“Are there any alligators in this lake?”
I was down in Florida, about to take a barefoot water ski lesson from a two-time World Barefoot Champion. The thought of alligators didn’t cross my mind until that moment. I was about to get into a lake that averaged 600 alligators per square mile…
And I was scared.
“Alligators don’t come near the boat because the engine scares them away,” my instructor reassured me.
My passion for the sport of barefoot water skiing was about to outweigh fear. I put my feet on the water, stood up, and felt a joy that had been buried for too many years.
When you do something you’re passionate about, you are willing to challenge yourself to do more than you ever thought you could do — you step way, way, way out of your comfort zone when you live on the edge.
I was hooked, but there was just one problem — the more lessons I took, the more the fear escalated. When I floated in the water while waiting for the boat to pick me up, I imagined hungry 13-foot alligators slithering underneath.
Then the nightmares began.
At three in the morning, I was jolted awake by the image of an alligator with a wide-open mouth about to snap down on me.
I contemplated giving up the lessons and skiing in lakes that were alligator free — but that would mean giving up passion over fear.
“You need to face your fears,” the World Barefoot Champion told me. “You need to see them for the magnificent creatures they are.”
“Are you crazy! I can’t do that!”
I shuddered at the very thought.
All fear stems from the imagined and the unknown. The human mind is very powerful in dreaming up scenarios that feed on fear. Yet, the only way around fear is smack dab through it.
And here’s the thing: You attract what you fear. How do I know this? Because alligators started showing up in my life left and right.
A few years later, I started barefooting with Ken Cowles — who is known as The Gator Guy. He’s a state licensed alligator trapping agent. He’s the guy you call when a wayward gator gets stuck in your pool.
“We need to conquer that fear you harbor,” he told me one day. Then he hauled out a ten-foot gator and made me sit on it.
I was shaking for a long, long time afterwards.
The act of getting upfront close to the very thing that I feared most was cathartic. I discovered I had the courage to do the very thing I was extremely frightened of.
There’s a part of you that comes alive when you do something that you think you cannot do and you get to the other side of it.
If you’re holding back in life because of fears that you harbor within you, it’s time to get clear on what you WANT in your life, not what you fear.
Choose passion over fear.
We just came back from a funeral. An extended family member passed away from a sudden heart attack. He had a beautiful memorial to celebrate his life–the church was full.
Death has a way of nudging us to do life differently–to reach out more, to hug harder, to love deeper.
I had been stagnant for a while. A new job came with a learning curve and time devoted to writing technical stuff. I had added so much to my plate that things were falling off and crashing to the ground. I launched a book and wrote another book in the same time period. Coupled with travel, speaking, and coaching, the plate had been bending and I was trying to keep everything on the plate. In fact, one of the topics I covered with my plate-juggling friend, Tina Childress, was: “How to Spin 27 Plates and Keep Them From Crashing. (Usually.)”
Jackie Woodside, author of Calming the Chaos and an upcoming book, The Money Vibe, told me, “Take something off your plate.”
Less is more. I know this lesson. I’ve been trying to assimilate it into my life for the last year and half, with results that are a “half and half” success rate. The hubby and I downsized our house, trading it for a townhouse just minutes from his work. We rode our bikes downtown and split meals at our favorite restaurant on Saturday afternoons. We donated or sold a lot of our stuff, yet a lot of stuff remains–some which still tugs at our hearts (precious pictures!) and some which simply needs to be organized or gone.
In the last few years, several mentors have taught me the practice of gratitude.
When you wake up in the morning, what are you grateful for?
When you lie your head on the pillow at night, what are you grateful for?
This simple practice of reflecting gratitude has shifted my view of bliss. Bliss happens when we are grateful for what we have–for what is good in our life at the given moment. When I forget to practice it, that’s when life dumps road blocks and bumps in my way. It’s so easy to lose the focus on what’s good when you’re deep in the bad.
The one thing I know for sure is this: when we forget the gift of gratitude, life can take away our precious gifts.
And to you, dear reader, I’m grateful for you.
Check out Karen’s latest book, Unwrapping Your Passion, Creating the Life You Truly Want
Ugh, I’m so fat.
That was the thought going through my head after getting off the water during Women’s Barefoot Week. I had packed on the pounds from too much writing and too little exercise and I was really feeling the results.
Not to mention seeing the results.
I cringed at the pictures that showed up online. On the water, I was struggling each day–not only with the extra pounds but also with the mental beatings I was giving myself every time I squeezed into the wetsuit. I was holding back and not really having fun on the water.
I blamed my weight.
Things finally came to a head one day when all of us gals were walking back to the house after an intense day on the water.
“You have to stop being so negative,” one of the gals said. “You’re too hard on yourself. You’re beautiful.”
As a “fat” girl who has dealt with up and down weight gain and loss over the years, I was struggling deeply once again. I had shed the weight several years ago after getting back into the sport of barefoot water skiing–and now it was all piling back on. There was a whole myriad of emotions going on–and there was no escaping any of the feelings that were swirling around inside.
