I've been fortunate to spend time with 30 inspirational individuals who feel restrictive rules are made for others. I profile them in my newest book "Pushing The Boundaries! How to Live a Fearless Life." (currently looking for a publisher).
I've had a lifelong fascination with what drives the psyche of people like these. Perhaps it's because I grew up in a family on the crossroads of Main Street & Normal. My parents were the kind of compliant folks who never ventured outside the confines of how they were supposed to be. Seems there was some kind of rulebook that authorized the canons of life, and woe to those that skirted them. Me? I was the push-back kid. The rebel. The one always ready to challenge the norm. I just didn't see the value in not shaking things up a bit from time to time, you know, to test the waters. And that led me to wondering how one person heads for the straight and narrow while another seeks the untested, the untried. Interviewing people for "Pushing The Boundaries!" is a result of marvelling at that uniqueness.
The extraordinary individuals I met for the book feature the kind of courage and stamina that demands respect. Their circumstances have placed them in a position to accomplish more than the average person might ever attempt. We are talking about people who push the envelope, exceeding the confines many of us feel obliged to observe. In fact, they've overcome what other mere mortals accept as the cards life has dealt them, only to shoulder their way past the status quo, setting out on a broader, more demanding journey. All of them are dreamers, game changers, who seek the possible, and often the impossible.
Now, my son is an educator and that means I get regular grilling about the work I do. So when Charlie said, "Dad, this 'Pushing The Boundaries!' thing sounds great, but what have you learned?", I must say I had to stop and think about that. It's a great question. And you know what: the fact is, when I consider the individuals I interviewed for the book, what I've acquired from each of them is very special. You just can't meet incredible folks like the ones I write about and not be affected by them. Their efforts and attitudes can teach us so much.
So, what I've learned is this: no one said it would be easy! As the expression goes, "You can't steal second base while keeping your foot on first." The fact is, creating any kind of positive, transformative change in your life always involves some element of risk. But that's not bad. Why? Because going after the things you really want will take you outside of your comfort zone, and once released from the strictures that held you in StatusquoLand, you'll be free to embark on new journeys. And for someone like me, that's key.
You know, it's worth taking a glance at a quote from Mark Twain that I use in the book:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by
the things you didn't do than by the things you did do.
So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour.
Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
And while we're at it, there's this from Muhammad Ali:
"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men
who find it easier to live in the world they've been given
than to explore the power they have to change it."
OK, I accept that not everyone wants to trim their sails and discover new "light bulb moments" in life. And that's just fine. I respect that. But if, like me, you have a thirst for expansion, then take that first step: explore the world of possibilities. It's not always easy, but it's surely gratifying. Because what the individuals in the book have helped me discover is that overcoming your fears and finding the confidence to accomplish more than the average human being is indeed possible. And it's worth going after.
It's important to note that the people I've chosen to profile do not go about their lives demanding our respect for their choices. And yet, I can't help being blown away by the courage and stamina they demonstrate. I'm a changed person from the two and a half years that have gone into the project, and the lessons I've learned will not be soon forgotten.
So, all of that is good, I hear you say, but what’s it got to do with me?
OK, I get it: you’re not about to throw a cable across Niagara Falls and start a slow perambulation from one side to the other to demonstrate to the world that you’ve conquered your fears (as Nik Wallenda – who I profile in the book – does.) But let me share this thought with you: it’s not always necessary to burst through all your limitations in order to achieve success. Perhaps just nudging things a bit will be sufficient. Nothing wrong with baby steps when approaching the unknown. That can lead to giant steps.
Consider Nicole Moore, the courageous lady I wrote about in Shark Assault: An Amazing Story of Survival: it was simply returning to that gruesome beach in Cancun where she had faced down death only months before that stood between her and getting on with her life. Her need was to step into the ocean at the exact spot where she had been brutally attacked twice by a bull shark, and nearly died. There was a boundary there that was restraining her from moving on.
"Peter, it was crucial for me to take ownership," she explained. "I needed to exert my mastery of the sea, to push back the mental barricade that until that moment in time stood between me and freedom." And, to her credit, she did what others might not have been able to do.
“Once I stepped into the water – albeit, with tears in my eyes and trembling,” she said, “I felt a huge wave of relief wash over me. I was now in the driver’s seat. I was controlling events, not being controlled by them.”
So, is there a frontier that beckons to you? A boundary that, when pushed, will allow you to stake your claim? As Jack Canfield, co-author of "Chicken Soup For The Soul®", reminds us in the Foreword to my book, "Fear is the single biggest thing that holds us back... Having the conviction to reach beyond your fears and take chances means you’re ready to achieve lasting success."
The way I see it, that's something each of us deserves.