I was an education major in college with a focus on Biology. I had considered going into conservation, or maybe to veterinary school, but after four years of college I became a science teacher. Because, as you can see, I liked animals. I still like animals. Watching how they act still interests me. Whether it’s ducks landing on a pond, dogs and their companionship and loyalty, cattle in a field taking care of their baby calves, or a trout swimming through the cold stream, I like watching them. I wonder how they think, or if they think, what and how they feel, and why they do what they do.
But I hate snakes. I don’t know why necessarily, but they make the hair on the back of my neck stand up if I even think I am going to get close to one. I had a great Biology professor my freshman year in college who I learned a lot from, about science and about life. But he loved snakes. He had a big glass box in the classroom that contained 2 or 3 or 4 of them and every once in a while he would get one out and play with it as he lectured on the day’s topic. It was very difficult for me to concentrate as I watched it crawl down through the neck of his shirt and out his long shirt sleeve at the same time he was talking about the chambers of the heart. He did get me to hold it once, if memory serves it was only once, for a minute.
Fast forward approximately 35 years. I’m in the house on a summer morning when I hear a loud, shrill screech from my wife. I run to the garage to see what was happening all the while envisioning several scenarios, none of which were good. Come to find out she doesn’t like snakes any more than I do. Actually, after over 35 years of marriage I already knew that, but if I needed any confirmation that things had not changed I got it that morning. So, here’s what happened. The snake, which by her reaction made me assume it must have been at least ten feet long, had just crawled over the step that leads from the garage into the utility room to behind the freezer. At least it was still in the garage and not in the house. And there it stopped. And guess whose job it was to get it. As I scoot one side of the freezer away from the wall so I can get a better view, I only get a quick glimpse of its tail as it slithers into the open space in the bottom of the freezer that contains the compressor. After poking with a stick, spraying bug spray, and waiting, it finally came out. Suffice to say I took care of it that morning and it will not be back. At least not that one.
We all have fears. They are our own fears, often different from everyone else’s. There are things that make us uncomfortable. Things that we don’t want to be around, or deal with, or think about. What holds me back is probably not the same thing that holds you back. Some of you can relate to what I was feeling and how difficult it was for me to deal with my snake situation. Others of you don’t understand, like my science professor, how this is even worthy of discussion. What’s the big deal, you might think. But on that summer morning, as trivial as it might sound, I overcame a fear of mine. And two years later I still remember it like it was yesterday. I confronted it because it is what I had to do. And I felt a sense of accomplishment after I got the snake out of the garage. I felt good about myself because I overcame my fear. I did something I absolutely did not want to do.
How many times in our professional or personal lives do we let fear paralyze us? How often does it keep us from doing the things that need to be done, accomplishing the tasks that need to be accomplished? Even when we know in our hearts that the fear is probably just a little irrational. But that’s ok. So, I challenge you to recognize what it is, focus on the results you are after, and make those results more important than your fear of performing the tasks that will accomplish those results. It’s ok to be scared, it’s what you do with it that matters. I’m still scared of snakes.