Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You

We walked out of the airport in Glasgow, dazed from jet lag and squinting in the sunshine as day felt like night.  Stumbling over to the rental car building, I was easily talked into a larger car (by European standards) which still would not be nearly enough room for our sizable load of luggage (by American standards).

We loaded up the car seat, got the kids all buckled in, and I promptly opened the passenger side door.  Oh yeah, driving wheel on the right side.  Also a manual transmission.  No problem.

To this day, I don’t know how we ever got out of that first roundabout.  We kept going round and round as I just could not get my sleep-deprived brain to process which lane to take. 

The reality of navigating an unfamiliar countryside while shifting with my left hand and staying in the right lane sounded like no problem when we were planning the trip.  The reality of executing this and not killing my family in the process was making my palms sweat and my stomach churn.

During the course of the next week, we faced one-lane roads with random sheep crossings, cliffside roads with sheer drops to the ocean, and more blind corners than I could count.

The cool thing is that by the end of the week, it felt like no problem at all.  Just another day driving in the Scottish countryside.

Eleanor Roosevelt is often quoted as saying, “Do one thing every day that scares you,” although this sage advice is actually attributed to columnist Mary Schmich

When I first heard this quote, I mentally wrote it off as the kind of saying you’d throw on a motivational poster with a picture of a mountain, or in a YouTube video with someone traveling to exotic destinations.

But as I’ve spent the last year and a half on an entrepreneurial journey of building a business, finding a voice, and exploring better ways to balance my life, this quote has spoken to me at a deeper level.

I feel like my biggest successes have come at some of the scariest moments in my life.  Moving from Ohio to New York and selling both our cars.  Moving from New York to Boston and working for a large investment firm.  Moving from Boston to Cleveland and deciding to branch out on my own.  Flying an airplane.  Getting married.  Having kids.  Buying a house.  All scary.  And I’m proud of every one of those decisions.

Now that I’m on the precipice of a new adventure, moving my family from Cleveland to Seattle so I can create wonderful things with, I’m again reminded of the value of doing things that scare you.

My AP English teacher’s favorite quote was from Dostoyevsky, who wrote, “Suffering is the sole origin of consciousness.”  To put another way: only by struggling and feeling pain are we truly alive and aware.

As investors, as parents, as individuals, we are often faced with decisions that have potentially scary outcomes.  The safe and relatively painless option will be tempting.  But the scarier option often provides greater opportunity for growth.

Do one thing that scares you.  Today.  And tomorrow.  And the day after that.  See what happens.


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