The fear is held at bay

Three months ago, Chelsea and I sat in a hotel room late one night in Chiang Rai, Thailand. We were painfully aware that we had no money flowing in, but every day we had money flowing out. It was a predicament. My hope then, as it is now, was that my books would be able to support us financially. But as I hadn’t released Following After Trek yet, that was impossible. I needed a job.

We were stressed about the future and were both curious about how we would make it. Traveling the world is a blast, but unless you have a steady cash stream (which we don’t), at times it can be a lot of pressure. Food, lodging, and clothes aren’t free in any country, and I needed to do something.

I remember feeling the strain of our situation vividly. The pressure filled me to my core and to prevent myself from exploding, I put my thoughts to words and wrote a short story about it called “Fear”. It read as follows:

Fear of failure is a part of everyday life. It is a shadow that looms ever present, sometimes feeling near, and sometimes very far.  No matter what my profession or location in life, it has always been there; a battle inside my emotions vying for supremacy in my mind. The battle is between my fear of failure, and my belief in success. Usually, my fear of failure is held at bay by continual forward progress or accomplishment.

When I worked in a corporate world, I could point to the increasing size of my paycheck or upward mobility within the ranks to assuage my fear.  At the time, I believed that providing financially for my family would hold the fear of failure at bay. But it didn’t. I began to fear things less tangible than monetary security. Things like time,  how I spent it,  how quickly it passed me by and drifting apart from my wife and children. Realizing that every day I left for work with aims to be more efficient, was one more step in the opposite direction from my family. I wondered if all the money I made or success I achieved would be accompanied by vague memories and hollow familial relationships. Would I fail at being a father and a husband?

That was my fear then. When Trek was born in my arms I realized something profound about my life. That moment felt so wonderful because I was exactly where I supposed to be doing exactly what I was supposed to do. I realized that any moment spent doing anything other than what you wanted was a waste of time. I had always dreamed of being an author and traveling the world with my family. Eventually, I left my job, and we sold everything confident that we could chase our dreams and succeed. 

Ten months later, we have done what we set out to and are now living our dreams in Thailand. We have traveled to many places including Disneyland, Nicaragua, Honduras, Texas, Japan, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand. Even though we have done all of that, once again, the fear of failure looms and tonight my wife and I are in the thick of it.

I have not worked for the past ten months. We have some savings, and that, combined with donations for Trek, has sustained us for the past ten months. As the bank account balance grows smaller, it brings the ever-familiar fear of failure back to the forefront.

 I have written a book called Following After Trek. I finished it in August, and it has been in the editing process ever since. I am totally excited about it and believe in it. Chelsea and I have been working like crazy over the past three months to complete it. It is almost ready to be released and questions that before weren’t an issue, now are. Things like: What if no one likes my book? What if my dreams of being a successful author can never been realized? How will I provide for my family if it doesn’t work? 

I have applied at a few schools to teach English. On Monday, I will ramp up the intensity of that search. All the while believing that my book will be successful and hoping that I won’t need a teaching position at all. But I know the reality of being a father and a provider, and I cannot rest their needs on hopes alone.

The battle in my mind between the fear of failure and the hope of success still rages, but there is a difference between what I feel now and the fear I felt before we decided to pursue our dreams. 

Prior to our traveling, our relationship at times was strained and marred by effort. Today, I can truthfully say that my wife and I have never loved each other more. When I married my wife, I was enthralled by the passion of her kiss, the beauty of her face, or the softness of her skin. Over time, I learned to not only take those things for granted, but to forget them almost entirely. Eight months into our journey around the world and being around her is intoxicating. It is like I have rediscovered our love for each other and the feelings that led us to want to be married in the first place. They sustain us on a daily basis.

Before leaving on our journey around the world, I had communication problems with my five year old son, Conner. Often he was angry at me and our conversations ended with me hurting his feelings and in tears. Eight months later, our relationship is spectacular, and I have been able to get to know, understand, and enjoy him as a person.

Tonight as my wife and I were driving home, we reflected about our life together and measured what has been possible by our decision to come this far. Living with a reckless pursuit of our dream to travel the world and be together as a family allowed us to live a life with Trek that neither of us regret. Each moment of  Trek’s life was something that we savored and is fantastically visceral in our memory.

