Your fears are often not the threats you imagined

By Sandy Schussel

Sandy Schussel, LLC


My friend and fellow coach, Jason Westlake, took six executives deep into the Amazon last month for an unforgettable coaching/jungle experience. He spent several weeks before the group arrived working with scientists in a remote area that has barely been touched by civilization. Here’s how he described his first night there:
    I slept by myself in a small tent about 200 feet into the jungle along a trail. There was nothing but thick brush around me, and I couldn't see to the nearest tent.

    I couldn't get to sleep, and at around 3 a.m., I heard a horrible, ugly growl that lasted at least six seconds. And the sound was close. I went through every animal I knew in my head to try and identify the sound, but the only thing I could think of was a big cat, like a jaguar. The growl made my spine tingle.

    I prayed that it would go away. But I heard it again 10 minutes later, and then a third time, and then a fourth, over the space of only 30 minutes. By the fourth growl, I was ready to fight the jaguar. I was ready to face my death.

    In the morning, I got up and told all the scientists my story about the growl. They replied, "Oh, that wasn't a jaguar. That was just a Great Potoo.”

    "What's a Great Potoo?” I asked.

    They replied, "It's a night bird with a wide mouth and a horrible growl that sounds like a large mammal."

I have often faced situations where I was to give a presentation to an audience I imagined as a room filled with killer jungle cats, or where I needed to call someone who was ready skin me alive. As I came closer to the moment that I would have to make that presentation or that phone call, I envisioned embarrassment, stumbling and stuttering — circumstances I viewed as being far worse than death. When the moment finally came, though, I found I had only been up against the Great Potoo!

Those growls we hear in the night are rarely vicious jaguars. Face your fears, and you may discover that they're not nearly as great a threat as you had imagined.