As I start this New Year I of course have to take a look back at 2009 and consider what has happened. The funny thing is, as soon as I started reflecting on the last year, my mind wandered even further back. I thought back to when I was homeless, facing the choice of quitting high school to help support my family and then all the time I have spent since working in security and with Law enforcement. It hits me how fear has played such an important part of my success. Also how old fears are replaced by new ones that compel me to strive harder and farther.
I remember being a teenager on the streets of downtown Houston at 2 A.M. I remember hearing the screams of the forgotten people, the mentally ill, the dangerous and displaced. I remember working at fast food places mainly so I could bring leftovers home to eat. I remember feeling the blood of a stranger’s flow over my hands as I fought to keep him alive.
I used all of these events to move me forward – to strive for something better. For the past 10 years I have lived almost fearless knowing in my heart and mind no matter how bad my day was, it would never be again like it was when I was younger.
Then last year I felt fear again! It had returned in a new form. Now after 10 years in INFOSEC. Now after being a father of two children. Now it came as a result of my success.
It started with traveling around the world for the first time. I had never had a passport or a real hope of even leaving the country and seeing the places I had read and dreamed about (i.e. the Great Wall, the Eiffel Tower, or the remnants of the Berlin wall).
My first trip was China. That first night I felt fear as I made the mistake of riding in a gypsy taxi to my hotel. I did however despite my fear survive. Then in my hotel room I was alone with thoughts like “What am I doing here?” and “Is going to a security conference worth my life?” I considered not leaving my hotel room except to go to the conference.
Then it hit me like a long ago memory – Fear is okay! It is okay for me to fear but I will not cower. So I walked on the Great Wall. I visited the Forbidden City. I had my breath taken away at the Summer Palace. It’s not that I overcame Fear. I embraced it and I continued.
The year held more lessons in fear. The next came in the guise of another one of my dreams coming true. My book was to be published! This was a dream I strove long for. I knew not everyone was going to like my book no matter the work nor the intent behind the effort. Once again I had to take in that fear. I listened to all of the feedback – not just those trying to be helpful and constructive. I took it all in and let it just be a part of the experience.
Then came an unexpected fear that was sudden and crushing. I found out a part of my book was plagiarized. My creation had become tainted. Never in my life had I felt so much pain (for those who know my history – that statement caries particular meaning!).
Then something unexpected occurred. I had support. People came and stood by me and with me during those first twenty-four horrible hours. Marcus J. Carey supported me and helped talk me down from the proverbial ledge ;-) Brian Baskin threw in his skills with Marcus so the dream wouldn't die. And through the fear, there was hope, faith and support.
Sure some have gloated and hurled accusations. But others have lifted up the idea behind the book. I was humbled and overwhelmed by so many people who knew me well or who only had met me online coming to me and asking how they could help. Fear embraced became determination applied. The idea could be even bigger than it's first incarnation. That is how this community became into being through pain, fear and HOPE.
Another fear is still ongoing. It started at the beginning of '09. I started speaking not just at local ISSA or INFRAGARD meetings. I was now traveling to Brazil, Belgium and China. The highlight of my career was wrapped in fear with the chance to speak at DEFCON. My first time at DEFCON was DEFCON12. I was amazed and hooked. What an awesome and wonderful place! I knew I would be back every year and one day I would speak there. In 2009 at DEFCON 17 I got my chance – and met fear again.
The moment arrived and was even wrapped in an impromptu announcement from Priest. I survived I don't remember much of it! At least I have the recording to prove I pulled it off.
And now begins 2010 with new chances and new fears. We all get to ask “What happens now?” However, being part of a very public conversation brings new invitations for criticisms and new fears. So Just embrace it. I have had the honor and pleasure to meet smart, wonderful people from around the world. I don’t expect to play in their league – but I don't mind sneaking onto the field from time to time.
I look forward to sharing this New Year with all of you. Marcus and Brian are finishing the new STAR section and making it even better than before. A screen writer is working on a screenplay to make the story into a movie. I continue to travel and speak around the world. I still find fear. And I embrace it knowing that I have faced worse and come out the better for it. I will persevere and keep faith that it to shall pass and I will grow from it.
So in this New Year, learn to embrace your fear knowing you will be the better for having done so.
I leave you with a quote dealing with one of my current fears. The constant critics who refuses to see any good in me no matter what I achieve or try to accomplish. When I think about them I remember this quote.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”