This one goes out to all the people in the world who are afraid of something. Oh wait—perhaps I need to choose a smaller audience. Trying to write for everyone is usually a mistake.
See, every day I’m fortunate to read a lot of nice emails from all over the world. The people who write in are very kind. If it’s true that I can inspire someone, let the record show that I am similarly inspired by many other people, including those who are nice enough to pay attention to what I have to say.
However, some of the email I get uses the word fearless (as in, “I admire you for being fearless”), and whenever I see that word, I always worry that I’ve sent the wrong message somewhere.
Fearless? Whoa. Where did that come from? I may be any number of things, some good and some bad, but I am definitely not fearless.
Sorry if I gave anyone this impression somewhere. In reality, I have a long list of fears waiting to limit me at any given moment. Most of them can be related to the fear of failure, the fear of success, and the fear of change– but there are countless variations. Name a fear, and I’ve probably had it at some point.
And I don’t think I’m alone in this. Personally, I’m suspicious of anyone who says they are truly fearless. I think they’re bluffing or hiding something deeply personal.
If any such person is out there, please be my guest and write in to introduce yourself as the first truly fearless person I’ve ever known. I’ll wait. If they really are fearless, then I think they should raise the stakes. Where much is given, much is required, right?
See, I’m skeptical about ever losing all fear. What I think is more important is finding a way to do great things despite the fear.
The difference between being fearless and standing up to your fears lies in refusing to allow your fears to make your decisions.
I’m afraid of public speaking, but I do it anyway.
I’m afraid of taking a stand on tough issues—it’s so much easier just to sit back and criticize other people who do.
I’m not really afraid of travel at this point, but that’s only because I’ve done so much of it. In the beginning, I was certainly afraid. Because of the nature of fear, I’ve got plenty of other concerns to replace the travel fear.
And so I am afraid, and so I keep going.
I do this because I know the alternatives all too well. The alternative, at least in my case, is feeling bad about missing out on something because I was afraid. What scares me the most is NOT doing something.
Those times when I’ve let my fears dictate my decisions… I HATE THAT FEELING. I want to avoid it at any cost.
I haven’t yet learned how to pretend my fears don’t exist, but thankfully I’ve learned how to push through them. You push through with the help of:
- Experience – those times when you stood up to fear and did the right thing
- Preparation – understanding what to expect when you step out from the ordinary
- Trauma – this one is optional, but I’ve noticed that people who have overcome serious hardship often go on to be seriously amazing
- Perspective – How bad can it be? What’s the worst thing that can happen? If the world won’t end and no small children will die as the result of your actions, you might as well take the leap
The Bottom Line
Fear is normal! I like how M. Scott Peck puts it:
“The absence of fear is not courage. The absence of fear is some kind of brain damage.”
If you don’t care about excellence or world-changing or living life on the edge, you don’t need to worry about facing down your fears. In fact, you never need to pay attention to them at all. It is quite conventional to give in to fear and always wonder if something could have been different way back when.
For the rest of us, giving in is also known as giving up. If you do care about a full life, you must do whatever it takes to overcome your fear. Raise the stakes! Don’t give in. It’s worth it.
But let’s be clear: fearless? I don’t think so. Not for me, anyway.
Fearless Symmetry Image by Swanksalot
Great article Chris. Courage is being afraid, but doing it anyway.
what a great post! love it love it. Yes, I have many fears too. And blogs and inspirational individuals like you make me want to keep pushing.
Feel the fear, and do it anyway!
I love how actionable your posts are! This one seems particularly personal for you too, which rocks. “And so I am afraid, and so I keep going.” Awesome.
I think asking “What’s the worst that can happen?” is key. In most cases, the worst really isn’t so bad after all. Thanks for the post.
Great post Chris. One of, if not the biggest thing I am trying to avoid right now is letting fear dictate my decisions. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself, is also the most difficult, and if you let fear prevail, then you are only hurting yourself.
But thanks for reiterating the fact that nobody is truly fearless, and frankly, nobody should want to be.
I agree with your points in particular, except for the trauma bit. I think it’s equally (perhaps more) likely to be severely scarred by trauma and not be adventurous again after some sort of trauma. It takes a certain a personality or a conscious decision to turn trauma into a learning experience.
