Step on Stage. Grab the Mic. Take your shot.
We don’t get to succeed privately. It’s ironic, the Stoics would say, that for all our selfish cares about ourselves, we seem to value other people’s opinions about us more than our own.
16 September 2021 · Issue #931 · View online
This piece is excerpted from my forthcoming book, Courage is Calling: Fortune Favors The Brave.
Part 1 of the book is about the forces that stand between you and doing what you want, can, and should.
It’s about the battle we all fight—the battle against fear. Because real greatness is impossible if we don’t win that battle, if we don’t learn how to conquer fear.
Life Happens in Public. Get Used to It.
Jerry Weintraub wanted to be an actor.
He made it into the Neighborhood Playhouse. He studied under Sandy Meisner. One of his classmates was James Caan. There’s a reason you’ve seen movies with James Caan and none with Jerry Weintraub, and that reason is fear.
Or rather, fear by its other identity: Shame.
Sent to get clothes for a dance class—taught by Martha Graham, no less—Jerry and Hames went to a store on Broadway. As he tried on tights, Jerry, a tough kid from the Bronx, took one look in the mirror and knew there was no way he’d ever let himself be seen this way in public.
James Caan, who came from the same neighborhood, whose father had been a butcher, who had the same view of himself as a tough guy, looked in the same mirror. He did not let self-consciousness win.
As the author Rich Cohen writes, “This was the dividing line, the moment of truth. Jimmy Caan put on the slippers and tights, so his name appears in the credits as, say, Sonny Corleone in The Godfather.
Jerry Weintraub, because he was filled with normal, decent human shame, did not put on the slippers and tights, so his name appears in movie credits as producer.”
One would be nominated for Academy Awards, the other would package The Karate Kid. Both would be successful, but only one realized that shared early dream—only one was able to stand boldly, bravely in front of the camera, and own it.
While most of us will not make our living on the screen, we all have to face this reluctance to be seen. Our fear of what other people think, of embarrassment or awkwardness, is not the same fear that holds a man back from running into battle, but it is a limitation, a deficiency of courage that deprives us of our destiny all the same.
There is no change, no attempt, no reach that does not look strange to someone.
There’s almost no accomplishment that is possible without calling some attention on yourself. To gamble on yourself is to risk failure. To do it in public is to risk humiliation.
Anyone who tries to leave their comfort zone has to know that.
Yet we’d almost rather die than be uncomfortable.
Photo credit: Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash