Written by: Steve Barker - I am Enough Coaching
I would like share with you today a memory about a time when I was a young boy. It was back in 1970’something….not that long ago at all lol.I was at school doing a gym class and back then we had climbing bars on a frame that used to pull out from the wall, these bars were about 10m high and when you got to the top they wobbled and shook like you were in an earth quake. We were told to climb up and over these bars, which I had done numerous times with no problems. Well this one day, as I climbed over the top and started down the other side the frame wobbled, as I reached out to grasp the frame with my hand, it moved away, my hand missed and I fell backwards, smashing the back of my head on landing and blacking out. I came around in the school office with the school nurse saying, he will be fine, just a bump! That is the day that I believe my fear of heights started.
All of my life from that point on I have struggled with heights and whenever possible I have climbed high things in an attempt to overcome the fear. I have rock climbed, abseiled, been up towers, walked around the top of the Vatican in Rome a few times, and there really isn’t much room up there.
I was working with a young guy who was about 14, a couple of months ago. We were on a boot camp near Brisbane and one of the activities was abseiling off a building approximately 25m high. The instructor asked for a volunteer to belay (safety man). I knew this young fella was as petrified of heights as me as we had discussed this beforehand, so I told him I would be the belay man on the top of the building and I would see him up on the top when it came to his turn. I could see the fear in his face, tears had started to form and he was white as a ghost. I reassured him that I had his safety and he would be fine. He reluctantly agreed.
I climbed up the ladder, and I was far from comfortable with it. Even thinking about it now I can feel my pulse racing and my toes curling. I got to the top, and attached my safety line and then I had to look over the edge, straight down. I lowered the rope back down and my first customer was this young fella with the fear. Good on him I thought as I watched him getting attached. His voice was shaking as he shouted “Climbing!” Slowly he started, he got about 6m off the ground and froze. He could not move, he was hanging on to the ladder like his life depended upon it. I called out to him, reassuring him I had his weight and he was safe. I even gave the safety rope a yank for him to feel it. He looked up at me, I personally was terrified looking straight over the edge, looking down at him. However I knew I could trust my equipment, and that even though my instinct was one of impending doom and fear of falling, my unconscious mind was constantly telling me I was safe.
I called down again and said, you’re fine, take a deep breath, feel the fear and use it as a fuel in your belly to take another step. He looked up, tears rolling down his cheeks and said……….ok. He did, I watched him take that deep breath and tentatively lift his leg, searching for the next rung, and then he reached up with a hand and pulled himself up. I immediately pulled up the safety line to keep it taught and him safe. Again he froze, but this time with no further encouragement he did it again, and again and again. Edging ever closer to the top. The rest of the young guys were now cheering him on from below, and he really started to believe.
As his head popped over the edge, he arms were scrambling for something solid to hold onto, I guided his hands and then there he was stood next to me, on top of this 25m building. He was shaking with fear, but had a smile as wide as wide can be. He had achieved an amazing feat, he had taken one step closer to overcoming his fears.
He didn’t abseil that day, that was one step to far for him, but he had climbed a 25m ladder. When I got down to see him, he told me how scared he was, but he had faith in himself, the equipment and me at the top of the building on his safety line. He said it was one of the most terrifying things he had ever done, but how he had enjoyed the view from the top.
I believe that day, he learnt so much about himself; that he was braver than he ever imagined, that he was able to embrace the uncertainty and step into it anyway. He learnt that sometimes you have to rely on others for your safety, and that it is ok; because they have had to rely on others themselves sometime before and know the importance of it and the reassurance that goes with it. He learnt the power of encouragement from others, and his encouragement for others from that point onwards was transformational. Most of all, he learnt, that he was enough, right at that very moment to do something he had never considered possible and he did.
What can we all take from this story, the first thing would be courage; this young fella knew he was terrified of heights, but he still challenged himself to attempt it. He could just have easily said no, and walked away from the challenge. He didn’t and now he knows he has the courage to try new things, the ripple effect is that he will try other challenging things as they pop up in his life. Can you think of any times when you have been scared, intimidated, challenged and took the easy option of saying no and walking away? Think of what it would of felt like if you hadn’t have walked away, if you took on the challenge. Now think of how you would feel now, knowing you have the courage to meet challenges head on, to take them on and even more to push through and feel the fear, but to embrace that fear and use it as a fuel. Imagine how you would be feeling right now, knowing you had done met the challenge. Take an even bigger leap to a point in the future, a time where you are faced with a challenge, you already know you have the courage and confidence to meet that challenge. Why? Because you have already completed at least one challenge and you know you beat the previous challenge so you can repeat the same strategy and beat this one.
Another take away from this story is that of Trust; he had to put his trust in me that I was going to keep that safety line tight. He had to trust me with his safety, to catch him should he fall. Not only that, but to trust the equipment he was using, the ropes, the harness, the belay equipment. All of this trust he placed into items and people out of his control, this trust was his safety, his life possibly. That is an enormous achievement for him, combined with the stress he was already putting himself under. What is the ripple effect of this for him? Well, again, now he has done this, he will know he can trust others in similar situations. He will know he can trust his equipment. It is an area where he will not have to challenge himself in again, because he knows he has achieved it in the past. So once again, I ask you, when have you ever been asked to trust someone so much with your fears, with your safety, with your life? Did you give that trust, or did you shy away and choose the easy option? If you did give that trust, I bet it felt great afterwards, empowering and fulfilling that you were able to trust another human being so much. Or was it a system or equipment you put your trust in. I know it would have been awesome knowing someone had your back, that you could concentrate on the task knowing you were safe. Even more, I know if were in the same situation in the future, you would have no worries in giving your trust again.
My final takeaway from this is encouragement and inclusion. The group of other participants who were waiting their turn could have easily sneered, jeered and laughed at this young guy. After all he was crying, shaking and hanging on to the ladder for dear life. No, instead they saw a fellow human being, part of their team/tribe who was suffering, and through words of encouragement, cheering and reassurance he was able to summon the courage, knowing he was not alone, and complete his goal. I am sure we have all been in situations where we have seen both sides of this equation. The sneering, jeering and laughing at someone who is in a situation they are not happy about. As well as that of seeing the support and encouragement, perhaps for a sports team or someone in a competition. Can you see the ripple effect of how if we were to encourage not only ourselves, but others as well, how much more will get achieved. How you and others can grow, learn, develop and achieve even greater things in life. There is also a ripple effect if the other option is chosen; if you sneered, jeered, discouraged, belittled other people, how their self-esteem, self-belief and confidence would drain away. How do you think they would feel? Now imagine that person was you? How would you feel? Would you ever want to try again in the future? What sort of impact on the future for you would that have? Knowing others would be laughing at you, wanting you to fail? I am sure you can see that encouragement, inclusion and teamwork are the way forward. Don’t be the part of society that always puts people down, because one day society will be putting you down, and I am sure you won’t have the strength to get up again after it has happened to you.
In conclusion, only you can stop you from achieving anything in life, only you can make the changes you needed. So get out of your own way, believe in yourself, support and trust those around you and strive for your very best in life. You are Enough.