Image: Ron Phillips/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

After the movie theater massacre here in Colorado last week, many people had to decide whether they felt safe seeing “The Dark Knight Rises” over the weekend. I was one of them — and I had to make the decision sooner than most.

A giant, nerdy Batman fan, I had taken last Friday off of work, planning to spend the morning enjoying the movie in a south Aurora, Colo., theater, just 9 miles from where the shooting took place. I’d already bought my ticket for the very first post-midnight showing of the day.

When I woke up and heard the news, though, I wasn’t sure what to do. Go? Or stay home?

Sure, it was probably just an isolated incident, I reasoned. What were the chances of it happening again? And in the same area, no less? With the local police on high alert? It was actually likely the safest time to be in a theater … right?

My less rational side, of course, panicked. What if the guy had friends targeting other showings around town? Or what if he inspired copycats? Was staying home cowardly … or just reckless?

I had just about an hour to make up my mind, and even after I had resolved to go, I still wasn’t certain. I stood by my front door, purse over shoulder and car keys in hand, shifting from foot to foot for a few minutes before leaving.

The mood at the theater was somber and a little tense, but the showing was packed. A few people even brought babies. As we sat waiting for the movie to start, a lady two rows back from me kept giving finger-waving speeches to anyone who would listen about how “we cannot live in fear.” I rolled my eyes a little — we were sitting around watching a movie, after all, not saving the world.

But, in her main point at least, she was right. Mostly.

Because we already live in fear, every single day, and that’s usually a good thing. Healthy fear makes us buckle our seatbelts. It keeps us from cliff diving when we don’t know how to swim. And as producers know, it motivates us to plan ahead and purchase insurance, just in case our house gets broken into, our car crashes or our life gets taken too soon.

The flip side, though — and what Soapbox Movie Lady was referencing, I suspect — is that fear can also be a paralyzing beast, defying all reason, all arguments to the contrary. This bad kind of fear is what keeps us in unhappy jobs or marriages. It makes us shriek at tiny spiders. It stops us from getting on certified, safety-checked roller coasters … or from going to the movies.

Unhealthy fear hurts the insurance industry, too. I’ll bet you’ve hesitated to pick up the phone and make another call after being shot down by a prospect — even though your livelihood depended on it. You’ve likely held off on doing something — running a particular ad campaign or maybe marketing to an unusual demographic — because you’re uncertain about the exact outcome. And I’m sure there are plenty of uninsured people out there who are a little afraid of walking into your office and buying a product they don’t know much about.

Unfortunately, many days, our bad fear lurks unnoticed. We hold off on taking risks, small and large, and blame our busy schedules, or our budgets, or maybe the “uncertain” economic environment. We don’t want to seem too forward, or to embarrass ourselves, or to do anything rash, we say.

And then something as tragic as the Aurora shooting happens, and we take a step back and really look at things.

Sure, we could use the tragedy to justify our unhealthy fears and hesitations. We could all hole up in our homes, the only safe place in a scary world. We could let one wacko with a gun ruin movies for us forever.

I hope that most people, though, see what happened in Aurora as a reminder that life is too short for waffling. They’ll stop sitting on their hands or biting their nails. They’ll swallow hard, and they’ll go out and do exactly what they want to do, every day, for as long as they’re able to.

Because, despite all my pre-movie worrying, nothing happened to me at the theater on Friday, except for an enjoyable morning. I sidestepped my bad fear that day and ended up the better for it.

If something’s been stopping you from taking a good risk, in life or in your career, go out and do it. Or at least go see a movie.

 

For more from Corey Dahl, see:

Simplicity Sells

A Sales Lesson from Nora Ephron (That’s Right, Nora Ephron)

Toilet Paper, Lightbulbs … and Life Insurance?