Me? I’m kind of a joke-around kind of guy. I’d have to say a weird fear of mine is being funny at the wrong time (funeral perhaps), and the awkward silence that may ensue. I guess that’s fear of criticism (blogging seemed like an awesome way to “cure” it)
It’s true though…I can’t resist a witty observation. But I’m with you on public speaking, it is definitely something that gets more “bearable” the more you do it.
Safe travels Chris.
Yea nobody is fearless. We’re all the same, just wrapped up in different packages. With some more cleverly designed to look perfect.
Totally! I encourage people to befriend and converse with their fear as they would with anyone who doesn’t necessarily share their views. Hear it out, find out what your fear’s concerns are, thank your fear for sharing it’s concerns, share your thoughts and needs, and be comfortable that you don’t have to get rid of your fear or persuade it of your perspective to be able to go ahead and do that thing you want to do anyway. Let your fear come along with you for the ride and be changed by the experience.
Why is it that, so often, your messages are so timely and seem to be tailor-made for me? I just want to print this out and stick it into my bra (sorry, too descriptive?) and carry it around with me – so I can read it whenever I need it.
Thanks – AGAIN.
I think there are a very tiny minority of people who can legitimately claim to be fearless, Thich Nhat Hanh springs to mind and some other Buddhist teachers that have spent their entire lives working on it.
For most of us though fear is just a necessary and integral part of life, because without it we’d be doing some fairly reckless stuff out there.
Good quote by M Scott Peck although I hated ‘The Road Less Traveled’
Another great article Chris!
I think it is important to remember that we all have fears. Veteran rock stars have butterflies in their stomachs before they get on stage. That is normal. So many things can go wrong. Nickelback, despite their huge North American fame was booed of the stage in Spain.
We all have fears and we all don’t really know we we are doing. We all create our lives as we go.
The absolute best thing you can do for yourself is to move abroad. That is the best way to fully understand that all those habits we think are normal are just a fabrication. Reality is subjective. It is what ever we want it to be.
Embrace your fears. Move towards your fears. Live your fears. Fear makes us human and that is what life is all about.
I understand that you have fears as it’s what makes you ‘human’ but I think when people have given you kudos for your ‘fearlessness’ it’s definitely an energetic something that you exude in your writing and it truly is an inspiration. Embrace the fact that you deliver a feeling of fearlessness through your work- sometimes it is that very feeling that gets one of their butt to finally wake up and live life instead of making life live them. It is a compliment of high standard. To watch or read someone who expresses with effortless ease their adventures and appreciation to do what they love for a living is peppered with fearlessness / being carefree in every positive connotation. Celebrate it! It’s a good thing, Chris! And thank you for reminding us that you are indeed human. 😉
Thanks for this, Chris. What a timely post! I’ve been thinking about major changes; the possibility of moving to another country, and leave the comforts of the US. It may or may not happen, but the thing you said about “Those times when I’ve let my fears dictate my decisions… I HATE THAT FEELING. I want to avoid it at any cost.” might just help me in the decision process!
Wow, I really needed to hear this today. Thank u for the synchronicity Chris.
I can relate to what you are saying. I have been fearful many times. My remedy is to change my focus. I tell myself that it is more frightening to stay the same, stay stagnant. There will be many failures. There are supposed to be.
When I think of my life, I would be a failure if I didn’t feel the fear and then do it anyway. Thanks as always, Chris.
I have a fear of deep water. So I joined the rowing club at school. We start practice in the river next week. Yikes!
I love this post!
I was very fearful as a child and let that fear make too many decisions for me. And, yes, I HATED that feeling.
It’s so good to be able to leave it behind. And so sad to talk to people who haven’t gotten to that point.
Eleanor Roosevelt advised: Every day, do something that scares you.
Words I live by.
Doing something in spite of your fear is worthy of praise, I think your readers appreciate that spirit in you. I frequently use fear of ‘the other alternative’ as a technique to get me to do something, so in a way I do let “fear dictate me decisions” e.g. I fear living a life of regrets (and this is really one of the greatest fears in my life, apart from my paralyzing fear of ghosts) so it keeps me doing stuff I wouldn’t consider doing otherwise.
Two things that guide me are this quote
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” ~Ambrose Redmoon
and something I read in a book about doing something that scares you every day. It can be super small things like ‘I don’t really want to make that phone call’ so then I know I need to face it and just do it. Works wonders. Fear should never be the guiding force in your life.
thank you for this, chris.
i’m reading this days before i embark on the first of many travel journeys to live my dream as an image capturer and storyteller. am i afraid? sure. is it an option not to live my passion? not even a little bit.
here’s to doing it anyway.
very best, lisa
Thanks for bringing up something that the ‘average’ person doesn’t understand.