When I think about these things, I wonder what is my paradigm for success? On the one hand, my dwindling bank account, hope in a book, and the prospect of a teaching job in Thailand are fiscally dubious. But on the other hand, the most important things like my relationships with my wife and children have never been stronger. Even things like my physical health are phenomenal. In the past 8 months I have lost 35 lbs.

When I think of these things, I am able to hold my fear at bay. Do I know that my book will sell the 20 million copies that I hope for?


Do I have an answer for the dwindling funds or how I will have enough money to continue traveling around the world?


But I know that I’ve never been closer to my wife or my sons, and that will hold my fear at bay.

Aside from the book that is in the process of being published, I have three other books I’m writing. Two are fiction novels and one is a book about how to follow your dreams. I often tell Chelsea that moments like these are what give “following your dreams” books context and meaning. It is not the moments of triumph that are most crucial to following your dreams, it is persevering through looming feelings of failure or hoping for success against all odds or conventional wisdom. Those moments and how to get past them are the ones that will fill the pages of my book

So while I am afraid about the future, the battle in my mind will be won by belief in success. Not because I have a crystal ball guaranteeing it, but because I have tasted the joys of following my dreams and seen the impact it has had on my life. Because I have remembered what it is to be in love with my wife, and I can’t imagine spending one day apart from her. Because I have three glorious children who amaze me every moment of every day, and I don’t want to miss a moment of it.

When my children look back on our life, hopefully they will remember this message:

Whatever your dream is, pursue it with every fiber of your being, no matter the cost.  Believe in it and silence the fear of failure inside yourself because the only real failure would be giving up.

Today is September 25th, 2012 and at least for awhile, the looming fear is held at bay.

By the time I finished, my family was asleep, and I closed my laptop filled with a renewed sense of purpose.

The next day, I sat eating lunch next to a mannequin covered from head to toe in condoms. We were in the middle of a visa run to Myanmar. The restaurant was called “Cabbages and Condoms”, and no, it wasn’t good. I didn’t expect it to be, but when a restaurant has “Condoms” in the title, it would seem criminal not to at least pop in for a look. I don’t remember what we ate amongst the sea of latex, but I remember what we were doing: we were trying to enjoy the moment and not stress out about money. As I was looking over a colorful menu, complete with cartoon characters made of condoms, the song “Ain’t that a Kick in the Head” chimed from my phone. It was a number I didn’t recognize and from Thailand. I placed my finger on the green icon on my screen and slid it over to answer. A male voice with a thick Thai accent came over the phone and identified himself as a man named Bat. He was calling me from the Rajabhat University in Surat Thani, Thailand. He told me he had a teaching job in Surat Thani, and if I wanted it, the job was mine. My heart started pounding in my chest as he described the position and the compensation to me. It wouldn’t make us rich, but it would allow us to eat and pay rent. I asked a few questions to avoid looking like a slouch, and then accepted the job. In under five minutes, it was done.

Months and weeks earlier, I had applied to dozens of schools across Thailand and heard very few responses.  The ones that did respond, ended up not hiring me because of my lack of experience. Regardless of what is on the resume, there is no substitute for classroom experience. That was something that I did not have, and ironically, the only way to get it was for one of these schools to hire me. During the course of my rejection though, I spoke at length with a British gentlemen who told me that he would forward my resume to a friend of his over at the Surat Thani Rajabhat University. It was a nice gesture, but I certainly didn’t think anything of it. At least not until my conversation with Bat reminded me of it.

I was excited for the job, but more excited that the day before when all Chelsea and I wanted to do was give into our fear, we persisted. It made that moment when I got the job that much sweeter. It was a reward for a hopeless belief. Faith in a notion that we as a family can and will find a way to pursue our dream in spite of the odds or looming fear of failure.

