DARTing Past Fear

by Terry L. Sumerlin

I was not exactly paralyzed by fear. But I was very uneasy. Yes, afraid!

I had thought about giving it a try for a long time. After all, people of various ages, from all walks of life, use it regularly, and have for a long time. Major cities thrive on it. But I could not convince myself to check it out – alone.

I have given it a try with my wife, though. In such cases Sherry is always my navigator, someone I can depend on when the system makes no sense. With her I know I will not get hopelessly lost.

What am I talking about? Metro type trains and subways. San Antonio, where I grew up and lived for 45 years, doesn’t have such. And Lavon, Texas, where I now live, certainly doesn’t have it (as well as a lot of other metropolitan type things). But nearby Dallas has DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit). Along with other destinations, DART goes to the airports from areas all around the Dallas Metroplex. So recently, I got to thinking about the advantages of airport runs from the nearby town of Rowlett.

Sherry wouldn’t have to deal with Dallas traffic to and from the airports (twice) to get me there and back. That’s assuming I didn’t drive myself to the airport, and then have to find a parking space. That can be a nightmare – and very expensive.

The train seemed the logical alternative. Logical, but scary. It’s a long trip, with several transfers, involving lots of room for error. What if I miss my flight? Can’t get to my speaking engagement on time? Am sued for breach of contract? Blackballed in the speaking industry? Fear causes us to imagine all sorts of ridiculous things.

Finally, I put my fears aside and took the plunge. Sort of. One morning Sherry and I took the DART train and bus to Love Field Airport and back. We took the exact route I was to take in a few days, as a stress-free-type rehearsal for the real thing. Then, when the day actually arrived for my flight to Oakland, I was equipped with prior experience, along with a cheat sheet (“DART for Dummies”) from my wife, to insure my success.

Though I was as nervous as a cat, it was a successful adventure. As my speaker friend, Ron Hoesterey, would say: “It was not a problem to be solved. It was an adventure to be enjoyed.” It was fun.

Without having to worry about driving in traffic, I tried to settle back and watch Dallas come to life, as we glided along at sunrise. What was once scary actually became a piece of cake.

What does all I’ve said have to do with you as a leader? A lot!

You see, everyone has fears that involve things outside their comfort zone. We must recognize such in ourselves and others.

Also, in the same way that my wife bolstered my confidence and helped me become more comfortable with a new situation, we all need help, and we can help one another, to cope with life’s challenges.

Additionally, my experience illustrates the need for a plan and experience (even rehearsal) to overcome fear. Resultant success can help us build the confidence necessary for us to take on greater challenges.

In my case I felt confident enough that, after arriving in Oakland, I hopped on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), and explored much of Oakland and San Francisco. Did I know what I was doing? No! Was I scared? Yes! But I also had a great time.

Success not only has its own reward, in terms of confidence gained. In my case there was an additional reward. True to what Sherry had written at the bottom of “DART for Dummies,” when I stepped off the DART platform at the Rowlett DART Station, a beautiful woman did pick me up to take me home.

Leadership Tip: I completely agree with Helen Keller. “Life is a daring adventure, or nothing.”



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