Most all of the adventures in my life that others have considered ‘fearless, brave, reckless’ were simply done because I was afraid of them (world class glacier mountain climbing, rock climbing, long distance running, running rapids where people had died, facing down truly dangerous wild animals, and yes, public speaking, etc, but you get the idea). It’s knowing I can face the fears and be very successful that means the most to me.
Asking yourself what’s the worst that could happen really helps put things in perspective and brings your fear down to a realistic size.
As always, I enjoy the way your mind works. Here’s what I recently had to say about fear to my Facebook group:
When making a decision about anything in life, from travel to career to relationships, I ask myself, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Then I do that. I’m talking about all kinds of fear: fear of risk, fear of ridicule, fear of failure.
That’s not to say I live life with “No Fear.” Fear is a normal human emotion. Sometimes fear is a sensible warning of danger. Sometimes our irrational fears have deep roots in primitive instincts of self-preservation or in childhood traumas, and they can be beyond our conscious control. But while feelings of fear may not be in our control, how we react to fear is.
I don’t do things just BECAUSE I’m afraid to do them. that would be foolish. However, I don’t let fear stop me from taking risks to do what I love and enjoy, what inspires and excites me, or what will contribute to myself and others. When I overcome fear to follow my passion and purpose, I find my self-confidence builds to face the next challenge. My fear grows smaller, until all that is left… is me.
This is a great post, Chris! as i read it i was reminded of a book i read way back in 5th grade about a young slave girl dealing with her fear:
“You got to put your scaredness under your feet and stand on it”
This phrase has always stayed with me because there will always be fear in all things, big or small, but as long as you can move forward despite that fear, you gain mastery of fear for every other event/action that comes your way…
btw: thanks for the quote from M. Scott Peck – i have a version that ends “the absence of fear is MENTAL ILLNESS” but didn’t know the source =-)
Most timely, kind sir. I had just finished completing a task that I was allowing to wallow around in my mind growing the fungus of fear on it. As usual, once I just got about getting it done, it was rather enjoyable. Then I went to my inbox and found this wonderful post. Thanks.
@Cara Lopez Lee
I can truly appreciate your comment about doing things “just because I’m afraid of them, that would be foolish”.
My view on some of the things I have done, were just because I was afraid of them. They were also way outside my comfortable world that I knew.
I was physically fit, versed in the things I needed to know….in other words, prepared to probably succeed, even with the fear.
Foolish……maybe, but not much riskier than crossing a 6 lane street most anywhere in Italy. Or sometimes in Portland, Oregon. 🙂
Fear gives us something to fight against. It shows us where we can go to challenge ourselves and become stronger people. Having no fears would be lame. As you said Chris, don’t let fear control your decisions, fight against them and power through while learning about yourself and the world!
Thank you for writing this.
Fear is important emotion. Sometimes Fear is as great a motivator as is setting goals. One factor that concerns me in younger people today is a certain lack of fear. In a society where the fear of failure is taken away, the fear of consequences are lost creates a new type of fear in myself. Without having failures and going through the exercises of winning and losing our youth will be lost in the correct decision to go towards. Their definition of success will be misguided. Without Fear you lack a vital part of the Human Compass.
Once again you have proven to me why I love reading your material so much, & that is you are a real, authentic person,,,You in many ways are just like all of us,,you have the same fears, doubts, desires etc,,,etc,,why I bet you even put your trousers on like I do–‘One Leg at a Time:-)!”….I guess the difference for you is that you have learned how to overcome your fears & Fan your DESIRES to a white heat …where you will allow nothing to sidetrack you from living the Life you choose,,,,I admire that,,,I sometimes think my own desires & dreams are not achieved because my Desire is not yet strong & burning inside of me enough.
As for fears any sane person knows we all have them…One of my favorite novels, “The Red Badge of Courage” is a good study for any of us. Books like this & your post encourage me that it is ok to Fear,,even healthy at times,,,& yes if I ave given in to fear there is always hope that I can pick myself up and face that fear & become the person I was meant to be.
Thanks For Sharing
‘Fear will hold your prisoner. Hope will set you free.’
My favorite quote from my favorite movie ‘The Shawshank Redemption’.
