Friday, 25 October 2013

Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You

In 1999, Baz Luhrmann released a highly successful song, based on an article published two years earlier in the Chicago Tribune, entitled “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”.

Almost every line of the mostly spoken masterpiece is a small pearl of wisdom; a phrase you can imagine hung in a whitewashed frame, mounted on the wall of an independent coffee shop, where creative minds gather to pen the next American novel and spurt poetry: “Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth…Remember the compliments you receive ….Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly”.

For me, the most memorably line in the song is the one in which Luhrmann urges us to “do one thing every day that scares you.” I remember hearing that for the first time and wondering whether ridding that spider from the shower basin counts. It does.


Tomorrow morning I’m going quad biking.

That’s right, as the London Autumn begins to turn ugly, the nights blustery and the phase between noon and dusk morphs into one inky and non-descript frame, I’ve chosen a vast barren field in deepest darkest Oxfordshire over a cozy couch, blazing fire and cup of tea. Not to mention that I’ll be accompanied by a motorized vehicle. I don’t have a driving license and I’m a little scared of cows.

Ok - I’d forgive you for calling me tame. Since blogging I’ve learned that for many modern adventurers a 100-kilometer walk, thousands of miles on camel back across Africa and ultra marathons are just another part of the day job, but please remember that limitations and fears are as personal as fingerprints.

Choose your battles with precision. Fear for you might mean navigating rush hour traffic on your bicycle, it might mean speaking to a stranger or cooking a curry. On the other hand, it might be jumping off a cliff, swimming with sharks or scaling K2.

Whatever it is, embrace it as a means to an end and a way of advancing beyond your comfort zone; a technique for growing as a person and visualising the next mountain – whether metaphoric or literal.


As a runner I’ve also adopted Luhrmann’s wisdom too - as somewhat of a mantra.

Sprints on a treadmill scare me. And yet, upon my physiotherapist’s advice, I’ve started interval sprints three times a week: sixty seconds of full blast followed by ninety of recovery. Ten reps three times per week.
Starting my first session was daunting. It seemed everyone in the gym was scoffing at my arm-flailing, heavy-breathing, foot-thumping style, but as the ten reps waned to eight, and then six, four and two, I became increasingly comfortable with my workout. Inhaling deeply, sweating profusely and gasping, I started not caring about who or what I might resemble. The world is always going to judge you. Get over it.     

On a grander scale, the prospect of 26 (and a bit) miles petrifies me.

What I’m afraid of, is disappointment. What if, after months and months of training and preparation, injury recovery, phyiso and strength sessions, I’m caught out with flu on the day, bed-ridden with my nose being my only organ capable of running?

But back off? I don’t think so. If I never try, I’ll never succeed and if I opt not to run on the day, then making that decision will just be another thing I’ve done that has scared, but also helped me grow. I’ll have learned to keep expectations under control and temper frustration. I’ll have learned that the world keeps turning, one gentle rotation at a time.

So tomorrow morning when you wake up, spare a thought for me on my quad bike in
the rain and why not do one thing – however small – that scares you. A vanilla shot in your latte? Make a chocolate soufflé? Ask that guy out for a drink? Rid that spider from the shower basin?

Or perhaps cross a continent on camel back. Brownie points for anyone who’s scared of camels. 

(Image courtesy of

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