United by Fear
So, just the other day, I conquered an obstacle that had been giving me a lot of trouble.
It doesn’t really matter what the obstacle was; what matters is the reason I was struggling.
The challenge staring me in the face was something I knew was within my skillset. I had the technique, the coordination, and all the other components needed to be physically capable of achieving my goal.
But I couldn’t get myself to do it.
I was simply too afraid.
Even though the movement wasn’t overly difficult and even though the terrain was far from treacherous, I was too afraid to commit.
You are typically safe when you commit 100% and you are always safe when you commit 0% (as boring as that may be.) But when you hold back even the slightest, that’s when things go wrong in the worst way.
Consider a person who wants to do a backflip, (which is technically not a parkour move but it illustrates my point most effectively.) If that person were to put forth 100% effort, they would jump, rotate, and land on their feet. If they put forth 0%, they would go nowhere.
But between 0 and 100 is where things get dicey. If they try to flip at 25%, they would land on their butt. A flip at 75% would land them on their hands and knees.
But if they did a 50% flip, can you guess what would happen? Yup, they’re landing on their head. Not good.
So, if you do nothing, you’re safe, but you never go anywhere. If you give it your all, you’re safe, and achieve great things. But when you hold back, you run the greatest risk of failure. Of course, this is easier said than done.
Often, people look at traceurs, (those of us who practice parkour,) and are amazed by what we can do. They think that they could never do the things we do and we are often labeled as “fearless.”
Fearless. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nobody is truly fearless. We each have our own limits and stressors, any of which can change day-to-day. We are all united by fear, and not just in terms of parkour training. We all have a comfort zone, no matter how big or small, and it’s frightening to go outside of it. That could mean looking for a new job, or asking your boss for a raise, walking away from a bad relationship or working up the courage to ask someone out for coffee.
When facing an obstacle in parkour, it doesn’t matter how experienced you are. A newer student might be able to stick a 3 foot landing, but 4 is terrifying. A more experienced student might have no problem with a 5 foot landing, but they can’t commit to a 6. And so on.
The point is, we needn’t measure ourselves according to what the person next to us can do. How could that ever be encouraging, especially as a new student?
Instead, we must remember that regardless of the measurement or the style or the complexity of a technique, we are all experiencing the same gamut of emotions, with fear on one end and confidence on the other. The same hesitancy, the same doubt, the same internal battle with our perceived limits - it’s something we all share.
When you remember that, you start to become a part of the parkour family. Any veteran traceur knows what is going on inside your head, not because they went through that in the beginning, but because they are still going through it. In life, we are united by our fear and in parkour, we are devoted to helping one another find the courage we all have within us.
Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s a decision one makes to push through it. But more than that, it’s a desire to find out who you are, and who you can become.
It’s not about scaling a wall or vaulting a railing. It’s about finding the strength to reach higher, the determination to dust yourself off after every fall, and the willingness to surrender yourself to this ideal…
...the person you were yesterday has nothing to do with the person you can be tomorrow.
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Nathan Fleming - Head Instructor at Fusion Parkour