Are you willing to go where no one has ever gone before?  Jumping out of planes, climbing mountains, skiing down the deepest slope … are you kidding me?  Ever since my first flip on a trampoline in grade school, I found I am NOT the daredevil type.   Perhaps you are like this Average Joe; born with anxiety issues that plague 40million of us Americans.     The last thing I want to do is something bold, daring, dangerous and certainly not do something that has never been done before.   However, on this first day of 2017 I tell why I am ready to step into Uncharted Territory.

First, I hope a story of my early inability to do something outside of my comfort zone will inspire you; if I can do it, anyone can.

 Try as I might to overcome the fear of failure, or really – the fear of ridicule, has been a lifetime struggle.  If there were no other people in the world, I am fairly certain I would not fear failure.  It is an obvious thought to the fear minded, but profound enough to stop and think, why do I care what other people think?

 I wish I did not!  Were it not for being forced to do certain things like; paying bills, taking care of yourself and people who have been put in your life, and having to do a flip on a trampoline I would prefer not to do any of them.

The teacher said it was a requirement to do a flip.  It took more than the average amount of effort and guts for me to do a butt bounce and back to the feet and then the awesome knee to butt to feet combo without falling down.  The teacher with the mustache said ‘there you go you have it down let us see you do a flip.’   A natural at anything new is NOT my forte.   I could feel the sweat beads flowing and my heartbeat racing.  Everyone else had completed his or her flip, how hard could it be, just tuck your chin and plop over.  The cute gymnasts that went before me did those triples and twists with such ease; certainly, I could do a single flip. I was small and skinny just like them.

Trampoline Setting with Spotters   watching closely

 I bounced as high as I could for what seemed like 10 minutes when he said ‘come on you can do it.’   My mind seemed to go blank as I took the last jump into the air and propelled myself into that perfect flip I imagined in my mind. Jump, jump, jump and spring into the flip I flew…

 I felt the blood rushing to my head and not stopping.  What the heck happened?  With a miraculous quickness, the gym teacher had grabbed my ankles as my head, as my entire body slipped in-between two springs.  The blood pumping rapidly from my feet through the heart, and into the veins in my head were throbbing as I hung upside down for what seemed like an eternity.

Somehow the teacher had kept my head from getting smashed into the wooden floor, as I hung, dangling upside down, and staring at the floor three inches from a crushed head. 

I felt the bugged out eyes of everyone in the class staring at me with astonishment.   I was hoping it was just a bad dream and I would wake up holding onto my pillow.   But no; the teacher pulled me up through the springs and tossed me back on the tarp.   I never wanted to set a toe on a trampoline again. 

He used the opportunity of my tremendous lack of gymnastic skills to give a lecture to all on ‘why it is important to have spotters when anyone is using a trampoline.’  I could see the looks of horror on some faces and hidden grins on others as the teacher said, try again.

The bored group suddenly had a keen interest on safety as EVERYONE had their hands up in the air ready for me to attempt a do-over flip.   This time I jumped 1/16th of an inch at a time and slowly performed a somersault-like flip.  Some clapped for me (a few mockingly I am sure) as I did not end up flying off the trampoline this time.  My confidence grew a tad as the teacher coaxed me into a few more flips before finally saying, ‘See, you can do it.’    I was not convinced.

Never again did I willingly do a flip on a diving board, trampoline or anywhere since.   In fact, for most of my life after that doing anything risky would bring about an inordinate fear of flying off a trampoline and landing upside down and being dangled in front of the eyes of a bunch of laughing/shocked elementary schoolers. 

While my trampoline flying escapade in middle-school was not the greatest story of overcoming fear, do not feel sorry for me.  It was one of extreme importance in learning that there are some things we must get used to,  I have. and you can as well.

Those who know me today would never have guessed  I struggle(d) with worry, fear, and anxiety to such a degree.    I have these arguments with myself and others that worrying is all in the head.   After studying it deeply and being around many who struggle with anxieties, I think it is an epidemic problem.  