Fast forward to today. I have published following after Trek, but I feel a similar fear as I did before. I write countless emails to newspapers, periodicals, and any other institutions that review and market books, but I’ve received few responses. I watch the sales reports online with anxious devotion and look for reviews like a man in desert looking for water. That same fear I have felt my whole life still looms in the background, demanding to be heard. But today, just as before, I will remember the words I wrote months ago:

Whatever your dream is, pursue it with every fiber of your being, no matter the cost.  Believe in it and silence the fear of failure inside yourself because the only real failure would be giving up.

Today is 12/12/12, and once again, the fear is held at bay.

Until Next Time,


black for jar final

32 thoughts on “The fear is held at bay

  1. wow…amazing post!!!! I admire your words and am beyond proud of you and your family!! I know that does not mean much coming from me;) But I also know there are hundreds all over the world rooting for you alongside me and that is super cool and rare! I know your book(s) are going to grow and grow and before long your name will be known everywhere!! Keep doing what you are all doing! It is simply amazing and I know your life has great things ahead..look how far y’all have come already!! love you J-Rock!

    • On the contrary, you opinion is one of the few that does matter to me. Not that I would admit it more than once. If you asked me if I wrote this comment tomorrow, I would claim that my account was hacked by anonymous, and they were filling my pages with vicious lies.

      Thanks for your continued support. I can’t imagine my family without you.

      Love you, just don’t tell anyone.

  2. I read your wives blogs daily,ya’ll are truly an inspiration. Your a great author! I have a son with autism who has lung disease,hes 8.I have alot of fear also! Thanks for the short story! Good Luck 🙂 I’m going to buy your book for my 14 year old son,whose separated his self from reality and thinks everything is suppose to be given to him(hopefully it will be a reality check)

    • Wow. I’m sorry to hear about your son. I would love to hear more about your son. If your comfortable doing it in a comments page, or if would prefer email, just let me know. I am familiar with autism in a general sense, but woefully ignorant in specifics.

      Thank you for the compliment and I hope you son enjoys the book. Your comments are appreciated and mean more than you know!

  3. Pingback: fear of failure « Our Sonny Life

  4. Love this post and especially this outlook on life! Definitely will have to share this with my hubby – I think he would relate to how you felt in the past and would be encouraged by what you have been able to gain and accomplish by following your dreams and your heart. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Nice to know that someone else has thoughts like I do. Thanks for putting them out here in the public domain and giving me hope. You may have mentioned this, but is the salary enough for you guys to live on? We’ve considered doing something like this. I taught music for 12 years, so teaching is not new to me. Just curious.

    • Hey Don, good to hear from you, and I’m glad to know that someone else feels the same as I do! In answer to my salary, I get paid 30,000 baht a month. That’s about 1000.00 US. My house cost 180.00 a month + $70.00 for utilities. Chelsea and I have an aversion to doing our own laundry, so that cost’s an extra 60$ a month. I spend about $20.00 a month getting to and from school. In case you left your abacus at home, that leaves about $670.00 a month for food & fun. That translates to about 680.00 baht a day. That is totally doable. I know because we do it. We splurge sometimes and dip into funds generated by my book, but for the most part, that is what we live on.

      So, yes is the short answer, but it very much depends on what you would be comfortable with and how many mouths you have to feed.

      Great question 🙂

  6. Inspiratonal and very thought provoking post. I especially love the paragraph where you talk about Chelsea and your love for her….too bad every husband doesn’t feel that way about their wife. I’m so proud of both of you and the joy you bring to your boys and to each other. You’re an incredible family and a great example to every parent. Keep living your dream and hold that fear at bay. You have been blessed and I believe your books will soon soar! Lots of love!

    • Thanks Jalene! Nice to hear from you. And as kind as your words are, maybe more husbands would feel that way about their wives if they were married to Chelsea! She is an amazing woman, and I am overjoyed that I found her. Thanks for the encouragement. Have you read Following After Trek yet?

      • I am in the process of reading “Following After Trek” and am enjoying it so much! I love the lay-out of the book with every other chapter being fictional then real life. Although I’ve heard most of the real life version already, it’s been completely different hearing it from your perspective. I love the book and can’t wait to finish it! I promise to write a review once I’m done! 🙂

        **I started to comment the first time that if everyone had a wife like Chelsea, then all husbands would be intoxicated by their wife, but I didn’t want to hurt Amanda’s feelings (you know how needy & sensitive she is) 🙂

  7. Loved your short story. Inspirational and a reminder to many about how we are, or should be, living our lives. As I was reading it, I was thinking you would write a great book on how to follow dreams. So I’m thrilled that that is what one of your works-in-progress is about. I look forward to reading it!

