The Moment When the Fear Dissolves

A few months ago I started a personal blog, inspired by the week I spent with author (and one of my heroes) Seth Godin. I was hoping to publish a new post for each of 30 straight days, but I failed at that, quite miserably.

But one post there was about fear, something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. It’s something I’ve let control me at times in the past, but recently — really, right after the events that inspired this post — things have been different: I’m beginning to understand what people like Seth and Steven Pressfield mean when they talk about “dancing” with fear.

So today I want to share that post, from early August.

The most valuable part of my five days with Seth Godin last week wasn’t the chance to ask him specific questions and get his input on what I should do next.

It also wasn’t the vegan lunches he made each day or the magic tricks he performed or the stories he told (all of which were marvelous).

Instead, for me, it was his admonition that I and the other 14 people there stop living in fear.

The thing is, nobody in the room got there by being afraid. Seth picked us, I can only assume, because of our histories of taking chances and making things happen — and sometimes failing miserably, because that’s part of the deal.

But in our first hour together, Seth talked almost exclusively about fear. About how most of us go through life worried that just around the corner lurks something scary and terrible. One false move, and…

This was me last night as I lay in bed, unable to sleep at 2am after three hours of trying.

Right now I’m on a plane flying to New York, to speak at The Seed Experience and man the No Meat Athlete table for two days. It’s been a crazy week of catch-up after the five days with Seth, so not until this morning did I have the chance to pack all the stuff for the booth and print the flyers. And pack my normal suitcase and work on my speech and a million other tiny things.

Then, drive two hours to the airport in Charlotte before getting on a plane, which still makes me nervous for some reason, and figure out how to get from JFK airport to my hotel in TriBeCa (probably not hard, but I’ve never done it, and New York is New York).

Last night as I watched the click tick down six, five, four hours left of potential sleep, all I could think about was all of this. And it was too much, because I knew that even when I got back late Sunday night, once all the hard work was done, the week would be starting … another busy one, because I travel again on Thursday.

Then something snapped.

Suddenly I could see. The way you see pro wrestling once you learn it’s fake (another idea from Seth).

I realized that this stress — about my speech not being good enough, forgetting an essential part of the booth setup, not bringing enough shirts or books, missing the flight and not getting a haircut and not changing my oil and that just maybe my plane crashing and my kids growing up with no dad — was pretend.

Just like pro wrestling.

Because I’ve done all this stuff before. And things have gone wrong before, and it doesn’t matter. Every time a speech hasn’t gone quite as well as planned or I’ve almost missed a flight or we ran out of the popular shirts, time went on. Nobody died. Nobody even complained, really. And the next day I went home and my kids hugged me in the usual way and life resumed as normal.

I’m not sure I’m expressing this well, but that’s okay. Because this blog is a daily blog and a new challenge, so I get another shot tomorrow. Just like with the other stuff. And just like with everything (really, everything) else.

Last night I thought a switch had flipped. That now I’d forever be able to see the world as it really was, that there was no monster awaiting just around the corner anymore, and there never would be.

I was wrong. Because several times I’ve caught myself back in the fear state. Where everything this weekend means the world, and one mistake means disaster.

But the key words there are I’ve caught myself. And each time I do, I see pro wrestling’s harmless pulled punches and ketchup blood and flimsy folding chairs.

This glimpse of fearlessness is new. And fun. Maybe this is what Reggie means when he says “Remove the fear.”

Here’s the original post, if you’re interested. Also, here’s the video of my talk at the Seed that I mentioned in the post!

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Comments

  1. I can totally relate! Fear is largely what keeps me from pursuing my personal blog with intensity, mainly because I feel like nobody wants to hear what I have to say because it never took off like a blog I have done in the past. I too have committed to blogging every day for 30 days. I actually missed the first two days because I just forgot, but I’m back on track and have made entries the past two days, even though I fear they are not great. I’m hopeful that dedicated persistence will gain some readership and improve my writing skills.

  2. Thank you for this post. I had literally just finished a conversation with my 15-year-old son about fear when this post’s email came through. He has a great opportunity but is afraid to take it. Since I was diagnosed with breast cancer just 2 weeks ago, I’ve become sort of an expert on fear. You are absolutely right: fear is false. Break down your fear into tiny little pieces and analyze it, and you will see how unlikely it is to ever come to fruition. Fear prevents us from reaching out full potential, from walking through doors that are wide open to us. It exhausts us and wears us down, and it is unrelenting. But in the end, fear is nonexistent. The things we worry and stress over almost never happen, and when they do we learn the lesson that life goes on. Life Always Goes On! Keep up the great posts!

  3. I love the wrestling analogy. I find myself riddled with fear often and it’s usually the made up nonsense in my head. But I have adopted a strategy that whenever I feel fear, it means that I’m moving in the right direction so I should push forward. Of course, this doesn’t apply to base jumping but you get the point. Great post!

  4. Max Greenberg says:

    Fear or worrying (basically the same thing) is Negative Goal-Setting. This I learned and internalized from a wise man by the name of Lou Tice. He also suggests we use 3 little words to change our world around: “Up Until Now” as in: I’ve been fearful all my life, Up Until Now. By saying those 3 words we recognize a self-limiting belief or behavior that has been holding us back, and give ourselves permission to put it to bed, move on and continue on the road to realizing our unique potential.

  5. Great post and very timely. On my work PC I recently changed my p/w to confidence – guess what – I’m now feeling more confident (almost fearless) than ever before.
    I’m a veggie too…….and I’m right with you!

  6. Whenever I find myself anxious or nervous about a situation, due to fear I’m sure, I repeat to myself “it’s just not that serious” – ’cause it’s not. I’m in the process of searching for a new job due to my current role being far less than fulfilling and with each interview my stomach knots and I fear the worst and I calm myself by reminding myself that “it’s not that serious” and truly, “it’s just not that deep”. Everything tends to work itself out and we all end up okay.

  7. Fear is faith in the wrong spirit. You are agreeing and giving power to the negative. Speak life and say positive things, even when you don’t believe it yet. You will bring it to fruition more often than not. This is not just positive talk it is truth. I have been in bandage to fear my whole 40 years. But not anymore. Fear is slow agonizing death. A liar and a thief of life and health. Eradicate it!

  8. Thanks Matt. Perfectly timed as I hit the sack and run my first 50 miler tomorrow morning. Just removed the fear!

  9. Thanks for the post. You are right on the money! Fear is an opportunity to grow, and I’ve finally learned to welcome it. I’ve lived my life in fear and facing my fears (one of the more ntoable attempts being sky diving despite being terrified of heights – they had to pull my hands off the wing struts but I did it!) All fear does is stop me from having what I really want in life. And it’s all made up in my head. My choice. Keeping myself accountable to myself above all for what I have in my life is a great motivator for asking “what’s the worst that could happen?” and bringing it out into the light for inspection, where upon it usually shrivels and fades away into a mere excuse to abdicate responsibility for my choices and my life.

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