Saturday, August 12, 2017

Fear: Vulnerability and Risk

Perseid Meteor Shower
When you are becalmed, it is boring. When there is a breeze, it is bliss. When it blows, it is best to acknowledge that wind is fear.

I keep reminding my crew that sailing can be a deceptive practice. We can get distracted into thinking that we are learning skills, but what we are really learning about, as we become more accomplished sailors, is ourselves.

Unless you recognize that increasing wind speed is directly correlated to increasing fear, you will never be a competent sailor. You will either experience a disproportionate amount of fear, or a disproportionate absence of fear with the increase of wind.

It is important, at a later stage of the apprenticeship, to learn that wind on the concave side of the sail exerts pressure on the canvass, and the wind on the convex side exerts a vacuum. It is important to understand that a sailboat is propelled by two opposite forces. Pressure and vacuum.

Before the days of the internet, our family had a three-day argument about whether sailboats were pushed or pulled. These days, we can google “the Bernoulli Principle” and understand it is both.

If wind is fear, then the two opposite emotional forces that fear is exerting are vulnerability and risk.

Fear makes us feel vulnerable.

To counteract vulnerability, we must risk.

As sailors, we want to sail beyond the horizon. To start with that “want” (and to acknowledge any “want” at all) is vulnerability.

“What if I don’t achieve that goal? What if I don’t have the skills? The courage? What will others think of me if I attempt and fail? What will I think of myself if I attempt and fail?”

Vulnerability is the vacuum behind our sails. It is an emptiness. The feeling of want is a feeling of emptiness. As any vacuum, we feel drawn toward it. We feel drawn toward our deepest vulnerabilities.

The only effective counter pressure to want is risk. We must fill our sails with risk in order to achieve our wants.

“Maybe I will achieve, if I risk! Maybe I will learn along the way! Only if I try, will I know if I might get what I want!”

The vulnerable side of fear is diagramed by question marks. The risk side of fear is a focus on exclamation marks.

To sail towards your goals in life, you need to understand the beneficial forces of vulnerability and risk. We must learn to heel on the very edge of both.

You need fear. You need the vulnerability fear arouses. You need the risk fear evokes.

I’m writing this on the night of the Perseid Meteor Shower over New England. Thousands of potential wishes will enshroud us. Will you -- did you -- make wishes?


Wishes are propelled by the vulnerability of want and the risk of pursuing them.

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