Goofy, pre-Gatekeeper group selfie

Goofy, pre-Gatekeeper group selfie

This summer, on our annual visit to Cedar Point (a rollercoaster park in Ohio), I rode something called The Gatekeeper (you can virtually ride it here) which turned out to be an ideal apparatus to get better acquainted with my growing fear of heights.

I honestly don’t get my fear of heights. Back in junior high, I seriously considered making a career out of getting girls to scream at me by standing at the edge of cliffs or ledges. I once solved a lost key problem and impressed my (now) wife by scaling a 3-story apartment building and going in the skylight. And compelling as this fear may be, it doesn’t always pre-register in the cognitive part of my brain, which means I could look at The Gatekeeper, and think, goofily, sure why not. It wasn’t until I was locked in and making the 170 foot initial ascent, that both my body and brain registered an entirely different take on the situation.


Thankfully we always visit the park with plenty of younger cousins, who give me good reason to spend a lot of time in Camp Snoopy, the little-kid Peanuts-themed section of the park. This was where one of my daughters climbed in an adult-size model of Lucy’s psychiatric booth and started charging us each of us a nickel to identify our problems. It turned out every one of us had “pantophobia”—which, apparently is not the fear of pants, but the fear of everything--pants included, I assume. That was a happy moment with a lot of goldfish and cut up grapes and laughter (and the Gatekeeper behind us).

In the months since then, my diagnosis has kind of stuck with me. There are a surprising number of thing things I’ve grown afraid of over the last few years. The fear of failure, and the fear of taking risks, to name a couple. Plus the fear of marketing, of sales, of networking, and making packaging decisions, of html and php, and adjusting dns records. And accounting (seriously, my heart-rate goes up every time I sit down to work on the books). Or grantwriting. (Well, maybe not really grant writing, but the potential lost time of putting in grant applications that don’t work out.) I won't even get into sending two almost-grown up kids off to college, which is what I did this week.

A number of these fears seem to have a starting point that coincide quite neatly with becoming a social entrepreneur and starting Beautiful Day. Back in the days when I had little kids, I remember taking them to see the movie Up and being surprised to find myself grasping the armrests to avoid falling off a blimp. (And this! I can't even watch it--even if its some young entrepreneurs in the making.) That was 2009, the year we incorporated Providence Granola.

I'm sure some of the fears are related to doing so many things outside my comfort zone or gift mix. But I also wonder if there is something appropriate about pantophobia considering our work with refugees. If anyone has good reason for pantophobia, it’s refugees. I’ll never forget the day I picked up Berita, one of our first trainees, for her first day of work. After a few blocks, Berita made me stop so she could get out and throw up. Apparently, she’d spent very little time in cars and this was just what happened every time she got in one. She had no control over it. Nor was she about to let it stop her. She turned out to be a great worker. She clearly loved the job and went on to get a full time one a few months later. As far as I know she’s still working.

I have no way to know if Berita was afraid. Certainly she was experiencing big challenges amid profound disorientation. With my own fear, I’m at least trying to follow her example by just acknowledging it and then getting on with whatever I need to do. It’s interesting to me that fear doesn’t seem to undermine the quality of my accounting or grantwriting or html. It does take some of the fun out of it, although the great thing about this job is that, once I start doing something, I can usually sense a foundational importance taking on one of the big challenges of our society, and at a very basic level, turning it into something delicious. Plus, the people we get to work with are delightful. But more about this (and fear) next time.


We do have some new delicious granolas in our store. We made a fresh batch of Mango Pomegranate for August. For me mangos are comfort food while the pomegranate molasses add an exotic zing. We sometimes call it a “salted” granola, not because it has any extra salt--we just use a coarser grade salt so it doesn’t all dissolve and leaves little flavor bursts. We also just made a fresh batch of our famous Pistachio Cardamom, which you could think of us Baklava granola, complete with pistachios, walnuts, cardamom, honey, plus a lot dates.


Written by Keith Cooper

Leave a comment