Category Archives: Personal

The Ability to Overcome Great Fear

I am scared.  And excited.   Scared and excited.  It sounds a little confusing, but so is my life right now.  I am working on opening my own comic book store.  Many small businesses have come before, as will many come after, so I am no different than millions of others.  But this is a first for me and I am operating far outside of my comfort zone.

Now, it is not the what I am afraid of.  I am a big comic book fan and have been for years.  Naturally, there are bigger fans out there, but I know quite a bit about the world of comics.  It is the process of the how that is torturing me.  I have never done anything like this before.  I have found the steps I need to take and I am following the paths of those that have come before me.  I have asked for advice, opinions, input and help.  I have a wife that has supported and pushed me farther than I have been before.  But, at the end of the day, it’s all up to me.  And that’s where the fear kicks in.

The ability to overcome fear is the core of Green Lanterns power.  That, plus willpower is what gives a Green Lantern their strength.  I think, subconsciously, that is what drew me to the character.  When I was young, I thought it was cool that he could “make stuff” with his power ring.  But as I got older, I realized there was more to the mythology than just making cool stuff.

Perhaps this is a good place for a little Green Lantern background:

Imagine if the ring on your finger was more than a piece of gaudy jewelry. Instead, it’s the universe’s most powerful weapon. It can create whatever you wish out of pure energy, its might limited only by your imagination and will. And with it comes exclusive membership to an exclusive intergalactic police force with alien officers spanning the cosmos.

 The only catch? Mastering that power and being a Green Lantern means facing your fears, and for headstrong Hal Jordan, that’s something he’s been avoiding his whole life.

When just a boy, Hal witnessed his greatest nightmare—his pilot father dying in a tragic plane crash. Nevertheless determined to follow in his footsteps, Hal repressed his fears, becoming a reckless, defiant test pilot. But when a dying alien crashes on Earth, the irresponsible Hal is chosen to be that alien’s successor in the Green Lantern Corps, a universe-wide peacekeeping force over 3,600 members strong.

And his life only gets wilder from there. Alien romances. Intergalactic wars. Power-hungry super-villains. Wielding a Green Lantern power ring—a weapon fueled by willpower—he can fly and create constructs made of pure energy, generating anything from massive green fists to emerald rifles that can snipe from a planet away. But while Hal tends to ignore his fears, he’ll learn the only way to truly master his ring’s power is by confronting and overcoming them.” (from DC Comics website)

So where does my fear come from?  Obviously not from piloting experimental airplanes, but maybe from the same area.  As a test pilot, Hal Jordan needs to know what to do at the exact right moment and make split second decisions or his life is in danger.  He must be alert, he must be focused and above all he must be present.

My fears stem from things such as:

  • is this the right location?
  • is my budget correct?
  • will I make my projections?
  • will anyone come?
  • what if I screw up on my books, taxes, etc?
  • what if I fail?

This last one preys on my mind a lot.  As the old saying goes, “he who never tries, never fails.”  And my consequences are not as sever as Green Lanterns.  The Earth won’t explode, nor will Sinestro take over the universe.  So what will happen?   Worse case, I wind up loosing a lot of capital and end up with more comic books then I could ever want.

No Sinestro war.

No Earth exploding.

So in all of this, I try to remain present.  And I must say it is hard.  I focus on what the business needs now, while still being mindful of the future.  I’m not spending my time fretting about what could, might or may never happen.  I try to have the confidence to do what needs to be done right now and not mindlessly worrying about the unknown.

I keep these things in mind and work on it everyday.  I am getting better at it.  I also try to remember that no hero’s journey is easy.  And whether it is a bright day or a black night, remember to stay present, positive and confident.

