Because I know, I need more.
Someone asked me recently what I was afraid of? And I answered, immediately and with full confidence, “Nothing.”
It took 25 years of scaring the shit out myself to become fearless. And I am aware, this is not for everyone, but it has taught me how to experience fear in a different, yet powerful way.
I digress, mainly, because I am avoiding telling you a personal story that demonstrates exactly what I mean by 20 years of shit-eating fear. This will also touch on fear of Failure, Fear of Success, and Fear of Judgement ... fun!
My greatest professional failure was not my moment of triumph. It was not the door that closed, to open the door to my greatest opportunity. Nothing inspiring, really. And no, I am not being hard on myself. It was scary. I was terrified throughout the process, but I was the most fearful post-failure.
After years of imagining, but with no idea how to create the reality, I actually found myself working with one of my most favorite people, with world-class artists, touring to exotic destinations and globally renowned festivals, and pinching myself daily.
It was my love. I worked with my loves. I worked on my love. Oh, and everyone else loved it too (important detail). My work had always defined me, and I loved it enough to eclipse my sinking sentiment this wasn't fulfilling me, and I couldn't hide my shame, nor swallow my fears.
So, I failed. Pathetically. It wasn't even dramatic. It was stupid mistakes. Minor mishaps, with little to no impact. But repetitive. And ridiculous. And invasive. Eventually, completely contagious. They infected my whole being.
I knew from the moment I admitted to myself I wouldn’t “be a lifer,” a term most of us so proudly proclaimed in the industry, that I was faking it. I tricked myself into believing a long term career and successful clients were my desired goals. However, those ends simply became my job, and the means were meaningless. I squandered the gains. I abused the success. I failed.
So, what is the point?
There’s many tools one can employ to become aware of their fear, confront their fear, overcome their fear, even transform their fear into powerful energy that pushes them forward instead of holding them back.
If you're all too familiar with fear, know that is totally normal. It is part of the human experience and fear is just that, an overwhelming emotional reaction designed to cause an immediate action. The space in-between fear and action is where we have the choice and power to create whatever we need in that moment.
Usually we react, we attribute meaning to our fear, and fear pulls us back. That reaction looks like retreat. We are hard wired to survive and our monkey minds were programmed long before our complex and modern lives. Our nervous system, our reactive, biological state says STAY ALIVE but when our boss is stressing us out, or our kid is throwing a tantrum or we are trying to push our selves into a new level of performance, we may not need to try to stay alive. We have to try and push past that fear.
In fact, we need to embrace that fear. Fear is information. It is a neural transmitter saying ACT. Once we ensure we are physically safe, we can start to asses our needs and our subsequent action. Fear doesn’t mean we are failing, or we should give up, or we aren’t committed, or we aren’t capable of dealing with this situation. Fear doesn't MEAN anything, How we choose to interpret fear is everything.
One of my favorite analogies is the Olympic Athlete. This human, not dissimilar to yourself, has trained, and they have trained hard. They’ve not only trained their physical body, but they’ve trained their mind. They’ve literally trained this neurotransmitter to input 'PERFORM' instead of 'be afraid.'
They’ve trained themselves to transform fear into performance. Now, I am no Olympic athlete (I’ve been training for 13 months to do one pull up, real talk). However, I have taken some pretty scary leaps, I have endured some frightful situations, I have even faced death. I’ve become very familiar with my fear, and I can honestly say, the more scared I am, the more I lean-in now, because I have learned fear means 'GO, GO FAST.' Fear shows up when I’m pushing past a previous limitation, and there is much to learn on the other side.
A great technique is to simply acknowledge your fear. Thank your fear, for it has kept you safe and secure, and your world is predictable and familiar. However, for any growth, expansion, or learning to occur, you have to invite this fear over, pour it a drink, and then give it your refinancing papers to look over, because you have more important work to do. Seriously, give your fear another job, because you’re safe and you got this. You’re ready to level up.
I had the honor of speaking to an artist I look up to about a new creative business venture she is launching. We talked through the ins and outs, and I asked her what was holding her back - this seasoned, inspirational, successful business woman - and she said, Fear.
She explained how she hasn’t done “This” before, how she’s unsure what the end result will look like, how she’d prefer to do more research, and she wants to hold back until she felt more confident (read: Safe).
This creative business leader has launched several businesses in very competitive environments. She has a true artists lifestyle. She has successfully started multiple projects with new people and in new places. She has done “This” before.
When I reflected this back to her, she was shocked. She said, "I just didn’t think about it like that, I have created so much success, and I can do This!"
Think back on all your past success. Proof. You can face your fear. You can do this!