Fear is good, but I think you must push past it. There are plenty of (good) reasons not to do something, fear should not be at the top of that list!
We set out on our trip to be fearful and uncomfortable – we have succeeded!!
Wonderful point, Chris. Thank you for sharing so vulnerably. I can so relate. For me, I’m afraid of failing, never reaching my potential, disappointing people, making mistakes, looking like a jackass, never figuring it all out. Etc. I don’t think I’d ever go outside if I let those fears stop me. That doesn’t mean they don’t continue to pop up. Especially when I’m afraid of being seen as anything other than a good person. And then I get annoyed at myself for being so focused on others’ approval. Argh. I sound neurotic, I’m sure. It’s all that junk that can get in the way of just taking action.
And you are such an inspiration. To embrace your humanity as you do. So fully. And then share it with your readers. Thank you for that. It helps me. That’s for sure.
I have a fear of flying that hasn’t gone away even though I’ve flown anyway. Are you afraid of flying at all now?
I think my fear of flying is a fear of losing… my kids, my family, everyone I need (and they need me). I can’t remember if you have a family. I wonder if that matters with fear? Fear of leaving my kids motherless (my own mother died young). If you aren’t a parent, don’t you have freedom to take risks that parents don’t have?
I’ve often wondered about this.
My favorite quote is, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
It applies acknowledgment of the fear up front, but prompt to overcome it immediately.
I wholeheartedly agree and don’t really believe anyone is fearless.
I do find however, that I can take the sting out of fear and reduce it’s hold on me and my clients by clearing the energy and beliefs associated with that fear. When I do that, I am able to move forward more easily and hit fewer roadblocks then when I try to push or force myself to go forward despite the fear which causes resistance.
Thanks for all your great articles. I appreciate your authenticity. You are inspiring.
I named my company Intrepid, because I want people to be fearless and bold in their marketing. This post made me realize I need to be careful in how I present that notion.
I don’t mean for people to make silly and reckless decisions, to jump blindly off the cliff.
I mean for people not to be HELD BACK by fear. I try to say that you WILL fail, at some point. It is inevitable. So, don’t be afraid to try things.
Pushing the envelope sometimes, likely beyond your comfort level, is a great way to uncover something amazing…
another excellent article. thanks for sharing and i will share this quote “Fear grows in darkness; if you think there’s a bogeyman around turn on the light” (Dorothy Thompson)
Have a great day
Fun article! One of my favorite topics. I conquered my main fear: To find my voice and speak up for myself. It set me free and changed my life in extraordinary ways! The external ones like going hot air ballooning seemed like a piece of emotional cake in comparison. Thx.
Giulietta, Inspirational Rebel
The biggest take away for me was your comment on perspective. I think trauma, experience and being prepared all shape perspective. I won’t of course claim to be fearless, but after sitting down and having a long short talk with myself on how temporary life is, there’s just no sense to fear. Some fear is innate, some is trained, some is completely false….gain perspective and you’ll master your fears…or at least challenge them without hesitation!
I’ve read somewhere that “If you’re not ready to die, you’re not ready to live.” I live by this because I believe that not even the fear of death should be an excuse to hold back from impacting your world. It shouldn’t keep you from your passions, what you were called to do. I don’t mean be reckless with your life; I only mean that if you’re true calling involves some danger, you will never be successful if you become a slave of death.
Very nicely put.
There’s something to be said for the Stoic approach to conquering fear (and living a happier life as a result). Experiencing some worst case scenarios and moving forward from them can definitely help, as can taking stock of those same scenarios without experiencing them (though if you’ve never had a ‘holy hell, how am I going to get out of this?’ moment, you’re probably not leading a very interesting life!).
Fear leads to so many problems in the world…if we all took a little bit of time to acknowledge this and get a better handle on it, I think we’d be in pretty good shape.
Fear is usually trying to protect us from some kind of perceived danger. Once we realize this, we can see if this is actually true, and we can make a conscious decision about how to act. I have found it very useful to get to know fear rather than try to run from it.
@ Colin Wright……I’ve had a LOT of those “Holy hell” moments. Wouldn’t trade any of them in for a safer life.
As I’m a bit older than many of you, I can tell you that learning to face fear is good training for later in life when you will actually face some serious “fear” moments.
Not the speaking in public kind, but the long illness/death of a soul mate, resulting indebtedness, losing everything, landing (eventually) on your feet kind of fear.
If you know how to master fear, you can do anything.
