The summer before 7th grade, I joined the football team. Even now, I don’t look like a football player, but at that time I was about five feet tall, a little over 100 pounds, and I had never played tackle football in my life. With no skills to speak of, they grouped me with the other incompetents and put us through drills. This was a junior high team, so there were 12 year old Davids like me practicing with veteran, 15 year old Goliaths; 9th graders who each took up the entire field of vision available through my helmet. I could barely hold a three-point stance, but when the whistle blew they told me to charge full-speed into Bob the Behemoth. It should be clear to everyone what was about to happen. With all the might my 12 years could muster, I charged Brontosaurus Bob, and that was the day I learned I could fly. My air time might have only been a second, but it felt like I had been rocketed into near-earth orbit. I was crumpled on the ground and Bob was standing there like he was waiting on a bus.
We had to do this drill again and again, and I could never make Bob the bus move an inch. Instead I got used to hitting Bob, hitting the ground, hitting Bob, hitting the ground, Bob, ground, Bob, ground. The coaches didn’t expect me to hold my own against Bob; the laws of physics are the same on the football field as everywhere else. The coaches expected me to work through the fear of getting hit, to pick myself up and get hit again. Eventually I would grow. I would develop skills. I would learn techniques and tactics. But if I didn’t learn to go up against impossible odds, get hit, and line up again, then skill, technique, and tactics would never matter.
If you’re trying something you’ve never done before, or anything where the odds are against you, you’re lining up against Bob. Every time you get knocked down, every time you hit a wall, every time you are told no, every time what you were afraid would happen happens, you come face to face with fear. And each time you line up again you get a little less afraid and a little more free to do your best work. The next time the whistle blows, where do you want be?