    • Thanks Anne! I’m about twelve thousand words into my “following your dreams” book. As I mentioned to Angelo though, I’m going to publish my book chapter by chapter on my blog. Thanks for the words of encouragement, and I hope that you enjoy the book to come!

  8. Your writing is so beautiful! Every time I read your writing and every day that I read Chelsea’s blog, I get one step closer to throwing aside the fear and just starting my dreams-or searching for what I truly want to do in life. I think I still have some walls to break Down before I jump in feet first but you both are inspiration.

  9. Ok, so I want to support your journey. But -in all honesty, sadly- I rarely read. Keeping up with 2 blogs is a reach for me. And I feel TOO MUCH just reading your blogs. (there is a compliment nested in there, I promise! it is not a complaint. You are both just wonderful writers, *really* a touching a mama’s soft heart) So- do you guys still use your PayPal or FundRazr accounts? It wont even finance your boat ride home (we are holding our own fear at bay, month 12 of my husband’s “consulting”)…but I want to throw a little directly to your journey, send my support.

    • Hello Meg.

      Nice to hear from you. I totally understand how difficult it is to keep up with blogs (I only read four myself). Thank you for wanting to help with our journey! On my wife’s blog there is a little paypal button on the right side entitled “donate now”. If you want to support our journey, that is how you would do it. And you’d be surprised how much would pay for our boat ride ;). Things are pretty cheap overhere in our corner of the world. Things for the kind words and saying hello!

  10. What an awesome post, Jarrett. I feel like it took me over 50 years to learn what is most important in life. Good for you and Chelsea for knowing this in half the time!!! 🙂 I truly believe you are giving your boys the greatest possible gift. By chasing your dreams and living in the moment, you are teaching them by teaching them HOW to learn, not WHAT to learn. There is nothing better a parent can do!

  11. What a wonderful post. 🙂 I will always be a fan of you and Chelsea and your way with words! Always! (I am posting a review today by the way but under my husband’s name because I just realized my other account on Amazon is tied to my pen name and well…I want to stay anonymous in that other name haha). Anyway, I feel that as an artist, fear cuts us deeper because our words we share are so personal. However, just like a professional athlete who keeps playing the game despite his critics, there is no greater joy than doing what you love and loving what you do. I am quite sure you are are gaining tales upon tales to share at your school and that job not only is providing extra cash flow, but more ideas :). I wanted to share with you a man’s blog. His name is Hugh Howey and he is now a New York Times Bestselling author. Here’s his site: http://www.hughhowey.com/

    Before he hit it big with his short stories (SHORT STORIES! As in selling thousands upon thousands a day), he happily was a sea captain, and then worked in a bookstore while he happily wrote his short stories each day. I think you will resonate with him :).

    Anyway, keep on chanting with your anthem of what is true success. The American dream has it all backwards. Sure some have two houses, amazing cars and clothes, what not, but do they even know their kid’s top three best friends’ name? (Sigh). I can’t wait to see the day when a book is released by you and Chelsea that will be “the next big thing”. Sort of like when we were all in college and everyone was reading, “Wild at Heart” by John Eldridge. You have it in you, the words are within you, so now just keep pressing on and submitting those requests to papers and magazines. Eventually someone will say yes. And as you know, it only takes one yes! Many blessings to you and your family! Lacy and Joel (and my cat Blue, haha)

    • Thanks Lacy! I’ll check out the link. Thank you for the wonderful words of encouragement. And I can’t wait to read your review! Your right about the one “yes”. All of us artists are only one right person away from our work being marketed and exposed. Between you and me, I hope that comes sooner rather than later :).

      Chelsea’s dying to read book three by the way.

      Great to hear from you.

  12. I am amazed by all of the comments, you deserve every one Jarrett. I love you so much and I am so proud to be your wife. xoxo

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