G.I. Joe #21 or why I used a dictionary for a comic book with no words

One of the comic books I collected regularly was Marvel Comics “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.”  I was a fan of the toys (as was every other boy my age) and the cartoon, so naturally the comic book was right up my ally.  I was on board pretty much from the beginning and to be honest, the only issue of the entire run I am missing is #1.  The Marvel series ran for 155 issues and was written, for the most part, by Larry Hama.  G.I. Joe also held the distinction of being one of the only (if not THE only) comic book to be advertised on television.  The series had many unique qualities and milestones during its run, some good, some awful.  But the one the sticks out for me, and many others, is issue #21 “Silent Interlude.”

G.I. Joe #21

G.I. Joe #21

Issue #21 came out in March, 1984, and to me, it was way ahead of its time.  The entire issues contains no dialogue, and there is only one panel that contains words on a computer screen.  I didn’t quite get it at first, I thought maybe it was misprinted or something.  (as it turns out there was an urban comic myth that it was misprinted and shipped that way, but it turned out false)  But as I looked it over again and again I started to understand.  This was the first time I saw comic books as art.  There was one other thing that I didn’t quite understand: the title.  I had no idea what an “interlude” was.

I didn’t expect to see a five dollar word in a sixty cent comic.  Growing up, when I ran into a word I couldn’t pronounce or didn’t know the definition of, the answer I got was “sound it out” or “look it up!”  So I turned to our family dictionary.  Merriam-Webster dictionary defines interlude as ” a usually short simple play or dramatic entertainment.”  Doesn’t that sound like the definition of comic books in general?

The lesson I took away from this was that we never stop learning, even when immersed in the world of comic books.    Many people and parents look down on comic books as a waste of time, a detractor from “real reading.”  When I talked to my parents a few months ago about my reading differences, my father said “we never criticized you for reading comic books because you were reading.”  I am glad they had that attitude.

Why Comic Books?

For me, Action Comics #463 was the first of many comic books.  But why did comic books stick with me?  Yes, there are the fantastical stories and the amazing art.  It went beyond that though, to a problem I did not even know I had.

From an early age, I had a difficult time with reading.  It was something that followed me all through grade school, junior high and high school.  In fact, it was in college where I discovered there was a possibility that I had a learning difference.  It was an English instructor that mentioned to me that I could be partially dyslexic.  This astounded me.  I didn’t even know there was such a thing.  A few years ago, I had the opportunity to do a psychoeducational evaluation that had some interesting results.  It turns out the I have a significant weakness in retrieval fluency.  Basically, it measures the ability to learn, store and retrieve a series of associations as well as ability to fully retrieve information from stored knowledge.  Ease of retrieval is very important in reading.  It was also discovered that I have visual memory weakness, which affects my reading and spelling.  I have a problem with swapping letters in words, or words themselves if they are similarly spelled (like properly for propriety).    This explained a lot, and spelled out (pun intended) why I had so many problems with reading and test taking all throughout school.

It also explained why I was so attached to comic books.  Reading straight text fatigued, frustrated and discouraged me.  The sheer size of a book would intimidate me (and still does sometimes).  But comic book are 22 pages long, give or take a few.  There are words, but also pictures to help with the story comprehension.  With comic books, I enjoyed reading, and still do.  I can plow through several in one sitting, not even realizing I have read 100+ pages.  Now, some of you will say “that’s cheating!  It is mostly pictures!”  Yes, a comic book would not be a comic book without the art.  But why do we read?  To gain information, to entertain, to explore our fantasies…all of these are valid reasons.  And all of these can be found in comic books too.  Now, this is not to say that a person should read comic books and nothing else.  But they can be used as a tool, as a gateway to the world of reading.  If people, especially kids, are excited about read, they will want to do more of it.  And that is not a bad thing!  It wasn’t until the last few years that I have pushed myself to read more regular books.  Time was, I would start a book, get frustrated and never finish it.  I still have difficulty reading, but I know that it is something I can overcome.  I still stumble and get frustrated, but I am working through it.  And I still read comic books.

I was ashamed of my reading difference.  I thought I was dumb.  I never talked about it until recent years.  It was comic books that got me through, that kept me reading.  And that is why they always have, and always will be, an important part of my life.