Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Skydiving Courage Vs. Long-term Confidence

By Austin “The Freedom Skater” Szelkowski

Jump and Kiss!
I give a speech that I call “Is That Fear or Excitement?” The speech is short and explains that, in humans, the physical and chemical events associated with fear are almost precisely the same as those associated with excitement. I use the examples of skydiving and stealing a first kiss with a new flame to show how it is easy to feel both fear and excitement simultaneously. (Try this game – it works!) The whole point is to compel people to take the necessary risks to reach goals and live full and interesting lives.

I’m a serious fan of bold action. As a matter of fact, I think it might be the very difference between a mediocre life and a great life. Well, to be truthful, it’s part of it, but I suppose it’s not the whole difference. Recently, I rediscovered something a little more substantial ... more about that in a moment, but first, let’s talk about big journeys.

Embark to Grow
Anyone who knows me to any level knows that my life is currently consumed by a ludicrously large adventure: a 3,000-mile in-line skate across America. That skate is meant to inspire youth across the nation by serving up a larger-than-life example of the courage and commitment it takes to be a pioneer. I’m out to inspire the bold entrepreneurs and leaders of the next generation. Interestingly, the tour has already taught me as much as it has taught the people I speak to along the way. At the time of this writing, I’m just more than 1,300 miles in.

Leaping vs. Committing
Being bold is not enough. This 3,000-mile adventure is teaching me about something else: long-term confidence and commitment. If you want to build something of lasting value and purpose, you have to seek more than a temporary “high.” For me, the tour isn’t always an endorphin-rush. Often, it’s more painful than fun.

The Dilemma
So how do you remain excited and committed when progress feels more like hard work than an exciting exploit? Two points on that:

1. Your long-term goals must align with who you are as a person. They have to strike a deep chord that is not easily drowned out by the ups and downs of emotions. It’s gotta be you, because in the long run, anything less won’t keep you going. I like the simple advice offered by famous author and businessman Gary Vaynerchuk: “Be true to your DNA.” Obvious? Yes. Commonly adhered to? No. If it’s not you, then do you have the guts to quit it? Is that fear or excitement? Get it?

2. You’ve got to stay in your groove. Working toward a goal that deeply resonates with you is great, but you can easily do this the wrong way and burn out. Remember that old “Fear or Excitement” game I play? I like it because it gets me in my flow. It reminds of the daring, open, and energetic person I like to be. When I’m there, I’m unstoppable. And the same goes for you: You have to know how to get back in to your own personal flow.

That two-point combo seems simple, but don’t be fooled: Simple doesn’t always mean easy. Fight to keep those two points at the forefront of your mind, and you’ll be on your way, not only to achieving an incredible thing, but also to loving it every step of the way. That’s long-term confidence and excitement you can count on.

Austin “The Freedom Skater” Szelkowski is co-founder and president of Motor City Challenge, Inc. He gets involved with interesting projects. When he’s done skating, he’ll live in Detroit.

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