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Action Negates Fear

This last week I had an interesting experience that reminded me of an important lesson of the martial arts.  My friend Kurt had a buddy in a jam - he was trying to finish up some carpentry and get a house painted so it could go up for sale and only had a few days before the deadline.

Kurt was telling me about how big a project it was and how they didn't know if it could get done in time.  So I said that if they needed another guy to paint I'd be up for it.  I've pained plenty of apartments over the years and had just finished painting the hypnosis office I share with Lily a few weeks before.

So, we get out there and the first thing I have to do is paint all around these huge screen windows on an outside porch.  I'm up on a ladder between these big bushes and the house, trying to carefully work along the edges of the windows.  And that's when I first start to get this creeping feeling of doubt about what I'm doing.

I'm sure everyone's had that moment where you ask yourself "What the hell am I even doing here?" when you're doing something that's not an everyday task and you start to doubt your competency at it.

As soon as I noticed I was doing this I took a deep breath and let it out.  I knew this kind of thinking was going to make the job a lot harder, not easier, and had to change it.

I took a moment to look at what I'd done so far and the work was fine - no mess, no drips, no paint on the screens, clean masking, etc.  This was objective proof that I was doing just fine.  So I just focused in on each movement of the brush, each inch of the window frames, and kept moving until I was done.

When I took the masking off, guess what?  It looked just fine!

Then I got onto my next project, an interior sun room.  It had this high, slanted ceiling and glass everywhere.  I was given some tools and left alone to paint it.

Again, inside I start to doubt myself.  "Whoo-boy, what I have gotten into now?"

So again, I take a deep breath, let it out, and then set to work on the incremental tasks that make up painting.  I focused my attention on one small corner of the room and started masking around the woodwork, then the first window, then the next.  Then I started on the painting, again with the same corner, around the windows, and across the wall.

Next thing I knew it was time to knock off for the day.  We'd been painting for hours but it seemed like nothing.  The boss came in, looked at what I'd done, and with a big smile told me that anytime I wanted work to just let him know.  (A final verification that any anxiety I'd had about my ability was unwarranted!)

Now, what the hell does this story have to do with Karate?

I think it illustrates the old adage that "action negates fear" in a bigger outside-the-dojo context!

The lesson here is "When you feel that doubt creeping in, focus and attack!"  Pick a task and then do it!  Take action.  Kiai and throw a punch!  Get into the fight.

Once you're in motion you'll stay in motion, but you have to overcome the initial inertia first!

All the very best,

Pete Kautz


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