The Man at My Window
Fear of Falling, Fear of Failing
I think my interest in window washers really took off the day I glanced up from my downtown Chicago desk and there was a man on the other side of the window a foot away from me…and about 10 stories above street level.
He looked so casual out there as he squeegeed the glass and gave some bird turd a little extra elbow grease. Sure, he had a harness on and was on some platform, but as I watched him do his version of just-another-day-at-the-office, I couldn’t fathom what kind of human is able to dangle off the side of a high-rise without having a complete and total (and loud) meltdown. As I would most certainly do.
I’ve always been squeamish about heights. I can’t even watch someone on TV go anywhere near a cliff without flinching and eating my popcorn just a bit faster so as to calm myself. So this notion of voluntarily rappelling off a giant building seemed…unfathomable. It made me start to think about fear, and whether some people are just born to do certain things that the rest of us find terrifying.
I mean let’s face it, we all deal with fear.
I don’t care how accomplished, smart, daring, or go-git-it you are, there are those experiences—those moments, at the very least—when you wish you could call the cavalry. Or a genie in a bottle who will fix everything. Or your mama.
I consider myself a pretty bold person, but that doesn’t mean I’m not on a first-name basis with fear. And don’t you sometimes wonder whether you should be paying more attention to it? As in hmmm, might this be an intuitive hit that I’m not supposed to do something? Versus, say, just your garden-variety anxiety you need to somehow get over.
You see the problem here.
Naturally, I turned to Google for answers.
I went spelunking deep into the caverns of The Internet and found an interview of a veteran window washer talking about what it takes to be in his profession. (Oh, and they don’t like the term window washers, they are window cleaners. Now you know. I just saved you from an awkward moment. 🤦♀️)
Anyway, this guy is talking about what it’s like to get started as a window cleaner, and he makes the point that no, it’s not like most of us show up ready to scale the Empire State Building without batting an eye.
But what they do, is they GET STARTED.
They tackle lower buildings, they build their confidence. And when it’s time to go higher, they make sure they’re set up to win with equipment that’s in good order and using all the safety cables and whatnot. So at that point, they’re clear that short of something catastrophic, they’re going to be fine.
But then there’s the busy mind, the thoughts that shout WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? YOU SHOULD GET OFF THIS IMMEDIATELY AND GO BACK TO SOMETHING SAFER.
Hmmm. We don’t really need to be several hundred feet up in the air to have those thoughts though, do we? Haven’t you had a similar refrain show up when you thought about trying your hand at something new? Or when you thought it was time to show up big, and then Big Fear came on stage in the villain costume to scare you away?
I will never forget the wise words of our master window cleaner in that interview when he was asked how they train the newbies to deal with their fear when they’re way up in the air.
[Side note: I have searched and searched for this video and not been able to find it again, it’s like some crazy Brigadoon, but never mind, here’s the gist of it.]
“I tell ‘em, just take one window at a time, buddy. Don’t think about how far down it is, or what it would be like to fall. Just concentrate on cleaning that window right in front of you…and then the next. And before you know it, your feet are back on the ground.”
There have been many times since that I’ve talked myself through a moment of heart-fluttering anxiety or worry: Just one window at a time, Deb. Concentrate on the window in front of you and you’ll be fine.
And you know what? I was fine. Because here I am. I went through a personal bankruptcy and later quit my job in the same year to start my own business. There were many times when the magnitude of what I was dealing with felt really overwhelming and I questioned whether I had lost my mind or whether I had the cojones to keep going.
Can you relate? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
What’s likely, is that you have something that you want to do, something that you feel like you need to be doing -- in your life, in your business -- that feels as daunting and scary as dangling off the side of a 20-story building.
Maybe tackling the first window is to actually share that here in the comments below. To put it out there publicly.
There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you’ve announced things in the past and still not done them. Most people don’t even have the courage to make a bold declaration. And you know what? That was then, this is now. It is kinda that simple.
I invite you to use this very moment to say what first step you’re going to take toward That Thing.
This is the only way to get what you really want. Those windows don’t clean themselves, and That Thing doesn’t happen without you.
With love and moxie,
P.S. I really took to studying my window washers. 😲 Check out a video I made here!
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