Great post. Fear motivates us and is a good reminder that we are alive.
Hey Chris, thanks for this article. I think that you should be flattered that people think you’re fearless. It just means that you’ve done more in your life than other people have, and other people know that they are limited by their fears.
It is usually the things we are most afraid of that are the most worth doing. The best part is having the courage to do it despite the fear – only then do you realize that you CAN do it. And those will be the best moments of your life.
When we tell people about our decision to give up secure, safe jobs in Prague to explore the rest of the world and try and change our professions along the way, the response is often, “Wow, you’re brave and fearless.” Absolutely not.
We have a lot of fears about our present and our future. There are no guarantees that we’ll end up on the other side of this journey with a successful business and any money in the bank. But, we try to push through these short-term and long-term fears with perspective and experience. Each time we conquer one fear, it helps us with new ones. We realize over and over again that the worst risk is not trying something.
Thanks for another great and relevant article.
“Asking yourself what’s the worst that could happen really helps put things in perspective and brings your fear down to a realistic size.”
Reminds me of a Cheers episode: (quotes are paraphrased)
Lilith: Frasier, I have something bad to tell you.
Frasier: Well, then, I’ll just imagine the worst possible thing you could say to me, and then whatever you have to say will seem trivial by comparison.
Lilith: I’ve been having an affair…
Frasier: THAT WAS IT!!!!!!!
Whoa! Absence of fear is not brain damage. None of us are perfect, but come on, where is your faith in times of fear?
One of the reasons I enjoy reading your work is that you are willing to share your fears with your readers. That type of humble honesty shows an authenticity which I find so refreshingly inspiring.
When it comes to fears, the decision is “who’s driving?”. We can either drive with our fears in the passenger seat, or surrender the wheel and end up where ever our fears will take us.
I never like where my fears take me.
Thank you for sharing the unique gift that is you!
Great article, Chris. This is my first time at your site, and I’ll be honest, I’m excited to delve into this entire blog and, without the use of surgical tools, pick your brain. 😛
As far as experience goes for overcoming your fear, I’d like to elaborate a bit more by saying that it’s about exposing yourself to the given situations enough times to become comfortable with it.
I actually experienced this last night, when I went on a night walk with my dog. I don’t live at all in a dangerous neighborhood, but I could just feel the fear creeping up on me, whether it be some animal rushing out of the bushes or some person mugging me. I even attempted to rationalize the fear away to no avail. Man, it was so frustrating, but I did it without running back home as fast as I could.
Again, Awesome post, just what I needed.
*jumping up and down* Yes, Yes, Yes!!!! You have yet again inspired me and thousands of others with your candor and perspective. Thank you for being such an amazing person.
Chris, as a National Board Certified language arts teacher, I say , “Congrats!” to an articulate writer. As to content, I heartily agree. I became brave last year, when I was asked to rapel down a tower in Wales with 12 year olds. I declined, but suited up to give them courage.
Then the Full On team presented a quote from Wayne Gretzgy—
‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Standing on that castle, looking out at the Irish Sea, I thought, “When will I ever have this shot again?” It worked. I had no qualms as I boinged down that tower. Talk about adrenaline afterward! I am now brave. Maybe not fearless, but my fears are less. Love your site. Thanks~
This post reminds me of a book I read by Susan Jeffers called Feel The Fear & Do It Anyway.
I think fear can be used as a warning…be careful, this might be dangerous. The problem comes when our fears keep us from living a full and happy life. We all have fears that could potentially keep us from living our best life. The question you have to ask yourself is, what’s the worst that could happen? If you can live with the consequences, go for it!
(My morbid fear of snakes keeps me from going camping and hiking, but since I am not a nature girl, I can live with that.)
Bravo! I have found that, for me, fear (not to mention anger and, occasionally, guilt) can actually a very powerful tool. At the root of fear and other unpleasant feelings, there is usually some valuable information about oneself. For example, I have long been afraid of flying. Now, I’m rational enough to know that planes generally don’t crash, so why this irrational fear? Loss of control is what’s really scaring me, not the 1 in 10 zillion chance of a crash. Rather than let fear get in the way of life experiences, we can use the emotion as a map of sorts and become more self-aware.
Kudos for providing such a practical way to do so!
Not surprised you got so many comments on this one. I think nearly everything that stops us doing something in the end boils down to fear. It’s great that you share your frailties – I’m a big believer in revealing our underbellies!
