Day 7 - Choosing Which Fear to Face

David VogeleerDec 19 · 3 min read

During the month of December, Buddy will highlight, the Twelve Days of Fearlessness. Whether it is getting up the nerve to lace up your old ice skates with your five-year-old or conquering a halfpipe like your teenage days, fearlessness is not just situational for all- for some, it is a way of life.

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash
Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

Usually when faced with fear you have a simple choice; take on the fear or walk away. They even have a term for it, fight or flight. But it's not always that simple. Sometimes there are true fears on either side of a choice. Should I take the shot at the buzzer and maybe miss and lose the game, or should I pass and maybe run out of time and lose the game? What if the only options are fight or fight? In 2009, I received a phone call that lead me smack dab in between a bunch of fears and one very large fear, and I was forced to decide which fear to face.

Two days after I had gotten married, my former boss and mentor called me to congratulate me, and ask me to interview with his new company in London. Up until that point I had lived in 3 places as an adult: Richmond (Virginia), Northern Virginia, and Richmond again. I was definitely excited for the opportunity to see more of the world, so my wife and I flew over for the interview a month later and I got the job offer. That's those fears really took hold.

In the abstract, living abroad sounds amazing! New places, new people, the opportunity to not only live in a city I've dreamed about, but also to travel all over the place. None of these thoughts escaped me, but as someone who is analytical by nature, these were merely facts. The other facts that filled my mind were not knowing hardly anyone while being thousands of miles away from our friends and family, having to completely setup a new life on a new continent, and a new job in a completely different culture (no one wore jeans to work there). And this was all happening at a time when my current job was going amazingly, I had a fantastic set of friends, and my family was really looking forward to getting to know my wife. I was so genuinely happy in this very familiar and known entity. I was terrified to leave that.

My wife and I in London
That phone booth smelled terrible.

So there were a thousand little fears to worry about, and on paper it would not have been a mistake to just stay. The problem was the real fear I was having. I've never been a massive risk taker. I like to weigh the pros and cons of a situation to really understand it. But if I said "no" to the opportunity, then I was afraid I would regret it forever. I genuinely had difficulties sleeping during this period of my life, because I was afraid I was going to be the person that said "no" to an opportunity of a lifetime.

I ended up saying "YES!" and we moved to London a few months later. And if I'm being honest, some of those fears I had about moving were absolutely true. Setting up a new life in a new country is incredibly difficult, even with an insanely organized partner. Besides my boss and his family, it did take a little time to meet new people and find a groove. But we did setup a life there. We did find our rhythm and make life-long friends and irreplaceable memories. I'll always love the time we spent there and be forever grateful for the opportunity.

When I turned in my notice to take the job in London, the head of the department scheduled a meeting with the pretense of convincing me to stay. In the end, he knew I was going to go and he told me he was proud of me. He said "Even if it's the biggest mistake in the moment, it will be the best choice you've ever made." He was right. Choosing to face the one big fear I would regret forever versus the mountain of tiny fears, some real and some imagined, was the right choice. And being able to face that fear head on lead to a similar situation a few years ago when the choice was to continue with the successful job I had or to start an insuretech company and try to build something that's never been done. I continue to be happy with that choice as well.

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