I guess to an extent everyone lives with a certain amount of fear. I mean it’s one of the most animalistic of instincts. And it’s always interesting to track how your fears evolve over time.
Do I fear the same things I did when I was a kid? I bloody well hope not! Fear is everywhere when you’re a ginger, maths geek. The bigger lads at the back of the bus looking for the next victim. The rugby practice on icy cold mornings that you knew was going to beat seven shades of shit of your limbs. Let’s not even start about trying to talk to girls!
You’d think that living with those nerves throughout childhood would have taught me to put things into perspective, and stand me in good stead for the future? Well, sorry boys and girls, it just doesn’t work like that. Some poor buggers, me included, have the incredible mental ability of turning even the most positive thing going for them into something to be feared. This culminates in the biggest fear most of us live with in the modern age; the notorious fear of failure!
I was having a chat with someone the other day about the education system. I volunteer at a charity called Spear in London, designed to help kids with tough backgrounds get into the workplace. It’s about building their confidence and letting them know they can do it. We get the CVs before hand and we see what the kids have or haven’t achieved in their education thus far. I’m absolutely bowled over, in a good way, about the pride these kids have about what they’ve achieved. And rightly bloody so. It’s not a crime to have a tough start in life, but it is a crime to be satisfied to stay like that when you can do something about it. These kids have the drive to go for something else. I hope they get everything they deserve!
Anyway, so we were speaking about exams and how many we’d taken in our lives. I reckon from the ages of 7 up to 23 I had a set of exams twice a year. Each time meant that little bit more. I was lucky enough to be able to do ok at these kinds of thing, but then without realizing it the pressure of performance, and the subsequent fear of failure, began to develop in me from a really tender age.
Is that healthy? For a 10 year old kid to be making himself sick with worry sat in the sports hall waiting for the exam papers to be handed out? I can’t see it is. I don’t have a better solution to be fair. But somehow the argument that you’re teaching kids to deal with pressure doesn’t fly with me. Developing a fear of failure is not the same as learning how to deal with pressure. Or at least it shouldn’t be.
Let’s fast forward then to my 30th birthday. It’s the first week of my sick leave. My fear of failure had managed to manifest itself into a full-blown anxiety disorder. How the bloody hell had that happened?
Well silly old me decided that after my postgrad I’d go do what everyone does. Get a job in the city, make loads of money, and be happy and prosperous. Bear in mind this is August 2006. A few months getting my feet under the table on a trading desk and things looked great. Then came 2007 and sub-prime mortgages reared their head plunging the world into economic crisis. There were redundancies on my desk every day for 3 years. I worked for 13 bosses in 7 years. I was promised the earth to keep me working the hours under the pressure and was delivered very little. My fear of failure had gone from fearing to fail in my job, to fearing to fail myself in life. I was trapped, I was ill, but then some incredible people gave me a lifeline.
I’ve now just turned 31, and what a 12 months it’s been! I’m now a wine blogger and have absolutely loved becoming part of a really fun community. I’ve managed to find something I truly enjoy doing. Of course I love drinking the stuff. It’s magnificent. All that bollocks about it being like “poetry in a glass”?! Well it is! I wouldn’t necessarily say it like that myself, but it is.
What I most like about wine are the people who make it. I’ve met producers from all the way round the world and from all different backgrounds. I’ve met salt of the earth boys selling moonshine grappa from the back of a truck, to aristos in St Emilion whose vast cellars used to hide the would-be victims during the revolution. The mind-set of them is all the same. How do I make a great wine this year?
The baseless fear of failure is over taken by the fear of rain at the wrong time. The fear of hail. The fear of not enough sunshine. And more topical at this present time in particular, the fear that the journalist turning up to rate their year’s struggles might just happen to be a grumpy mood today! They haven’t got time for the fear of failure in stuff that doesn’t matter.
I respect their attitude so greatly. They are never too busy if you have a question to ask them about what’s happening with the wine this year. The daily pressure is great, but they know it’s about how they react to things that are completely out of their control. Can you imagine doing that for a living? Impressive stuff!
My own fears will always evolve and never truly go away. But the most important thing I’ve learnt from the wine community this year is that a healthy amount of fear is manageable if you have real enjoyment on the other side.
Every time I take a sip, I’ll do my best to never forget the lessons that this amazing industry has taught me.
For those of you new to the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, check out the rules and regs HERE