Great post, I will pass it on
Wow! This was really timely. A friend led me to this site and now I’m glad that she did. I have been indoors for two days because plans have changed, I feel stuck and I am afraid of the future so therefore I feel stuck. Again.
As you can see, this was timely. Thanks for sharing.
Great post. It really is good to hear and have it confirmed that fear is normal. It is so easy to convince yourself you are the only one that has fears, but the reality is everyone has fear at one time or another. It is not that those who seem fearless don’t have fear, but rather that they are pushing through their fears and they have figured out the formula that allows them to have the confidence to continually push through fears. Realizing you are not an anomaly and even those people you have put on a pedestal have fears, allows you to understand it is only about finding the same formula they have found and that it is all a part of our journey. Thanks for the great post.
Fear is normal. Many times it acts as a protection device if we’re too far out of our comfort zones, or are just not ready for some big risk.
The normal fears that beset most of us can be overcome if treated as challenges rather than fears.
But what about extreme fears, the type that paralyze us, make us sick, unable to function ? A fear that has gone over the edge becomes a phobia, and then it’s a very different situation. You try to push through the fear, do the job regardless, and then you’re looking at severe blood pressure problems.
According to a doctor friend of mine, there’s a lot more phobia around these days, everything from spiders to inability to open mail or a newspaper. And the problem is that people don’t know they’ve gone phobic — they simply have no idea that this situation exists. So they force themselves to do whatever is bothering them, and then up goes the blood pressure, and other troubles follow.
Medical help for phobia is quite simple, but treatment of aggravated phobia may not be, so this is a fear that needs to be recognised and professionally dealt with at an early stage.
I am sure there are plenty of situations we could choose that would provide us safety – and induce a feeling of fearlessness. But as human beings we like to push the limits. We are always chasing the next goal post.
We could easily avoid ever facing most of our fears public speaking, failure of failure, success, loss. But the alternatives… Ah, is that a fear too? A fear of the alternatives… So we choose the lesser evil.
Everything is being challenged, changed, transformed all the time. And the only way to do that is question status quo, to go someplace we’ve never been (and not just travel-wise). I am reminded of the words – if you’re not living on the edge, you’re wasting space.
Here is a very good talk by Elisabeth Gilbert about the fears of failure and success.
Really great ! It’s a good subject !
i wonder sometimes why lots of people prefer repeat stupid sentences to a woman like( ” tu es folle, t’appartiens au fn = you’re mad, you ‘re in a group of extremist party) that give elements like photos, speeches, so useful to begin a procedure again this group and this sort of colaboration…
i don’t know why, this story with the media exists since two years, i’m very tired, i search this elements, the result is empty however the situation is totatly awful, degusting, without freedom. Every night, this group destroys a brain, every day media repeats awful sentences.
And the justice? I need elements, lots of people get them.
Fear ? Stupidity ? plot ? What do they search ?
I loved this post, and it’s timing was a great reminder for me. Making changes in your life can be scary, but so are MANY (maybe most?) things worth doing. I agree with the other comments that the steps for pushing through fear are really helpful and actionable. I also love the “brain damage” quote! I’ll definitely remember it when I’m nervous and afraid of taking a leap or making a change. Love the no-nonsense quality and simplicty of it! Thanks!
The best thing I’ve ever read about fear is this:
“Fear is a belief in your inadequacy to deal with something.”
Harry Palmer, author of the Avatar Course, said that and it’s so true. When I look at fear it’s always that and just looking at it from that perspective shifts me.
Thanks for this article, Chris! I needed this reminder that I still need to work on overcoming my own fears.
Years ago I had a last minute opportunity to work in Germany for a year. The only country I had visited at the time was Canada. Looking back, it was a fear of disappointing the person offering the opportunity that helped me accept the offer. Several people told me, and still do, that I was fearless to go work in a town where most people didn’t speak English. Fearless? I was terrified. What people didn’t see, though, was all of the preparation and all of the long nights in the University language labs trying to learn a bit of German before I left. They didn’t see all of the material I gathered and the people who helped me prepare. For me, the preparation helped me overcome the fear. In that sense, the fear was a good thing. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. It’s become part of who I am.
I’ve always been baffled by people who have called me (or travelers in general) ballsy, fearless or any number of adjectives for having moved across the country from everyone I knew or lived and worked overseas. It was exactly the fear that I felt before doing these things that made them worthwhile and noteworthy.
