As a young boy growing up in South Africa I, like most kids my age, was introduced to water, beaches and swimming pools at a very early age.
I loved swimming and playing at the beach and in pools and seized every opportunity presented to me to do so.
As much as I loved being in a pool I had, for some mysterious reason, a near paralyzing fear of jumping into a pool.
I just would not do it.
I remember many occasions on which I stood on the edge of the pool willing myself to jump in and yet unable to bring myself to do so.
My tactic for concealing my fear of those around me was to either sit on the edge of the pool and gently lower myself into the water or to gingerly take the steps while bracing myself and holding the handrails for dear life.
And then I one day I did it
Or rather, I was pushed.
I clearly remember standing on the edge of the pool once again willing myself to jump in and suddenly I felt a hand against my back pushing me forward and the next thing I knew I was in the water.
I never found out who the monstrous person was who pushed me although I have long suspected it was either my mean sister Gill or my evil brother Ivan.
What happened next was very interesting because … nothing happened.
I remember the feeling of terror as I became airborne and plummeted towards the water only to then experience a great sense of excitement as my fearful expectations were not met.
I immediately, as fast as I could, climbed out of the water and jumped right back in again.
And then I did the same thing again and again and again.
I share this with you not to dazzle you with details of my courageous performance in the face of imminent danger but rather to talk about how most of our fears are never realized.
A long time ago I read an acronym for the word fear: False Evidence Appearing Real.
This tells us that when faced with a situation we deem to be fearful the expectations of what will occur in the event we do what we most fear doing will almost certainly never happen.
For a number of years – many years ago – I taught a workshop on a fire-walking.
You’ve heard a fire-walking?
An event where people walked barefoot across burning coals.
And live to brag about it.
I cannot tell you the number of times participants at these seminars refused to participate because of their own fears of what would happen to them only to change their minds once they observed others walking across the coals.
To observe both their surprise and delight when they reached the end of the fire to discover they were as intact and unscathed as they were when they began and were still exactly the same height as they had been before commencing the trek is something I will never forget.
Jumping into a pool and walking barefoot on a bed of red hot coals are two examples of False Evidence Appearing Real and I mention this because in the past two weeks several people have contacted me to share their fears and reluctance to attempt The Habit of Meeting One New Acquaintance Every Day.
For some the very thought of approaching a stranger is as petrifying as jumping into a pool was for me and while those who have called to share their fears with me have all acknowledged how much their personal, social and possibly even professional lives will improve by getting past this fear they cannot bring themselves to do so
I believe The Habit of Meeting One New Acquaintance Every Day is one of the most gifts we can give ourselves for by pushing this fear behind us we open ourselves up to possibilities of developing some of the most powerful, friendly, enriching an important relationships of our lives.
And just like taking that first plunge into the pool and the first step onto red hot coals is the only way of conquering those fears so too must we take that first step and walk up to a stranger and begin a conversation thereby shattering barriers that will change the course of our lives.
Too many years have passed for me to recall what precisely I was afraid of when standing at the edge of the pool but I do clearly remember my fears the first time I stepped onto red hot coals.
I believed I would suffer severe burns and had images of myself spending months recovering but the truthfulness of False Evidence Appearing Real held on both those occasions and helped me propel myself to new heights.
As we have said so many times before: everything we believe to be true is true, UNTIL IT ISN’T.
Whatever holds us back prevents us from moving forward and whatever it is we fear will happen if we approach a stranger is not likely to occur and, if it dies it will more than likely serve to provide us with a sense of embarrassment which, frankly is nothing more than a self-imposed emotion.
The downside of adopting The Habit of Meeting One New Acquaintance Every Day is minute, the upside enormous.
Take the risk. Do it.
What have you got to lose?
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.