Don’t Look Down


Fear is a bad thing right? We tell children not to be afraid of the various things we know won’t hurt them, the dark or monsters under their beds. As adults we try to rid ourselves of fear like the fear of public speaking or the fear of failure. Some of us are afraid of spiders and other creepy crawlers, while others are afraid of heights, which is a fear of mine. You probably can’t tell from this picture however.

Climbing higherFear has its place as an important emotion, a reaction that can save us from a bad situation or from doing something stupid. Being confronted by a robber, fear is a natural response which heightens our senses so we can react fast enough to avoid a tragedy. The term healthy fear indicates that, in moderation, fear is good for us.

I often feel limited by my fear of heights as my wife Julie is able to walk to the edge of a cliff and see what I can’t because I’m standing twenty feet behind her, my knees weak. With enough time and a gradual increase in comfort, I’m able to get past the fear and do things like you see in the picture to the left. Believe it or not, however that is relatively simple compared to what I faced in the picture to the right.

I enjoy hiking and climbing, I don’t believe in obstacles and want to be able to go through or over them to discover new things, see new sights. I want to remove limits, especially self imposed limits. That’s why I’m up there climbing that sheer cliff, to face my fear (for any climbers out there that was only a 5.2 climb – for non-climbers that simple, relatively speaking).

Our climbing instructor, Robert, was great and understood the role fear plays as we challenged ourselves to push past the anxiety. “You can’t overcome fear,” said Robert, “you can only manage it.” And that’s when it struck me, the word manage is so crucial to everything we do. There is very little we can control but we can manage quite a bit.

As I climbed higher and higher, with only the slightest of footholds, the fear was there. I wanted to quit, to be lowered down by my belay partner, and wife, Julie, who had my life in her hands, but I pressed on. It reminds me of a story my father told me about the first time he ever water-skied, “I was too afraid to fall, so I didn’t” he said. I can completely relate to that now.

I was successful on that climb at managing my fear. On the second climb however I was not as good a manager and psyched myself out, opting to quit half way up. One step forward, one back. Next time, and that’s part of managing your fear, next time, I took two steps forward.

What fear are you willing to face so that you can learn to manage it?

Posted in General, Outdoors, Success, Taking Action and tagged , , , , by with 3 comments.


  • I am with you on the fear of heights. It’s about managing ourselves and keeping the perspectives we have about our fears. We hold ourselves back from what we wish to accomplish because we take ourselves out of the game because we feel that we cannot fail. Healthy fear is being in a situation where there is a risk of death – it’s normal to have that fear of falling, but if we challenge ourselves, know the risk ahead of time and have preparation to be able to perform the task we can take the risk calculated and perform the task with ease.

    • AJ says:

      You are so right Jen about preparation turning a risk into a calculated risk. There is a huge difference there. Risk is foolish, calculated risk is thoughtful and takes steps to minimize danger. And yeah heights are still scary!

  • TRUST. AJ, I believe so much of learning to use the fear is based on trust. Trust in what you know, what you’ve learned, your Team (Most often my Team is my horse) and the ultimate trust in what you know is right.

    There is no one I trust more to lead the way across our river, than myself. First, I’ve had all the experiences one can have out there and survive (well, I haven’t died yet) ~ I know what is there, what it can do and what it feels like. I also know I wont give up or panic if something goes very wrong. Second, our guests and clients need to cross it- safely and confidently… I know that I can do that, lead them the onto and through the safest path. They do NOT need to know that I am sick to my stomach and that I wouldn’t be able to stand (my knees shaking)… they see me smile and hear my steady voice.

    It’s nice to know that you, being afraid of heights and rock climbing, understand exactly what it takes to do and experience the wonderful and indescribable.

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