Do What You’re Afraid Of

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It was shortly after New Year’s Day, nine long years ago, that I got the talk. The divorced guys know the talk. It’s always some variation on “I love you, but I am not in love with you.”

I was thirty-nine, and terrified.

After the customary period of moping around, I realized that, at some point, I was going to get over her betrayal. Realizing the inevitability of overcoming gave me the power to face the challenges every day brought, and every day brought some. Her lawyer tried to humiliate me. Her family spread horrible rumors about me. I lost most of my friends. I kept it together because I knew, someday, I’d have forgotten her.

While my ex-wife tried to destroy me, she actually gave me the greatest gift that anyone could ever give me. She gave me the template to overcome any obstacle.

Most of us have reasonable fears. Fear keeps us alive and out of trouble. Some of our fears aren’t reasonable. These sorts of fears keep us in bad relationships, they keep us from growing. Unreasonable fears keep you from being the man you were born to become.

If you are afraid of something, ask yourself why. Often the reason will be nebulous and ill-defined. Ask yourself what is the worst consequence of your fear.

I used to be afraid of heights. I also used to be a roofer. My fear of heights motivated me to finish school and get a real job; but in the interim, it also kept me from becoming the best roofer I could have been.

After my divorce, I went skydiving. That fear was not entirely unreasonable. A fear of great heights is legitimate.

It’s possible I could have died, when I left the plane. If I’d have died, then I’d have done so boldly facing my greatest fear. I didn’t die. I twisted my ankle, and it was fine a week later. In return, I have the knowledge that I overcame.

Every man’s imperative is to become his best self. If fear is impeding your progress toward this destination, then do what you’re afraid of.

The Water of Life

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My daddy taught me many things, and one of his most enduring lessons was an appreciation for single-malt Scotch whiskey. Whiskey, he used to tell me, is a man’s drink. Thanks to him, I’ve never been caught in public, with a fruity concoction sporting an umbrella.

Whiskey used to be called aqua¬†vitae: the water of life.¬†These spirits originate with barley, a grain which was originally used to feed livestock. Human beings didn’t like it, until they figured out how to distill it. Now we love it.

Single malt refers to malting the barley, which is the process whereby the kernels are soaked until they germinate. When they are in the perfect stage of sprouting, they’re dried and killed off. The malting of the barley allows for some enzymatic changes in the seeds, which enhance the output of the distillery. Once the barley is malted and dried, the mash is made, and through natural processes, a carbohydrate-rich solution is allowed to ferment. A few months in, a filtering process is completed, and the solution is allowed to continue fermentation in casks made of Spanish Oak. Traditionally, these casks would have previously stored sherry wine.

After a minimum of three years, the casks are vented, and the solution is filtered at least one more time, before bottling. The color and flavor of Scotch is potentially complex, and Scotch aficionados rival wine-tasters for their appreciation.

If you want to embark upon the journey to an appreciation of single malt Scotch, know your definitions. There are “Scotch whiskey” varieties which are blends of single malt with Bourbon or other spirits. Johnny Walker is not single-malt, though it contains some single-malt. Suntory makes an excellent single malt whiskey which is not Scotch, but Japanese.

Beginners often enjoy Glenmorangie’s original. It’s a medium bodied Scotch, with hints of citrus and vanilla. My favorite is Oban 18, for its honey and caramel overtones. If you have expensive tastes, you can’t do better than 30-year old Macallan.