A Key JA Lesson: Embrace Your Fears

It’s the month of ghosts and goblins, trick or treaters and facing those things that go bump in the night. October also means we’re in the groove of a new school year, working closely with teachers and our volunteers to help students explore new ideas, develop new skills and, yes, face their fears.

And while students’ fears aren’t necessarily of the Halloween variety, they’re real and often center on being afraid to fail. They worry about making a wrong move, a bad choice or being disliked by their peers. Sometimes fear robs them of their confidence, their excitement or their hope.

As scared as we might be to try something new, doesn’t it always seem the case that people learn the most when they have the courage to step out of their comfort zone?

We recently met a young man who was participating in JA Kickstart Your Future, a program JA developed in partnership with the Denver Police Department for kids who may fall prey to gang influence. Eli is 14 and lives in a Denver community that has few, if any, positive role models.

During a JA Job Shadow excursion located in Denver’s tallest office building, Eli experienced his first elevator ride. He was terrified. But, as he stepped off of the elevator on the 44th floor, he was greeted by caring JA volunteers passionate about their work and their lives, who awakened him to his possibilities.

How can young people like Eli get excited about their future when their vision of the future is not about to what heights they’ll scale, but how soon they might fall?  That day Eli saw how high he can climb.  In his words, “The best part about today was hearing that stereotypes don’t define me, and I can do anything I put my mind to.”

As All Hallow’s Eve approaches, take a few minutes to think about what scares you, and like Eli, remember that change begins at the end of your comfort zone. American industrialist Henry Ford said, “One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.”