickly (quick movements don’t keep a dog calm) jumped onto the fence to throw myself over, the pit-bull saw this as aggression and bit my leg and jumped at the fence. His jaws didn’t lock. He loosened his grip to try for another chomp and because I was falling over the fence, my leg went flying and I fell over (almost on top of my daughter sitting on the ground crying). The dog was angry. Barking. Snarling. Jumping on the fence. I grabbed my daughter and went to this stranger’s back porch to catch my breath and calm down and . . . and I really don’t know what else. If that dog had jumped the fence, these people weren’t home, and I was trapped in their yard. Luckily, the dog ran back and forth along the fence. Barking. Jumping on the fence. Then it ran quickly around the perimeter (smart fuckin’ dog) trying to find an opening or get a better view, but the fence was enough. I knocked a few times on the homeowner’s door wall (or sliding glass door for those not from Michigan), but they weren’t home. I calmed my crying daughter and pulled up a chair at their patio set.
The pit-bull eventually got bored and slowly walked away. When it was out of site, and was out of site for 5-minutes, I hopped the fence. Got the stroller and put my daughter in it. And then I very, very (very) quickly got the two of us home. Quite an adrenaline rush. Quite a lot of fear. Quite a feeling of helplessness.
Quick aside to dog-lovers and tough-guys . . . you can judge me for being afraid, but I was. This dog was big, had no collar, and was aggressive. Sure, some of you would’ve probably knelt down in non-threatening way and calmed the dog. Fair enough. But I was scared and had read and heard enough stories about stray pit-bulls mauling small children and old men, so I wasn’t going to channel my inner-Crocodile Hunter.
What’s the point of all of this? Well, sometimes I’ll sit and wonder why I’m “scared to make a tough phone call” and I think I’m not alone. If I was alone, and crazy about every-day bullshit “fear”, there wouldn’t be hundreds of articles about overcoming fear of public speaking, cold-calling, dating, opening a business, writing a book, or dozens of other things (my favorite …”fear of failure.”).
An angry pit-bull made me scared. But today, I’m going to start differentiating real terror and the anxiety that comes with it (like knocking on the door of a drug dealer’s house with a gun drawn like a police officer) and being slightly-uncomfortable about a conversation, phone-call, or project.