You know the feeling when you are so terrified of something that you lose all control of your own body? All of your motor skills seem to shut down, your heart races at 200 beats per minute, and your hands shake more vigorously than a teenage boy with good internet connection. The more you tell yourself everything is okay, the worse you become. In fact, you know a hundred percent that its not a big deal, that many have done it before you, many will do it after you, and all of them will survive, pretty much unscathed. But puny logic can’t help you while in this state, you’re in the panic zone!
Probably the most embarrassing time that I found myself in the panic zone was when I had my first kiss. I felt like the biggest idiot in the world. I remember how from the moment I realized it was going to happen until it actually did, felt like a century, because as soon as I realized, my entire body started shaking, I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, I could barely breathe, and my teeth were chattering like a jackhammer. She asked me what was wrong, and luckily we were outside, so I played it off extremely unconvincingly that I was just cold. I was screaming at myself in my head to get my shit together, “Max, What the hell is wrong with you! Literally everybody does this all the time, why are you panicking?!” When we finally kissed though, I was back to normal, breathing, teeth, pounding heart, everything. On reflection, I realized that it was the anticipation that was making me terrified, but as soon as I took the plunge, there was nothing to be afraid of anymore.
Another significant time I entered the panic zone was on my 18th birthday when I went with two good friends to donate blood. It was my first time donating blood, so naturally I was nervous, but I prepared myself with the knowledge that millions of people donate blood annually, and there are virtually no complications, in addition, this donation was going to save somebody’s life. Nevertheless, as soon as I stepped over to the chair, it was my first kiss all over again. I began hyperventilating, my teeth were back to jackhammers, and my hands were shaking so badly that the nurse would have been equally likely to stick an artery instead of a vein, but probably would have missed my arm altogether. She told me that if I couldn’t calm down I wouldn’t be able to donate that day. Somehow that got me to calm down immediately. I think it put me into a sort of Liar Paradox: I was panicking because I was going to donate blood, but since I was panicking I wouldn’t be able to donate blood, and consequently I stopped panicking. As soon as I wasn’t panicking though, I would be able to donate again, and thus resume panicking. Luckily though, she was ready, and took advantage of that intraparadoxical moment of tranquility with a quick jab to my vein, and suddenly everything was alright. There was nothing left to anticipate except for Oreos and juice boxes in the waiting area once I finished!
I have found myself in the panic zone many more times as well, such as my leap from an airborne plane at an altitude of 400 meters during my army training, or when I spoke to a room of 750 donors at an FIDF event, or even while watching dozens of people jump off a twenty foot cliff into the ocean in Maui, before I myself finally cleared the edge, and landed safely in the caress of of the cold water below.
I’ve gotten to really appreciate the panic zone for the myriad of opportunities that it offers. Tonight I went to my first Toastmasters club meeting in Jerusalem. I made a resolution with myself that no matter what, I would put myself out there and speak to the group. When it came my turn to speak during the ‘Table Topics’ session, I was given a one to two minute time allowance, and the prompt, “What is a conspiracy theory that you want to promote?” I promptly froze. I managed to make something up for about 12 seconds, and then froze again. I found myself in the panic zone, but this time it was different. I knew I was in the panic zone, and I wanted to be there, I put myself there on purpose, and so I simply started laughing, I somehow got the words out to explain why I was laughing then I thanked them for letting me speak, and after a polite and encouraging applause, I went back to my seat and was congratulated by my neighbor for the effort. It was a hopeless speech, but the feedback was positive, and genuine, and I know that I got exponentially more out of that meeting by putting myself in the panic zone, than I would have had I avoided it.
It’s human nature to avoid failure at all costs, and I think what is so unnerving about the panic zone is the fact that there is always a decent chance of screwing something up, of making a fool of yourself, or to put it more simply, of failing. While many people will say that failure is where the most potential for development lies, I want to say that it is actually specifically the panic zone where there is the most potential for growth. Anyone can fail, thats not hard at all, its actually putting yourself in the panic zone that is difficult, and thats what can give you the biggest push forward. With that, I wish you to get yourself into the panic zone, and don’t worry, its not as scary as it seems!
Thanks for reading,