Take the leap.

We are afraid of failures—lessons learned on fear, permissions, and creativity

waiting for the permission

We were standing around, waiting for the divine intervention. Or, someone to show up with a brilliant idea.

Our event, Modern Sikkim, had just happened the day before, and we had worked hard to prepare for it. No one knew exactly how we’d do this next step. And there were some problems.

The conversation had generated some interesting visuals and stories. Things we wanted to share with the wider public, on 8′ square sheets of paper. We had thought of pinning them on boards, and displaying them on the main street of Gangtok. But somehow, no one thought of how we’d transport them to the area we thought we’d display them at. And the boards turned out to be too bulky and heavy to carry out to the street by hand. And so, at the last minute, we decided with the plan B: putting the paper directly on walls on the street.

After longingly taking photos of the original display, I took the paper down from the boards, stacked them up, packed some tapes and scissors, and headed over to the meeting point. I tied some crayons to pieces of strings, to invite onlookers to participate in further.

But, we didn’t have a “permission.”

Another person had done this before—putting fliers around town, without permission—and been fined 5,000 rupees. Some of us had gotten a call from the authority already. In fact, we had technically violated the code already, with our “Modern Sikkim is… ” posters.

When the building owner whom we’d counted on getting a permission from privately said no, our options became very limited.

Either we wait a few days and apply for an official permit for an outdoor exhibit, or nothing. And the permits might or might not materialize, in a few days, few weeks, or a few months.

Suddenly, it all didn’t seem worth our efforts. The risk of getting caught was too big for our host organization. Dipika, Kush and I, we were just traveling through, and could afford that risk. But we didn’t want to get our friends in trouble. We decided to postpone our plan, essentially saying, maybe things will be different next time. Knowing fully well, the rules won’t change, and no one’s willing to go through the troubles now, nor later, probably.

After some days to think it over, I think I know what really happened.

This is fear stopping us.

The particular situation could’ve been different, and there may or may not have been real, physical, risk. But the actual reality is that we couldn’t see our way out of our fear, of possible consequences. Maybe there was a creative solution somewhere, but we couldn’t find it, and were too tired and scared to keep exploring.

And, we feared, if we waited and tried again, we would face real disappointment of coming up short of our expectations. Better getting out while getting out was easy and painless, we said to ourselves quietly. Don’t be foolish and look stupid. We had a taste of success, and didn’t want to feel beaten.

This happens. All the time, around all of us.

Living “Fearlessly”?

In my own experiences at least, fear cannot be suppressed, turned away, nor extinguished.

Being fear”less” is actually an impossibility. If you think you are without fear, either you are blind to the risks, or you are burying it so deep you can’t feel it. Or any other emotions.

Living without any emotion—that doesn’t seem appealing.

What we think of fearless state is just a facade. A mask that hides fear within masks everything else, too. And to maintain this mask, we exert all sorts of needless efforts. Like the emperor who keeps fortifying his castle and never ventures out, we cut ourselves off from the world, in order to keep ourselves from dangers, but ending up being dominated by the very fear that we seek to shield ourselves from.

Expensive houses, cars, degrees, clothes—all sorts of materialistic desires have more to do with our not wanting to face our fears than our actual needs and desires. Armed with our stuff, we postulate, beat our chest, and judge everyone around to keep ourselves feel safe and in control. We feel we need to be right, and win the game of life by playing it smart.

We think we are fearless this way, but deep within, we are scared stiff, lonely, and beaten without real fight.

And it’s easy, alluring even, to say, yeah, this is adulthood. We don’t invite fear into our lives. We are smart. We don’t take stupid risks, and we don’t try really hard.

But then, fear would have won over us completely, without us even realizing it.

Fear is real. It’s to be acknowledged, reckoned with, and welcomed. Sometimes, we let the fear win. But the important thing is that we be honest with it—the fear 1: us, 0.

Because, if we can keep it real and keep the score, we could, sometimes, be courageous. And win over fear and get something done even, if we are lucky. Fear isn’t invincible.

The practice doesn’t end, as long as we are willing to face our fears again, even knowing we might succumb to it next time around.

So, tell us: what are you keeping yourself from doing, out of what fear?