2016-06-30
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It happened just a short while ago in Florida at the beachside town where I grew up and am now visiting.

I usually begin my day by jogging barefoot in the water for about a half mile, then swimming back through the surf to where I started. In the years I grew up doing this, I've run into a fair share of jellyfish (though somehow never have been stung), been nipped by cantankerous crabs (more shocking than painful), and even have been joined for short stretches by curious porpoises and manta rays.

However, I have never once encountered a shark. Of course I've seen many small ones reeled ashore on an excited fisherman's line. But in the 25-plus years I've either lived at or visited this beach, I've never seen a shark's fin slicing through the water near me or even from afar.

This year, however, there happened to be a few shark attacks along the Florida coast, with the majority of them occurring at Ponce Inlet, about 30 miles south of where I'm staying. Ponce Inlet is where the Intercoastal Waterway joins the ocean. The unusual habitat attracts a lot of bait-fish, which attracts a higher number of sharks. Because of the better waves, surfers also are attracted to this area.

Almost all the shark attacks occur with the surfers. With their feet dangling in the water, sharks are fooled into thinking they are grabbing a nice-sized fish. When they realize "the morsel" is attached to something much larger, they let go, leaving a foot needing a fair share of stitches, a surfer with a great story to tell, and local and worldwide news networks with a great clip to scare the holy mackerel out of all their viewers.

A number of people at the condo where I'm staying have seen me swimming in the surf from their balconies. When I run into some of them on the elevator, they ask me if I'm familiar with all the shark attacks taking place.

One lady did me the favor of telling me in precise detail how Tiger Sharks don't just "bite," they "GNAW."

Another neighbor I ran into on the beach went into detail on how many sharks he's seen in the water. While he was describing how he would never go swimming here, he suddenly exclaimed, "Look, there's a fin now!"

I whirled around to where he was pointing. Truly caught up as I was in his dramatic testimony, I thought for a second that I saw a fin, too. Then I saw another one, and another, and another, just to realize that the ever-changing shapes and shadows of moving surf easily resembled a shark fin, especially if that's what you've got on your mind.

As if to confirm my imagination, my neighbor confirmed, "Yeah, that was a Black-tipped Reef Shark!" With a shiver, he stated, "If it was me, I wouldn't go in that water!"

Besides me, tens of millions of "unsuspecting tourists" every year "risk life and limb" in the water.

However, this year, with the press and my neighbors making a big splash about shark attacks every day, I couldn't help but be affected by all the negative input.

Though I didn't stop going into the water, my thoughts were consumed by Tiger Sharks and Black-tipped Reef Sharks bearing down on me, and what measures I would need to take if attacked-e.g. poking them in the eyes and pounding them on the snout (yeah, right).

The net effect was I began constantly scanning the water around me for approaching fins, ruining all the pleasure I got from attuning myself more to the waves and the sheer joy the ocean provides. I felt I needed to do something.

I approached one of the lifeguards on the beach and, already knowing the answer (remember, I grew up here), sheepishly asked, "Hey, what's the story with the shark attacks here. I mean, should I be worrying?"

The lifeguard laughed and replied, "I spend all day staring out at the water, and in my two years of doing this, I've never once seen anything. Sheesh, I wish I would . might make my job a little more interesting!"

I was somewhat comforted, but that still didn't erase all the anxiety I had built up.

What finally allowed me to return to the water with a clear head was when-ironically-I was watching a television show on shark attacks. One of the interviewed scientists stated that there are less than 100 shark attacks on humans worldwide per year, and only a fraction of these attacks are fatal.

When I considered the tens of millions of visitors who visit the local beaches alone, something clicked in my head that made me understand how unnecessary it was to even think about such low percentage odds.

Now, my questions for you.

  • How many shark attacks have you survived?
  • How many perceived fears have you let stop YOU from trying something new?
  • How many "warnings of failure" by supposed friends have halted you in your tracks from pursuing your dreams?
  • How many fears of rejection have prevented you from being a hero and lifting someone else up and yourself as well?
  • If you want to have a life well lived, heed the following "Wealthy Soul" Action Steps to accomplish your goals and dreams:

    1. Feed your mind with books, movies and stories that tell you "YOU CAN."
    2. Associate yourself with people who are "doing it."
    3. Seek advice from those who have "done it."
    4. Politely ignore those who are "downing it."

    Finally, raise yourself and others up by sharing your own experiences of triumph over all the things fearful people self-fulfillingly call "The Impossible."

    You see, for a while there, I was indeed attacked by a shark. It had powerful teeth and was a cold-blooded killer; a killer of dreams and all that life is worth living for.

    The shark, of course, was FEAR.and the "attack" was not just from the outside, but from what I allowed to come inside.

    To accomplish anything, you and I must triumph over many obstacles, over our individual fears.

    You may have blown a major opportunity.you may have lost an important battle.you may even have lost a fortune of money. But the only loss leading to doom is that of spirit, never of money.

    Don't ever let others allow you to lose your spirit. Be fearless in following your God-given vision to live every day to the fullest.

    When you follow these simple rules, it's amazing how many "sharks" just disappear from around you. What you gain is more than a day at the beach.

    You'll find your soul, and a treasure chest of gold that will make you wealthy the rest of your days.

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