‘The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.’
Beautiful isn’t it? Elegantly written and inspiring in its construction, Amelia Earhart really did create something lovely here. In a fluency reserved for the masters of prose, she confesses as to how she managed to be liberated from the self-imposed fear that she placed upon herself and became something more.
Seriously, take a moment and cast your eyes back to the top of this post and allow the beauty of Earhart’s words to sink in before you continue any further. And while you’re there, think about what you want in your life more than anything in the world. And I don’t mean bullshit superficial or material possessions, I mean what you really want. Do you want to be loved? Do you want to be successful? Do you want to get your damned novel published and start leaving your mark on the literary industry? Or do you just want to craft the perfect ending to a manuscript that has been years in the making?
That lust that you feel, that flame of desire that flickers in your soul when you imagine everything that you could have, that you could be, or that you could do; it’s insatiable isn’t it?
Now think about what is stopping you from actually obtaining those goals. It could be money, status, ego, peers, or a million other reasons. No matter what it is, it’s all just shit; trivial, superfluous shit that we use as excuses to safe guard ourselves against our own fear of failure. They are faux threats to our success and happiness that we create in our mind’s eye so that we can live in the comfort of our own mediocrity and tell ourselves that we are happy there. We are living our lives afraid of paper tigers, foolishly telling ourselves that there are lions at the door.
The term Paper Tiger is a literal translation of the Chinese phrase Zhilaohu, and refers to something that seems threatening, but is actually ineffectual and unable to withstand challenge. It is a rather interesting concept when you stop and consider the connotations of its meaning. How many times in your life have you told yourself that something was hard, dangerous, or impossible, only to overcome that hurdle and see just how easily your transcended above the challenge? That hurdle, that insurmountable mountain you had to climb to succeed was a god-damn paper tiger. There was no threat; you were just mentally screwing yourself into believing there was.
The troubling thing is that we as a species do it so well. We create these mental barriers and blockades to hold ourselves back from our true potential. We tell ourselves we aren’t good enough, that we are undeserving. But true brilliance is within our grasp. We just have to front up, stare that risk in the face and take what we want by force. You deserve to be so much more. We all do. Take it from a guy who has spent a lifetime creating the most exquisitely repulsive paper tigers imaginable, every single threat you perceive to be standing between you and a brighter future can be overcome.
Let’s be honest, I’ve screwed around a lot in my life. I’ve made mistakes and I’ve cost myself some incredible opportunities. For the most part the reasoning behind those stuff ups and my flaws come down to the imagined threats that I have allowed to fester within my own mind. I’ve told myself that I’m not worthy of a publishing agreement, that my writing isn’t as strong as others, or that I am just simply not cut out for the life as a writer. I’ve allowed manuscripts to defeat me as endings eluded my grasp. And I have watched potential representation slip through my fingers because I told myself that people are out to screw me rather than aid my successes. I’ve cowered like there were lions tearing down my door, when in reality there was nothing but fictional beasts running rampant in my head.
So how do we overcome the illusory creatures that claw at the back of our minds and threaten to devour every ounce of creative freedom, success, or wonder that we long for? How do we throw caution to the wind and say ‘fuck it, I am good enough, I am deserving, and I am beautiful?’ Well, I’m not about to claim to know all of the answers to overcoming our flaws and rediscovering the better angels of our nature, but I will say this: When the lions are at the door, take a deep breath, shut your eyes tight and try to differentiate between the roars of true danger, and the purrs of those ineffectual voices within your own head.
History’s greatest minds, people like Amelia Earhart, all had their versions of paper tigers, but they learned to overcome them. As Earhart says, ‘the most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.’ All you have to do is defeat the monsters you are creating in your head, then persevere, because everything you ever dreamed of is closer than you think.