Don't let Fear of the Unknown Stop You

Written by: Dennis Tiensvold 

Most of us are put off by fear. You think of doing something new, consider the risks, and decide not to do it. But what if you did it anyways? Don't be afraid to make a fool of yourself, that's how we grow. 

I didn’t give much forethought into trying new things at a younger age, so when my high school buddy told me that he had just learned of the Appalachian Trail and asked me if I would like to hike it with him, it was easy to say yes to.  After all, he put the start date a couple of years in the future.

He lived in Detroit and I lived in Denver, so each time we called each other, we would talk about what progress we had made.  As the start date grew closer, my naivety made it easy to keep pursuing the hike even when the fear started creeping in. But just before the hike started, that fear was almost palpable. And I went anyway.

Hiking over a thousand miles of the Appalachian Trail was an undertaking, but every step my friend and I took was one closer to the end and it taught me to really appreciate the effort. Looking too far forward made it daunting, but then I would reflect on the part I had just walked, and it made it easier to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Thirteen years ago, after returning from my trek, I started designing for FWI. Even though I’m constantly learning new things, I know more now than I did because I keep taking steps. I continue to venture into the unknown often, but I just keep walking and you should too.

I’ve learned that anything of value takes time. In life and in work, your patience will be tested, but if you keep pressing on, you’ll end up on the other side of whatever challenge you were facing. Whether you’re embarking on a summer-long journey in the wilderness or starting on a project you feel unprepared for, take that first step. Just keep chipping away at the task and the end will eventually reveal itself.

Don’t be afraid to do a little research to see if you can pick up some insight prior to stepping into the unknown. Before I ever stepped foot on the Appalachian Trail, I read A Walk In the Woods by Bill Bryson. Fear of the unknown made me pick up that book. And that book helped remove some of the fears I had about the hike. I take that same approach at work. When I need to take on a stretch-assignment or am asked to go out on a limb with a new design concept, I put in research first. Then, that first step isn’t as scary. And by putting one foot in front of the other, the rest just falls into place.

Keep on keeping on.

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