“You must do everything that frightens you, JR. Everything. I’m not talking about risking your life, but everything else. Think about fear, decide right now how you’re going to deal with fear, because fear is going to be the great issue of your life, I promise you. Fear will be the fuel for all your success, and the root cause of all your failures, and the underlying dilemma in every story you tell yourself about yourself. And the only chance you’ll have against fear? Follow it. Steer by it. Don’t think of fear as the villain. Think of fear as your guide, your pathfinder — your Natty Bumppo.”
From “The Tender Bar: A Memoir” by J.R. Moehringer
I’m reading “Tender Bar” as part of a book club series. Maybe you’ve already read it since it came out in 2005. It’s a memoir about a boy who grew up fatherless and all the colorful characters in and around a Long Island neighborhood bar who played stand-ins for the role.
I came upon the passage above and stopped. I watched the words leap off the page like a swarm of fruit flies rise off a blackened banana. Like the pesky insects, the words buzzed around my head. No amount of hand waving sent them away. I had an issue to chew on for a few days: Fear.
After Moehringer’s words settled back onto the page, I decided that they might have been of use to me some years ago. It’s quite possible someone did say something like that to me. If nothing else, one thing I know now is that you can stuff words into a young person’s head, but you cannot prevent them from seeping out the other end.
I’m curious what happens next in this young boy’s life. I know where he ends up. But the choices made along the way, the decision to pick the high road over the low road, the dangerous trail over the sidewalk, these are the things that sometimes make the difference between a Pulitzer Prize and Happy Meal prize.
What do you do about your fear?