I recently came across the Greek myth of Proteus.
Proteus lives at the bottom of a treacherous cliff near the edge of the sea. You have been told that he has the answer to your question and you are desperate for an answer. As you begin your climb downward, be careful not to loosen any gravel or rocks. If Proteus is disturbed or senses your presence he will surely run. You are told you must sneak up on him quietly, get right behind him, put your hands around his neck, and hold on for dear life. You must hold on to him while you ask your question. As you hold on, Proteus will transform into the shape and form of the thing that terrifies you the most in order to get you to release your grip. But if you can hold on through your fear, he will return to his real form, and answer your question. - Nick Flynn (my paraphrasing)
The whole story is very Christopher Nolan/Dark Knight/Jacob’s wrestling bout to me, but it got me thinking.
What am I desperate to have answered? And, will I hold on to what scares me the most long enough to hear?
I know friends who are moving, contemplating retirement, doing things in their jobs they’ve never done before, becoming first-time parents, wrestling with major career decisions, and some who are just starting their “try’s.” I, myself, am in the middle of a couple of these myself. And in each instance, each person must decide whether or not they will venture down to the edge of the sea, sneak up on fear, and hold on until the terror passes.
Unfortunately, this journey is one very few people take.
No, most of us spend our whole lives doing everything we can to steer clear of Proteus and his cliff. The answers to our questions just aren’t worth the feelings of fear that accompany the journey. In fact, many of us do everything in our power to never be in situations where we don’t know the answer in the first place. We live safe lives where things are known.
These kinds of people do not change the world.
On the other hand, the people who enact change in their lives, their families, their organizations, their world, are the those who will stop at nothing until Proteus gives them what they’re asking for. The make the trek down the face of the treacherous cliff. They face their fears no matter the cost.
So, which are you?