Ezine Header

2006: Issue 17

Terror and Exhilaration

I sent my youngest off to school yesterday to begin his senior year in high school….a milestone year for sure and for the first time since about first grade, I had the sense he was glad school was starting.  Due to a variety of circumstances, he was more idle this summer than previous ones, so he was ready to exercise his mind.  Perhaps seeing his friends every day and his girlfriend may have had something to do with his readiness, yet I also sensed in him this fear of atrophy, of loosing what he had worked so hard for, if he didn’t start using it again. 

When I was his age, as embarrassed as I should now be to admit it, I thought learning occurred primarily in school, in classrooms with teachers, and that when I was done with my college education, I would be done learning, so to speak, and ready to work, to apply what I had learned.  I am not sure when I realized that the education I received in schools  marked only the beginning of my learning, but thankfully I did; for had I not, I would   clearly be stuck, for without continuous learning it is almost impossible to move forward. 

Not long ago, I participated in a tele-class led by Michael Bungay Stanier whose byline reads “get unstuck and get going”.  While the chance to get CEUs led me to call, their value is less than the value of my take away message that has jumpstarted me and my clients, as my learning shared generates continuous return.  Michael contends as many do that the secret to doing great work is saying no to good work.  Makes sense; however, the “gotcha” came with his definition of great work: “the crossroads where terror and exhilaration meet.”

Terror and exhilaration! Combine that with our learning about the brain, and it’s obvious why it is so easy to stay satisfied with good.   For the adrenaline junkies, the combination of terror and exhilaration may be very attractive.  However, for me and many others I know, the exhilaration part is attractive, but not the terror—heck no. And yet how right he is, and at some point in our lives, we have all felt it and survived it, hopefully to be better for the experience even if it is simply the ability to say I did it. 

I am fortunate in that I can remember many teachers who encouraged me to explore ideas, to stretch my thinking, and challenged me to take it just one step further.  For them I am grateful as well as for those who didn’t for their lessons may have been as impacting.  Shawn has had his share of both, and I am hoping that he will realize sooner than I did that school as he knows it is an important but relatively small piece of life’s learning paradigm. 

Many of my clients state they feel stuck, and come to coaching wanting to essentially get “unstuck”.  It’s not that they are not happy; in fact, many say something like, “I should be satisfied.  Everything is okay.”  Their life circle is full of good.  Their restlessness indicates that good  is not enough, and they want great, although they often have no idea what it is or what they will be doing if they get it and get “unstuck”.  Much of our work is around identifying and exploring possibilities.  I have found that by sharing Michael’s definition of great, “the crossroads where terror and exhilaration meet”, they are less likely to dismiss an idea and more likely to fully explore it, recognize pushing through is simply a matter of exercising their courage muscle.  To help, many often recall that visceral feeling they had at some point earlier in their life when exhilaration and terror met, where they indeed experienced great, and that recall often propels them forward in hopes of experiencing it again.  

Next time an idea or possibility pops into your mind, resist the temptation to immediately dismiss it.  Instead, allow yourself the opportunity to explore it some more to see if your resistance is related to the terror of replacing good with great (as you define it) versus it’s just not a good idea or  the risk is too great.  To help, consider answering these questions:

If failing was not possible, what would you do?
What do you want?
What are you afraid of?
How are you getting in your own way?

Founded in 2003 and based in Roanoke, Virginia, Extra Ordinary Living works with individuals, organizations and teams to identify possibilities, create opportunities, remove obstacles and through deliberate action, optimize results.

Usually the first question we are asked, is why Tiberius? Our trivia friends can often identify the references……yes, Tiberius was the 2nd Roman emperor, and yes, Tiberius is the middle name of James T. Kirk from Star Trek. One of our life mottos and business principles is “to learn from the past, look to the future while living in the present.” Thus, Extra Ordinary Living.

As Professional Coaches, we are trained to listen, to observe and to customize our approach to our clients needs.  We provide tools, support, structure and accountability to help our clients unleash their full potential and optimize results.  The best thing about coaching is it is all about you – the client, and what you want.  We may share our opinions and give you advice, but it is up to you to pick and choose what you want to accept.  We suspend judgment and will support you in your decisions. 

As Professional Speakers, our messages are inspirational while imparting useful, practical and memorable information in a fun and dynamic way to help our audiences live  extra ordinary lives.  

The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
– Joseph Campbell

Janet Crawford, MHA, MBA
Professional Certified Coach

A publication of Extra Ordinary Living,  Extra Ordinary Living is written for aspiring individuals striving to make a difference, and wanting to explore, experience and excel in all aspects of their life.

“Without deviation, progress is not possible."
– Frank Zappa

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
– Franklin Roosevelt

"Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads."
– Erica Jong


On September 26, Janet will be presenting at the VANHA Annual conference, It’s a Brain Thing: Can We Really Do More with Less?