Nothing to Fear

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Wouldn’t it be great if, by the time you reached the age of , oh,  say 75, you got a partial rebate on all the insurance you bought over the course of your life against which there was never a claim? If they gave us just ten per cent back on all the policies we bought for the house, the car, the boat, the trips..even the family dog…we’d all be smothered in cash. Insurance is a business of fear. No one wants to be the one who rolls the dice, pushes their luck and loses.

I had a conversation with a friend the other day about fear. We talked about all the ways that fear has blocked our professional paths.

I think if I’m honest I’d have to admit to being frightened for a good portion of my life. Sometimes it’s been a cautionary form of fear (a very good thing in some circumstances) and on occasion it’s that fluttering, paralyzing, run-for-your-life type of stuff than damn near threatens to shut your systems down.

The shopping list of fears is almost limitless. There’s fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear that you find continuously nipping at the fringes of your comfort zone.  I think I could have accomplished so much more had I just been willing to confront the fear and embrace the risk.

Here’s an example. Many years ago I took a trip to Los Angeles on a press junket for the John Hughes movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Entertainment reporters were flown in from all points far and wide to get a preview of the movie and conduct interviews with the director and stars. These were always singularly unsatisfying encounters. Every reporter got about ten minutes with the cast and everyone invariably asked the same dumb, ill-informed , sycophantic questions. No wonder people connected to the movie wanted to shoot themselves at the end of the day. But that’s the way you promoted a film..and that was the best way to control the press.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=hollywood+boulevard&iid=5217196″ src=”3/c/f/7/Street_sign_for_f2fe.jpg?adImageId=11743120&imageId=5217196″ width=”234″ height=”186″ /]    In my case I had an ulterior motive because, not only was I sent to do the presser, but I was to meet an old-time Hollywood producer and perhaps make a very valuable contact. The meeting had been arranged by a third party who thought I might have enough talent to be of interest to the big shot. The man’s office was right at Hollywood and Vine..the cliched epicentre of glam..but it turned out to be a rather pathetic little spot, dark and shabby and distinctly underwhelming.

I dressed well for that meeting. I was certainly on time. I remember this little man behind a big desk (flanked by Emmy awards and photos of the entertainment elite) asking me if I would be prepared to drop everything and move my family to Los Angeles for a chance to clutch at the proverbial brass ring. And I remember having more than a flicker of doubt about that because I was a nice, safe, conservative Canadian kid and frankly the whole prospect scared me to death. I didn’t say that, of course, but the Hollywood producer must have read my mind.

We parted on polite, professional terms. I was certainly appreciative of the opportunity, but I found out much later that the guy in Los Angeles thought I was an ‘old lady ‘. Those were his exact words. Old lady. I wasn’t desperate enough. I wouldn’t take the leap of faith and I certainly didn’t seem like the type who would take the risks. He wanted to see some measure of gnawing, desperate hunger for success..success at any cost..and it just wasn’t there. God knows there’s enough people in Los Angeles who would commit just about any crime you can name to get a shot at the big time. Mr. Hollywood didn’t see that in me. He was right, of course. I was an old lady. I wouldn’t have lasted a second in that town.

I don’t beat myself up over that kind of trepidation. You could argue that I was simply being true to myself..even if that truth often proved to be disappointingly tentative. I try to remember the countless times as a writer and producer and television host when I did take a risk..took risks with material and presentation every time I opened my mouth. The rewards may not have been spectacular but in my own comfortable way I think I did alright.

It’s the coulda, woulda, shoulda’s , though, that we so often recall. Some people just plow through the fear because they somehow know that it’s their single biggest hurdle. Boy, I wish I had a greater measure of that.

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When Franklin D. Roosevelt said ‘ the only thing we have to fear is fear itself ‘  in that first inaugural address he was not just speaking to a population trying to soldier through the Great Depression…he was capturing a universal, and often very personal, truth that would more than stand the test of time.

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