Fear is paralyzing. I sit here literally shaking because I’ve just sent off a few proposals. Last night, my body reacted similarly when contacting potential investors and partners for my latest venture. It’s not fear of failure. It’s fear of success.

It is like the famed Marianne Williamson quote:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear in that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the World.
There is nothing enlightening about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel unsure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
As we let our own Light shine,
we consciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.”

It is unlike the famed Barack Obama title, “The Audacity of Hope.” How many of us weren’t taught that we could hope for and actually attain the seemingly impossible. I mean, we’ve heard, ‘you can do anything if you put your mind to it’, but were there tangible examples of people in your town who actually did just that?

We’d heard of the Oprah’s, the Arthur Ashe’s, the Lebron James’, the black inventors, the war heros, astronauts, civil rights and religious leaders. We know of Barack Obama. However, do we as individuals believe that we can actually accomplish similar feats, that we can be like Tyra, come out of Inglewood, be a world famous supermodel and now media mogul? Do we think that we could, without rich, legendary parents accomplish what the Simmons offspring has been able to do?

In many ways, it goes down to what goals people who are directly influential to us put before us. If no one really believes that YOU as an individual can accomplish great things, how likely will you try to create that reality for yourself?

In grade school, I was seen as brilliant, yet as a child with behavioral problems. Recently, someone told me, “We all thought you were going to hell in a hand basket.” As an adult, hearing that, I wanted to slap the living doo doo out of that much older woman. Why would an adult look down at a child and prescribe that for them? If I really were that “bad” why didn’t she kindly offer to support my parents by offering some sort of mentoring or other assistance? Still, I have to cover that over with love, because she like many of us, complain and offer no solutions. We don’t offer our young people options. We just complain, talk about them and their parents and go on with our lives.

For a long time I didn’t believe I could do anything noteworthy. I wasn’t interested in being great or famous. I remember in high school telling counselors, who did see my potential, that all I wanted was to be able to provide for my family and live modestly. In this day and age, that’s all most of us can do, and that is a noble goal. However, can you, even if just for a moment, envision being able to do MORE than just that?

No we all can’t accomplish the same feats in the same fields but can we strive for excellence? Do we know what excellence looks like? Can we go beyond perceived excellence and success to moral excellence and success? Even if not a Christian, Jesus was a successful, excellent man. He accomplished more than any of us ever will. That’s an example we could strive to emulate.

As for secular success, that’s relative. Money is good, great even. How are you serving others though? Can you strive to do more than you are? Can you envision doing more than you are? Are you afraid to do more than you are?

For me, a lot of these questions bring up my self-esteem. Did I even feel worthy to do anything noteworthy or meaningful? Regardless of what I felt, I surely behaved like I believed I was. One school assignment required that we dress up and do a presentation. Guess who showed up to school sugar sharp looking like a news anchor? I did. My teacher, Sonja Bankston-Cullens, was impressed with both my visual and oratory presentation. (Bankston-Cullens was the progressive instructor, and now principal, who influenced me profoundly, as she even spent time at my house with my family. She was a devoted, get-down-in-the-trenches-with-you teacher who made us nix word whiskers and improper grammar.) Some students turned up their noses and sneered, “Who does she THINK she is?” The real question is who do YOU think I am?

Surely, you’ve met with that before. Coworkers on your job feeling uncomfortable that you perform your duties with diligence. “Who does he/she think they are?” The trouble is feeling like you need to relax on what you’re doing in order to fit in, feeling like you shouldn’t move beyond what’s common in order not to stand out.

Many of our young people have the potential to attain things like missionary service, becoming teachers, social workers or art curators (I mention these things to throw a wrench in the belief of what success looks like). Can your child envision being a postal worker, a bus driver, an author, a filmmaker, a concert pianist, a community leader? Can you envision doing that? Honestly, some can’t.

It’s scary to break out of the emotional mold that may have shaped those around us. I was supposed to be in hell, mind you, in a wicker basket that I’m sure the naysayer herself weaved. I know she wasn’t the only one. I’ve seen my school records.

We don’t have to be who we currently think we can be or what others think we should be. Think about this random thought, how can you truly be different? Truly? You would have to look at societal norms and just do something completely different, like be morally upstanding, follow a code of ethics, or not. It really could go both ways, but in either case, our communities pretty much guide how we think, live, and what we think we could or should do.

Whatever course you take should call for you being very well educated, informed, and courageous to take your stand. Not only am I not going to hell in a hand basket, there is no burning hell, and how on earth would flesh or spirit (which technically has power over earthly elements) and a hand basket survive a proverbial hell. See? Think outside the rectangle (ha).

I’ve said all that to say, fear has paralyzed me long enough. It has kept me inside this mold that I didn’t create. At one time I couldn’t imagine being more than a kitchen cosmetologist (no shade to the kitchen mechanics–I still keep my curling iron set and my Gold ‘n Hot stove on deck). I never thought I could do anything really. I know I’m not alone in this feeling, especially having grown up in Compton, CA with all its negative attachments.

This reminds me of Rodman’s Hall of Fame speech and Toure’s controversially altered article regarding Vick. Each of these persons weren’t “supposed” to do anything more than than their inner-city heroes, small time hustlers, or gangsters. Sports IS NOT the only career option, but this was how both Rodman and Vick were able to write different scripts for their lives.  Can you?

I know not yet what success looks like. I’m afraid of what it will mean for me and my family. I’m afraid of the consequences. However, I remember what another mentor, Marline Franklin (if you’re in Mary Kay, in Los Angeles, then you know Ms. Marline Franklin and her maternal tendencies), held out to me when I’d shyly and hesitantly joined the company. When I said that I was just plain scared to talk to people, she handed me a book and read its title, “Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway.”

So, today, I’ve submitted my proposals, my heart still palpitates, and I’m breathing very deliberately. Who knows what will happen? I’m just happy to be able to say I’m now able to reach for the galactic luminaries.

Greatest Love of All, Whitney Houston
Tomorrow, Tevin Campbell