To top things off, Community Voices on Facebook released a video that we filmed a year ago–and at first, I didn’t want to share that video with anyone. I was ashamed of the pounds I had put on.
I was really lucky that my friend had the courage to call me out about my negative views about my body. I had to do something different about the messages that were going around in my head. It was affecting my ability to have fun and to enjoy the sport that I’m usually so passionate about.
So the next time I went on the water, I decided to say something positive to myself–to appreciate the body that was performing amazing things despite the extra pounds. The mental conversations took on a happier tone. I enjoyed my session on the water so much more, because I was able to focus on the things I could passionately do–and forget about the weight.
So if this is you–if you’re struggling with weight issues and it’s holding you back in life–join me in making a pact in moving forward–toward the things you’re passionate about–without letting weight hold you back.
Want a dose of passion in your life? Grab Karen’s latest book: Unwrapping Your Passion
Or take a class: Unwrapping Your Passion Course
“I’m heading to Minneapolis for work and I’m looking for a pull.”
My friend, Paul Oman, a competitive barefoot water skier, responded quickly to my Facebook request. I was on a quest to barefoot water ski in all 50 states for my 50th decade. Minnesota would be my twelfth state on my 50 States for my 50’s tour.
Paul and I met at my first barefoot tournament up in Wisconsin several years ago. I was immediately impressed by his performance on the water. Paul learned to barefoot water ski when he was 40. He shared some of his memories with me:
As a youth, I was fascinated by barefoot skiers at ski shows and dreamed about doing that some day. When I finally got a boat fast enough to pull me footing, I tried a few ski step offs and took hard falls that made me put that dream on hold.Later in life, at the age of 40, I learned about new tools (the barefoot boom) that make learning much easier and found a local ski school that let me try it. I made a tumble around start on my first try and was hooked. Ending that first run wasn’t as pretty. The instructor told me to let go and I immediately caught a toe and took a hard fall. The instructor asked “That hurt didn’t it?” When I replied “darn right it did” he said “now I’m going to show you how to stop.”I got a boom for my boat and used it often but the boat didn’t go fast enough for me to do very much. I looked into getting a better barefoot boat and heard about local tournaments. I went to my first tournament just to check out the boat and did my trick run (a single wave) in front of a big crowd. Everyone had gathered to watch Jon Kretchman, who followed me in the running order. We were both in classes of our own – me as a raw novice and he as a top pro.I continued going to tournaments to watch all the skiing and get tips and enjoy hanging around with all the great skiers. I’ve always been impressed with how helpful other skiers are – even with their competitors.
At 64 years of age, Paul tackles the sport like a 20-year-old. He continually learns new things and pushes himself to reach new levels of skill. He is one of the few seniors who jump competitively in tournaments.
“I started taking lessons from pros to ensure I wouldn’t develop bad habits,” Paul said. “Ron Scarpa, the four-time World Barefoot Champion, talked me into trying jumping. I thought it was silly, because I didn’t expect to ever jump in a tournament, but I trusted his judgement. Ron had incredible patience and taught me to jump in very gradual stages–and that ultimately led to setting a national record. My first tournament jump was in 2002. It was unremarkable except that, until just recently when I set the national Men 6 jump record in 2015, it was the longest jump of my career–maybe it was beginner’s luck?”
The weather was absolutely wonderful when Paul and I stepped outside on a Friday morning and headed down to the dock. There was a light wind, just enough to create a ripple on the water, and it was getting a little rough in the middle of the lake.
“I’ve got a spot where we can always find calm water,” Paul reassured me.
I had not barefooted much over the summer so I was truly out of shape, but I enjoyed the runs. It was just the two of us in the boat, so we took turns driving and barefooting.
Paul decided to go backwards behind the boat. I was a little nervous at first, as I had only driven that kind of pull once before, but Paul was a pro and got up with ease.
Before I left, I gave Paul a copy of Unwrapping Your Passion and he looked at the book with hesitation.
“I don’t really read books,” he said.
“That’s okay, just skim through it and you can give it to someone else,” I said.
A few days later, I was delighted to learn that Paul enjoyed the book!
A special thank you to Phonak for making it possible to barefoot water ski around the country!
The difference between an ordinary life and an extraordinary one is:
Passion is an energy like no other. Once you unwrap passion and implement new habits–life takes on a whole new dimension. I study and live this on a daily basis. Through the ups and downs, passion is fuel.
In the last several years, I’ve talked to over 200 people about passion and learned from the experts. I wrote a book about everything I learned about passion: Unwrapping Your Passion. I’ve given the Passion Test to hundreds of people and I never fail to be amazed at the results–people ARE making a difference in their lives by choosing to live passionately. We have a kinder, happier world when people are engaged in practices that bring joy.
And now YOU have the opportunity to take a course that will give you the tools to unwrap your passion at ANY age.
And I really mean ANY age. Passion is a state of mind–it’s an energy you can tap into. Learn how you can tap into yours:
When you follow Karen Putz’s formula for Unwrapping Your Passions,
the gift you’ll find inside right next to your passions will be deep, true, and lasting happiness.
Marci Shimoff, NY Times Bestselling Author of Happy for No Reason