 I had coffee with a successful businessperson who confided in me that he takes Klonopin (a panic attack preventative), but he tells no one.  He said, ‘nobody wants to talk about their worries, insecurities, fear, and anxiety because it makes you look weak.’   His comments rang in my ear.   I realized I never talked about it either, for the same reason.  Therefore, he, I, and many others just live with our ‘secret problem.’

Nobody wants to talk about their worries, insecurities, fear, and anxiety because it makes you look weak.’   Therefore, he, I and many others live with our ‘secret problem’.

From that day five years ago, I began noting all of the various ways I had learned to cope with having a mind and body that races with irrational worries 24 hours a day.  Perhaps I could help other people with my coping skills.  Many of them were preventative measures to avoid anxiety producing triggers;

  •             – being organized so you do not become obsessive over lost keys and wallets
  •             – planning ahead so you are not late or forget to bring important items
  •             – making/saving money for a rainy day and financial future to avoid money worries
  •             – preparing in advance for talks, meetings, and social events
  •             – practicing relaxation techniques
  •             – putting in to play anxiety preventing health habits (eat, sleep, exercise…)
  •             – self-awareness, self-acceptance, tell others it is ok –  change the world view
  •             – doing it your way, nobody knows you, like you do

Thus began the Average Joe’s Portico, a bold place for a not so bold person to write about an anxious person’s pursuit of peace, his dueling doubting mind games, and strongly fighting those fears that try to dominate our lives. It took three years before publishing the first story.  Fear, of course, is what caused me to stall for three years.   Fear of others opinions, the fear of failing, and one area that worriers fear the most the fear of not being right.  We worriers spend a lot of time making sure we have all our ducks in a row and that we get opinions on how to do everything the right way.  Which is near impossible.

       The more I am told how to do things right, the more fearful of failing I  become.  Do you ever feel that way?

How many of us have been stifled by the opinions of others? How many of us have been stifled because we see experts in an area that are so good at what they do, we do not bother trying?   We tell ourselves the average Joe has no chance.  How many of us have been stifled because we see others fail and flop badly, and don’t bother following a dream or idea? How many of us have a memory of a trampoline flying incident, and tie it to every other area of our life?  We end up burying other gifts and miss what our calling is.

 I had to face it, I was never going to be a gymnast, but why would I not try other things because of a failure in an area that means nothing, like trampoline jumping?  I may never be the greatest writer that ever existed.  Moreover, even if I followed to the T  all the advice of the 60 books on successful writing, or any subject you wish to tackle, there is no guarantee it will work for you or I.  But should that cause you and I to avoid trying everything?

Most writings tell of what happened.  Live and in black and white today, you all will be the first few to hear and see a walk into my own uncharted territory.    A week ago, I let my employer know that time is short and I will be phasing out the 60 hour work weeks and transitioning to expanding a dream of penning messages of hope for the fear-prone.  It starts with no pay and no easy income.   It starts with a hope and a prayer that the many more pent-up true mini-stories (not blogs) will help other anxious and worry-filled Average Joe’s.

But you worriers of the world know a worrier would never walk into a risk without having laid out many alternatives and a cushion.   I plan to continue writing on how we saved enough to be able to make such a move before social security funds and 401k’s are available.  Were it not for health care worries we may have been able to take this step a while ago.  Many others have held back from taking a risk to start a business or fulfill a destiny or dream that was planted in our minds.   My seed started in writing for a local paper, but was squelched by the reality that most journalists can’t pay their bills.  Instead I fell into a route well outside the introvert-worrier role that turned out quite well.  Living in a world outside the comfort zone has provided many experiences to write and talk about.  The confidence gained has propelled me to step away from a lucrative career and step into another.

The good news for both of my followers, since we don’t need to beg for money at every turn, all will be free for all who visit my porch (aka portico).  The bad news for some, since I don’t have to follow the rules of how to do it right, I will risk flying off the trampoline and view the faces of either a sorry-felt shock or mocking laugh; I will continue to write stories, not blogs or tweets. 

