The Polar Bear Club, Risk Taking and Dr. Joe Vitale

“It’s better to be in charge of Change than to have to React to Change”

Roger Ailes

Thank God, 2013 is a memory and a horrendous one at that. It was the kind of year that seemed like it would never end. And, to make sure it would not reanimate, in a “just in case scenario:, I was ready, willing and waiting in the wings to beat it with a big stick. Yes, perhaps I take “The Walking Dead” episodes much too seriously.

I don’t know about you but 2013 seemed like every time I turned around there was something going terribly wrong.  It got so bad, I stopped turning around.

So, on Day 1, 2014, I decided to take charge, and not just talk change-that’s for theorists-but undertake some serious transformations.

As silly as it sounds, I had a brainstorm of an idea while watching the news.  There was a piece about the local Polar Bear Club.  For those of you unfamiliar with the organization, the purpose of the club is for members, thrill seekers and dunderheads to gather at a lake, river or ocean and throw caution to the on shore winds and a run into shiver-causing waters every January 1.

I don’t know what got into me but I made up my mind to join in.

Hey, it was the first day of the new year. It’s best to begin somewhere so, why not start at the beginning, right?  Charge!

OK, cut to the chase:  I drove to the beach where the Polar Bear event was held and joined 500 of my newest, closest friends that had assembled at the water’s edge.

It was a beautiful Chamber of Commerce Southern California day with a predicted high of 70 degrees-Downtown. That mild forecast did not apply to beach temperature realities; that called for a high somewhere in the 50’s.

OK, not relatively frigid or bone chilling, but cold nonetheless.

While waiting for the starting signal, I was beginning to get second thoughts about this experience and thinking it was all wet; which it was.

Those on-shore winds put in a guest appearance.  That made the 50+degrees temperatures feel even colder.  Let me put it this way I was beginning to freeze my butt off.

Now Southern California January cold is laughable and wimpy compared to the frigid climates of New York, Chicago or Seattle; No argument there. But, at that moment, I could have cared less about New York, Chicago or Seattle’s chill. I was dealing with my own immediate meteorological concerns and I was freaking cold.

The signal came.  It was Showtime! With some hesitation, I joined the hundreds of-what appeared to be-fearless aquatics drive, dive and dunk themselves into the cold Pacific waters.  Immediately, my feet went numb, a wave hit me.  And then, and then……it wasn’t all that bad.  It was cool but I could handle it.

Now, I did not stick around for a lengthy swim. There was nothing more to prove and it was definitely not the time for “macho.”   60 seconds of in and out followed by towel dry, hot chocolate, picking up an official Polar Bear Certificate suitable for bragging and framing and then heading on home do not score macho points.

The experience was a learning lesson.  But, it was not what I had expected. Sure, I did it but, in the grand scheme of things, it was really no big deal.

Hitting the waters was a bit of a shock. That’s a given.  But the anticipation of cold water exposure was so much worse.  And, it made me realize how the mind to magnifies things in preconception to the actual event. Most occurrences are nowhere as catastrophic as imagined.

When you think of it, we are reluctant risk takers. It is simply amazing that we accomplish as much as we do.  If only there were a device to disable angst and dread, we’d all be masters of the universe!

We all go through times of uncertainty.  Putting aside religion and spirituality, most of us look for solutions to improve our lot. Some look for THE ANSWER.  Unfortunately it’s never that simple.  There are so many components to an answer.

Being 50 Plus, life experience has taught us there is not all that much that is really all that simple.

And, life can be very stressful.  Unless you’re a masochist in good standing, who likes discomfort?  So, it’s natural to be pain-averse especially during these challenging times.

Earlier this week, I gave a talk. The presentation was tailored to job seekers whose current status fell in the “in between success” category. That’s not meant to be patronizing.  Unemployment is a growing and festering reality.  It is also a state of mind and a negative one.  In between success denotes hope, discovery, aspiration and expectations of light at the end of the tunnel.  This is not word play. Attitude is everything. It is “taking charge.”

A woman in the audience in her 20’s who was “in between success” and had been for about 6 months asked me how to get another job.  What specific step would secure her a job?

Sometimes you just can’t help.  She was too young to understand.  She didn’t have enough experience to take charge of needed changes in her life. There is no “one answer.” There is no “secret handshake.” or :password”  that open the door to opportunity.  But, so many people, young and old, spend so much wasted time pursuing the “one size fits all” holy grail.  It does not exist and never will.  All it does is waste time and stifle advancement..

It takes experience, practice, rejection, timing, perseverance, chemistry, luck and so many other factors.

It’s similar to a car.  Just because you own one does not mean it runs.  Cars need an engine, gas, grease, oil, steering wheel, tires, brakes, battery, etc.  We know that. And from experience, we have learned there are many components working together for a car to be operational.   In other words, out of complexity comes simplicity

As many of you know, Dr. Joe Vitale is my mentor.  Years before he became a leading online marketer, best selling author, in-demand speaker, singer/song writer and now movie star, he found himself broke and homeless.

At the time, he could not get arrested even if he tried.  As he told me, things were so bad that when people asked what was it like living in a car he would laugh at that image and reveal that living in a car would have been a luxury.

His ambition was becoming a writer.  However, the scribes he admired were down, depressed and/or suicidal. Talk about inspiration.  That got him nowhere.

It took time, experience and being slapped silly by reality to finally come to grips with the notion that those he lionized did not serve him well.  What he needed was a course correction. Eventually,  he learned to emulate the lives and writings of more positive role models.  The rest is a history of success.

He took charge of his change.

Joe really is an inspiration.  If he can make it, so can you.  By the way, do yourself a favor and check out his new book, “At Zero” available at your local bricks and mortar, online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or by going to www.http://atzerobook.com.  You will thank me.

Let’s face it, take charge of your change.  You need to start someplace.  There is no one answer, no one way.  That Simplicity mindset will soon reveal its deceit.  You got to just go for it and dive in.

And, know this: Reality is not nearly as bad as the anticipation of it.. Don’t be afraid to fail.  In fact, your mission is to fail as you are on your way to success.  That’s building experience.

Go for it.