We’re about to have goat babies. Each morning, I glance out the window apprehensively, wondering if today’s the day Daisy gives birth. I’m not sure when D Day will be, because we kept our buck with the does instead of carefully planning conjugal visits. Our two other does gave birth over the past month, so it feels like Daisy is behind schedule. It’s a mental hang up, but it’s hard to shake.

So when I look outside that window toward the barn at daybreak, I’m partly hoping to see an extra little silhouette in the distance. I’m also dreading the possibility of discovering a baby that is sickly or a twin that didn’t survive.

It’s been a long time since I did something so dramatically new. I had forgotten how scary new is for me.

My History of Fear

15 months ago, we brought Daisy and Polly onto our farm. They were the first goats we’d ever raised. We kept them in a small paddock enclosed by portable electric fence netting. That first night, I hardly slept. Anxiety poured over me and through me. I was terrified that one of them would get caught in the fence, or that they would escape and disappear forever.

It wasn’t that the electric fence was lethal. Far from it. It’s more like a bad static electricity shock you might get from sliding down a plastic slide at a playground. But my fear was real, and it owned me. This unknown was too much for me to bear.

I envisioned worst case scenarios the whole time. Those first 48 hours were traumatic. I had no idea what I was doing, because I had no experience with goats.

Fear is a real motivator, and it stops us from necessary growth.

You will not develop into the person you COULD be unless you experience dramatically stressful challenges from time to time. You just won’t. Stress and fear provide powerful opportunities for transformation. It’s the blindness. It’s the courage required to dive into that blindness. It’s the perseverance to hold on and continue until you reach the other side.

What did I learn through fear?

Any man can become that man who seems perfectly natural and comfortable raising goats… AFTER he’s been the man who faces the possibility of abject failure and unpredictability.

With each passing year, I will be more and more competent and qualified to help others do the same. And it all could have been sabotaged if I had bailed when I was scared. I could have called the sellers back and demanded they take back the does. I could have waited another year or two or three to read more books and have more conversations with goat owners. Instead, I started to experience what it means to have goats.

That’s been a crazy experience, by the way. I’ve had goats break through their fencing. I’ve had goats wander onto my neighbor’s land. I’ve had goats disappear for half a day only to reappear as though everything is normal. I’ve had goats jump over gates to perch atop the planters on our deck. We’ve had goat pellets galore. I even had a goat in my passenger seat of the SUV. Uninvited, of course.

It’s all been a learning experience. They were a foreign species to me. Like aliens, really. Some of their behaviors really angered me for a while until I got a grasp on how they’re wired. I still find myself occasionally engaging the buck to reassert my dominance. He needs to know who’s boss.

I realize that for urban and suburban folks, goat competency may not make your bucket list of desired competencies. That’s okay. The lesson holds true regardless. Today I can go and talk goats with anyone and hold my own. I don’t know everything, but I’ve experienced everything through the cycles of birth and death, and now I’m peers with other goat owners who have done this for many years. My peer list grew because I added a new set of skills. We can talk and relate because we have shared experience.