The thought has rung in my head for some time; Until we step into uncharted territory, we will never know how far we can go.    If you would like to join me in continued revelations of the peace-seeking worry-free Average Joe, please send an email with your request to be added to the portico mailing list for notifications of all future posts.  As I stated, I do not need your money, so there is no risk of spam and selling your info is guaranteed.

And for those who want to hear the rest of the story (with a bold Spiritual perspective) head into the Portico…

If this is your first time visiting Average Joe’s Portico, every post is written in two parts. You have just read the portion challenging the mind, body, and soul.  In The Portico I seek to tap into your spiritual side, but only IF YOU DARE.  Tap the Red Line Below. to hear the Spiritual side of the story.  (For more info – read the ‘Do You Dare’ Tab)

If You Dare, Click to Enter Into Joe's Portico.

The real quote as on the cover, states:

“For until we step into uncharted territory, we will never know how far God can take us”

This journey started many years ago when I thought I knew 100% for sure that I had ‘a calling into full-time ministry’ shortly after choosing to ‘committing my life to God’ in 1980.  But some very rough church leadership happenings led to my family and me walking away from any church activity for a number of years. (Details in this mini-story a year ago)    

I was following the script, others had written of how to become a Pastor and fulfill that calling, when I flew off the trampoline unexpectedly. For many years, I felt like I was left hanging by my ankles between two springs.   After crawling back onto the tarp and jumping back in slowly, the calling came back. 

However, in the church world with no theology degree most chances at a staff position are tough to find.  With everybody under the sun starting side ministries (and asking for money to get them rolling) I could not see a right way in, nor did I feel asking for donations is the way God intended for people to ‘serve God’.   While reading many books and getting advice from every angle on how to do it right, it hit me softly; all these things that I have been through and have had to learn the hard way are issues many people need help with. 

Being engulfed in anxiety that many church-preachers consider as a ‘sin’ reduced the chances of going the normal route. In addition, few nowadays want to hear anything that does not have a pulpit standing in front of the speaker. I am in uncharted territory. But with God, once we finish wandering around in the desert, He can finally send us to what appears to be uncharted territory, but is the promised land.

It is not just the 18% of the world that suffers with fear, when it comes to trusting God; it is probably 99%. The start of a ministry is often hampered because of funding, fear, and failing to move when we hear the word ‘Go’.   We like to line up all the ducks in a row and have all the answers before making a move.  I have been lining up the answers and each time find reasons to wait.  The thought was very clear in my mind that I could not keep on playing games; it was time to step into uncharted territory. 

Lottery money was not going to drop in my lap to make it easy.   It was time to take a bigger step of trust beyond trying to write in my spare time. In typical God fashion, after many days of thought I felt sure the time was past, but still doubting in my own mind I said, all right God, can you give another for sure sign this is what you want me to do. 

So I did what all really mature Christians do and did the; eyes closed flip the Bible open version of reading and point – my finger landed on the following: I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you.’  Joshua 1:3   In all seriousness, although I actually did have the above happen, there have been many times and many other signs leading to this stage. I will write about those on another date.

I take a reputation risk telling of a final destiny before the event occurs.  Fear of being labeled a wackadoo makes the arm heavy that has this finger hesitating to hit the publish button.  But I am certain God has big plans for a little writing spot from an average joe platform. I am excited to see what He has planned. 

The first steps were taken two years ago, and now it is time to go further into my own uncharted territory.

Side notes –  1. Look for more stories on my life experiences and my internal conversations with God in the near future.    2. After making the first step and talking with my employer they have responded positively to a slow transition away.  My hope was to go out on a very positive note, surprisingly (lol) they actually think I have done well over the years and welcomed my offer to help with a new hire.  We have agreed to work out a slow departure allowing the reality of my move to settle as I step further into Uncharted Territory.

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