This is my great-grandfather, Cesare Sertorio. He was a timber hewer who immigrated to Australia from Italy in 1911. Pictured with him is my great-grandmother, Sarah Jessie (Creyk). She was born in Australia, but her parents came from Scotland. The cute little girl is my grandmother, Esther Lucy Sertorio. She met my grandfather, John Stinson, while he was stationed with the U.S. Navy at a submarine base in Fremantle.
They fell in love and in January of 1947, my grandmother sailed to the United States aboard the S.S. Marine Phoenix. She made her way to middle Tennessee and they were married four days after her arrival. Their first child, my mother, married a man from Ohio. Dad had come down for a short work stint and never returned. Researching his family has revealed that they came to the United States from Germany.
When I think about the history of my family, I’m struck by the amount of courage it must have taken so many of them to leave the country of their birth in order to start a new life somewhere else. Imagine leaving everything and everyone you know in pursuit of something you believe must be better. The barriers that have to be overcome were huge – language, culture, geography – everything was dramatically different from what they had known.
I can’t imagine making taking such a huge leap of faith; but I’m glad they did. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Each of these decisions to not just step outside of their comfort zones, but to leave them far behind, led my family to grow and expand around the globe. In the process, they impacted the communities they settled in. They added their own unique talents to the organizations they served, in some cases starting businesses of their own. I’m sure not every risk they took panned out the way they’d hoped it would. From my perspective though, things have turned out pretty well.
So, what’s my excuse?
If my ancestors could muster the courage to cross an ocean, why do I find it so difficult to take risks that are infinitesimally small by comparison? Why do I struggle to pick up the phone or introduce myself to someone new? Why do I hesitate when it comes to engaging in activities that will expand my influence, my business, and my impact?
Jack Canfield said “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” The older I get, the more I believe this is true. The regrets I have almost always have to do with risks I didn’t take. My greatest accomplishments have come as a result of swallowing my anxiety and taking the first scary steps into the unknown. The more I try to remove doubt and potential risk… the more I wait; the more I miss out on.
Now that I think about it, I guess I’m not so different from my ancestors after all. In 1997, my wife and I left the known comforts of life in Tennessee to start over in Texas. We had no idea what lie in store for us, just a dream that things would better on the other side of our fear. I don’t regret taking that risk one bit.
What’s keeping you from taking a risk? What’s waiting for you on the other side?