Thank You, But I’ll Take the Stairs

Over the last couple of years I have had the opportunity to speak to all kinds of groups ranging from students to CEOs. The main topics I speak on are fear, courage, and change and how they affect us every day.

Early in my presentation I talk about how we have reserved the word courage for people like soldiers, policemen, firemen and the like. Those folks live in a world that requires them to be courageous all the time.  Yet, we all have the opportunity to work through our fears and be courageous in every day events. Author Christopher Paolini states, “Without fear there cannot be courage.”

One of the things I really enjoy when I speak is the opportunity to visit with people afterwards. Often they tell me stories of their fears and their desires to overcome them. The following story is one that really brings the Paolini quote to life.

She stayed in the background and waited as I visited with other people. It was obvious she wanted to be the last one to speak with me. I’ve seen it before and I’m always curious to see what’s coming.

As she began to speak she was very complimentary and said she was sure I had a huge impact on a lot of the people in the audience that day. She then said she wanted to tell me about her fear and her desire to be courageous and work through that fear to make a difference for her granddaughter.

The first Saturday of every month she picked up her young granddaughter and they went to the Mall of America to spend the morning together. She just beamed as she told me about how much fun they had and how she looked forward to these special days. I was really wondering where this was going and how it would relate to fear.

As she continued to speak her eye contact became less and less and she seemed to be dragging things out to avoid telling me what she really wanted to tell me. Finally, she just stopped, looked up and me and said, “OK. Here it is. I am scared to death of escalators. My granddaughter loves escalators. Every time she sees one she wants to ride it and she pulls me toward them and I can feel my fear of them just telling you the story. When she pulls me I find some reason to go the other way. I’ll tell her we should go check out a store that we haven’t been to yet on that floor or anything that will keep me from having to go on the escalator. When I’ve distracted her I look for a stairway or an elevator so we can get to the next level in the mall. (At this point she began to cry.) I’m so ashamed and embarrassed that I keep my granddaughter from doing something that she loves to do.”

Fear comes in all shapes and sizes. Something that we take for granted can be terrifying for someone else. Courage is not about waiting for the fear to go away or disappear before moving forward. It’s about facing your fear and moving forward in spite of that fear.

My new friend told me that she had never thought about the impact of her fear on others until she heard me speak. She was moved to action and closed our time together by saying, “This Saturday is one that I don’t have with my granddaughter. I am going to the Mall of America and work on overcoming my fear of escalators! I won’t deny my granddaughter anymore!”

Is there an escalator in your life? What are you willing to do to be courageous?

Philippians 4:6


This post originally ran on Nov. 18, 2013

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  • Anthony Verderame

    Good article! Her phobia of escalators is merely an “effective” yet now useless strategy her genius mind created for some purpose. Her’s is an example of clients I see in my office.