“Miss? Miss? Are you okay, Miss?”
I could hardly breathe. I stood on the edge of the ravine, deep in the Himalayas, and squinted to see the river below. 1 mile? 2 miles down? Hard to know. I was dizzy. My hands were sweating. I all of a sudden became aware that my ankles felt loose, vulnerable inside my hiking boots.
“Miss?” our sherpa, Dawah asked again gently.
I looked up at him.
“I can’t do it, Dawah,” I said. “I have a borderline phobia of heights. This is just, this is just … too much. The bridge. The handrails are lower than my center of gravity. I don’t ….”
“Miss, if you please, you must come. You can do it.” Dawah urged.
My boyfriend, LJ, was already on the other side, looking triumphant.
“Come on, Susie! It’s not that bad. The first part is a little weird, but you’ll get used it,” LJ said.
My mind raced, searching for alternatives. Could I get across another way? Could I just turn around?
Dawah, knowing where my mind was wandering, stepped in and took charge. His posture took on a different stance, and his energy shifted from gentle coaxing to one of supreme command and confidence.
“Miss. Look at me. We must go across. There is no other way, but forward. We cannot turn back. I will guide you. I will help you. You will not fall.”
I wanted to believe him, but my fear was winning the war over my mind. Dawah continued, “Miss. Look at me. Look at me. Good. Put your hand on mine. Now, together. Easy. We will go.”
The moment my hand was in his, I could feel his confident energy transfer into my body. I still felt as if I was going to vomit, but now I had my center back. My towering backpack threatened to topple me off the rickety bridge, so I bent forward a bit and took a step.
Dawah cheered quietly, “Yes! Brilliant. And again.”
I took another step on the swaying bridge.
LJ yelled, “Don’t look down! Just look at Dawah.”
I went into some kind of a trance when we were at the halfway point, and the relative comfort of being near land had gone. Dawah continued to chant encouragement, but more importantly held his confident energy.
When I stepped off the bridge, safely on the other side, I could hardly believe it.
I would continue to learn this lesson over and over again throughout my life. Each time I wanted to make a bold move, fear would rush in, and I would stop, stunned by the paralyzing mind chatter of doom and gloom. The chorus of “What Ifs” rose loudly in my ears, and I indulged in self-sabotaging, failure fantasies.
And then I would remember Dawah and the bridge.
All I needed to do was find someone who had successfully traversed the path that was new and scary to me. I simply needed to find a sherpa of sorts for this phase of my journey, who possessed deep knowledge, expertise, wisdom, and buckets of confidence.
Each time, just such a leader, or coach, or business savant would appear, and I would put my hand on theirs. Over the course of the last twenty years, I have invested well over $200,000 in my further education and professional development through traditional, academic studies, as well as through avant-garde graduate studies, coaching intensives, certificate programs, various licensure programs, and the like.
I don’t give the dollar amount of my investment as a boast, but rather to emphasize my conviction in the importance of investing in yourself. I have been exceedingly fortunate to work and study with the brightest and best minds in the world: Leaders who have taught me and shown me the way to find my footing.
What is the equivalent of my journey across the suspension bridge for you as it relates to your leadership or your creative expression challenges? Where are your ankles feeling loose and vulnerable in your boots? Where is your mind racing with thoughts of retreating and/or running?
Look up. Find a mentor, a coach, a trusted confidant. You can find someone who has traveled the road before you. They are waiting to offer you support and share their confident energy.
If you’d like, put your hand on mine. Together. Easy. We will go.