On Diligence and Running Towards Fear.

On Diligence and Running Towards Fear.

In her book, When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron shares the story of her teacher, Trungpa Rinpoche’s, response to being asked if he had ever been afraid. He explains that he was once confronted by a fierce guard dog. The people he was traveling with ran from the dog. He ran toward the dog. The dog was so surprised that he ran quickly away. Chodron approaches fear and anxiety as moments to stop struggling and look directly at what is threatening. “The spiritual journey involves going beyond hope and fear, stepping in to unknown territory, continually moving forward. The most important aspect of being on the spiritual path may be to just keep moving.” She acknowledges how hard it can be to keep moving, “Rather than realizing it takes death for there to be birth, we just fight against the fear of death.”

The moments that scare us can be exceptional teachers. There’s profound wisdom in the simple acknowledgment that we rarely learn from our triumphs and that we can learn from and grow significantly in the middle of heartbreaking failures. Why do we fight against the fear of these failures?

Chodron shares a possible answer, “If sometimes we can approach what scares us, and sometimes we absolutely can’t, then that’s our experience. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and it’s always with us. It is really a most profound instruction. Awakeness is found in our pleasure and our pain, our confusion and our wisdom, available in each moment of our weird unfathomable, ordinary everyday lives.”

Recently, I’ve been knee-deep helping several members prepare their practices for sale to large private-equity backed groups and DSOs. Peeled back and boiled down to its essence, what I’m really doing with these doctors is an exercise in due diligence. I shared in last weekend’s Burleson Report that the Hebrew language uses two word pictures to illustrate diligence: dawn and a knife, thus portraying an individual who is fully awake and alert and whose skills are sharpened and honed. These doctors have reported back to me that they are much more comfortable with the thought of selling (or not) because they are going into the process fully awake and alert and they’ve learned new skills to identify opportunities and weaknesses in the business, which has helped them understand the process and to not be so afraid of the next chapter in their lives.

To Chodron’s point, it’s the running towards our fears, the leaping into the unknown, the use of the present moment to be fully awake and alert that make for a diligent, thoughtful path forward; putting your skills to good use, enacting the change you wish to see in your world.

Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.