I once heard that all anger was a result of fear.
The source of this bit of information was the type of guy that you learned to take everything he said with a grain of salt. But now, each time I feel the boil of anger rising up inside me, or that I have some sort of an immature outburst, I come back to that thought again. Typically, to my surprise, I could work backwards through that anger and find something I was afraid of that somehow, someway, prodded that anger to the surface.
It has been a surprising and interesting connection to make.
I recently had a chance to go on a quick morning ATV ride with my brother. He and I share a love for the outdoors and also dig a good challenge. Since he was in my back yard, it was up to me to pick the trails we would explore.
I chose a route that I had been on a couple of times before, but under different circumstances and in my Samurai versus on an ATV. Viewing it from a logical angle, I felt like the ATVs would make the obstacles that the trail presented easier to manage and the route would be quick to complete.
As we set off we were full of enthusiasm and excitement. The brisk air filled my lungs like nitrous being injected into a thirsty intake; it rapdily fueled my system into a hyper active state as I bombed down the road. Soon the easy meander of the road turned into rock steps, hill climbs, and switch-backed descents ultimately bringing us to a stop at the first major obstacle.
It was mid-way down a long hill and the road just dropped off of a tall rock step. The sand lay dusted across the rock, coating it like a cooking spray, anxiously waiting assist our decent whether we were ready or not.
With the short wheel-bases of the ATV it was inevitable that, without being able to control the decent, we would most certainly do a head-first dive over the handlebars and neither of us were keen to be wearing a neck brace in our future. So we decided to walk both ATV’s down as controlled as we could.
Well, it probably looked like some sort of a weird rodeo, but we brought both down and were soon off and pushing further down the track.
Probably not more than 100 yards further we hit another rocky giant intent on blocking our progress. This one was a climb, making it even more hairy as the ATV would most certainly rear up and over smashing you against the hard rock below. After making several attempts to prove that theory, we again tried the walking method. But between the slick rocky surface and the tall steps in the rock, the ATV peeled out, and we peeled out, but progress was not found.
Taking a moment to catch our breaths (mostly me, my brother leads a healthier lifestyle than I do), we analyzed the situation. We mentally drove the hill at every angle we could, but there just wasn’t an obvious solution ahead of us. Looking back, the road we had just come down would be wildly impossible to go back up. That was not the solution either.
As we stood there discussing what our options were, I began to be a bit fearful that we would be abandoning the ATV’s at the bottom of this draw and hoofing it out on foot.
That was not a solution either.
Determined to make something work, we took the larger, four wheel drive ATV first. We manhandled it up and over the obstacle with a lot of grunting, groaning, and hollering out instructions to each other. We then took a short, sun-rotted strap and somehow wrestled the second ATV partially up the rocks, barely close enough to tie the two ATV’s together. Finally, full throttle, exhaust blaring, and wheels smoking, the second ATV was pulled up and over.
We hooped and hollered and high-fived. Re-mounted our rides, and headed further up the trail.
We met plenty more roadblocks that delayed our ride that morning. Our ATV’s rolled, bucked, and bounced like frothing broncos attempting to buck us off for the last time. But each time, weighing the options and the fear of turning back to face again what was behind us, we pushed on with the idea that by overcoming one more obstacle we would finally find rest.
Ultimately we conquered the trail that day. Back at the trailhead with our ATV’s loaded on the trailer, we settled into the seats of my truck, grinning ear to ear, as we headed to retrieve our trophy of cold pizza that was left over from the family lunch we were already an hour late for.
The following week I found myself in another fearful situation at my business. A couple of decision makers at a large company asked for a breakfast meeting where we would discuss a proposal I had submitted that would bring a large portion of their business our way.
The day before I found myself hungry, but unable to eat. I struggled to focus and no matter how I tried to steer my thoughts, they kept coming back to that morning meeting and the unknowns of what it would bring.
As I thought on the reasoning for my nervous feelings, weighing why they may or may not choose to make this deal with me, I considered why I was getting so wound up. The answer I deduced from this pondering was that I was afraid of facing again what was behind me.
This deal could offer a form of financial security that I had been seeking for years. It could offer up a daily work schedule that I could plan on, that my wife could plan on, that my kids could plan on……again, something I have been working on for years. It could be an opportunity to finally climb up and over and escape.
As my mind focused on this new view it was almost as if all of my stugglings over the years somehow fit into this box. But amazingly at the same time, I could trace my successes to this same source.
My fears have driven me to force my way forward. To seek out the worst case scenarios and find ways to address them. To over-anylize situations and address them in a manner that would ease my worrying mind.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not encouraging everyone out there to live their lives in fear. I’m sure the health benefits I’ve received from this state of mind have not been advantageous to me. What I am saying is that it gave me a new view of my fears; a way to embrace them, if you will.
In the end, just like the challenging ATV ride, I conquered the meeting that morning. I should be signing a contract any day now that will seal that deal and hopefully a bright future for myself as the owner of this business. The fears I faced leading up to that meeting drove me to seek out solutions to problems that may never even arise. But it all allowed me to present a well rounded case detailing what I could offer and the time and energy I have put in, and will put in, to make sure their needs are met in every situation.
The moral of the story:
While I don’t have the credentials to present either of the theories as actionable information, I can offer my experience as food for thought. For me, not only has fear been the root of anger, it has also been the launch-pad for successful growth.