I’ve also found that having a solid home that I love made every venture much less fearful, because if your worst case scenario is coming home to a place you love, what is there to be scared of?
I couldn’t agree more with your post (but you already knew that!)So many people send messages to me saying similar things about how I seem fearless and I say the same things. I’m scared of things all the time, but put them into perspective and then they’re not so bad.
You wrote that you used to be scared of travel but you do it so much now that you’re used to it. I think that’s a really important part too – repetition – everything is scary the first couple of times around. The first steps are the hardest and then there is an odd sort of comfort in knowing you can overcome and dip into the well and do it again.
Love the article! Thank you : )
I understand this intimately! I am currently bicycling from LA to Alaska. I am about 3/4 of the way and I don’t want things to end. The most fearful time for me was the week before. My imagination had no limits to what could go wrong! Beside problems with raccoons it has been pretty great.
Chris you are an inspiration in action and in writing. Hope to meet you someday.
It’s good to remember that our brains are wired up to respond to danger with adrenaline – which gives us the energy to handle danger. How we label that process as fear and deal with it is our own personal dance.
The really great new is that one of our brain’s main criteria for taking something off the danger list is “lived through it”. So each “dangerous” thing we live through expands our world of possibilities.
The funny thing is that in working with people to find “the call”, that something that draws us into our authentic life, the best indicator I’ve found for honing in on it is : great excitement mixed with an equally great amount of fear. I’ve come to believe that our truest desires will always call us into scary territory, so we may as well get good at dealing with it. And watching others deal with it well is always helpful and inspiring!
Great post, Chris. I typically tell people that I fear nothing except for maybe boredom. Although, after seeing people like you and Timothy Ferriss, I realize I have a long way to go.
I’ve actually been stepping out more and more each day, although I still find weird situations in which I get scared, and have no reason to.
I am observing at local high schools for my teaching certification, and a teacher asked me to be part of a discussion in front of students, and I totally chickened out. Why? Scared of students. Argh! Next time, I will do it.
Ask yourself one question…will it kill you? If not, consider giving it a whirl.
To me fear is one of the reasons to do things. The thrill that comes from doing something you’re slightly afraid of is great, discovering new things, learning on the go and not knowing what the outcome will be.
That said, I don’t believe in taking worthless risks, but it’s not often that we’re faced with something which is really dangerous. Mostly I suspect it’s either fear of the unknown or fear of changing the status quo. And in both cases one need to face her/his fears and start being a doer.
BTW, I recently discovered your blog and immediately started following it. Love it! 🙂
Thank you, thank you for this post. When I hear people describe others as being “fearless” I would think to myself, Wow… I sooo wish I could be that way and how do I become “fearless”. You see, I have sooo many fears and being in business only magnifies them because it forces me to step way out of my comfort zone, but I do it anyway because it overrides my biggest fear–leaving my mentally handicapped daughter destitute, alone and no means to have someone help care for her after I’m gone. Your post puts everything in perspective. Thank you for sharing your insight.
Living on 3 different continents in 3 years? Not scary to me, so I don’t consider myself brave and I absolutely don’t consider myself lucky. It sounded good to me so I worked hard to make it happen. Not brave, not luck.
Applying to graduate school or confronting someone? Terrifying. When I do that, that’s when I consider myself brave. It just so happens that the things I consider terrifying are within many people’s grasp.
Great article on on fear and being fearless. Most people who are solo travels are afraid of traveling by themselves, but they do it anyway. Fear can be used in a positive way to propel us to the next level. Feel the fear and do it anyway!
One of my favorite, encouraging stories about fear is something I read a long time ago about Muhammad Ali. The story is told that every time he entered the ring, he would look at his opponent and say “Hello fear, my old friend.” I’ve said the same thing countless times in my life (including in the ring, on the road, facing the unknown) and the way I see it, fear is now my ally. If I don’t feel it, it probably isn’t worth moving forward. Great post!
Great topic. Fear can either be paralyzing or a driving force. Unless you are in immediate danger of physical harm, fear is just an emotion in your mind. It helps me to remember that.
Well, this is one hell of an introduction to your blog! Great entry, and thank you for posting it!
Anyone reading this has access to a computer, which is indicative of a certain level of comfort in life. Much of the rest of the world doesn’t have that luxury, and would laugh at what we think of as “fear”.
Brian Tracy says, “Success is always on the far side of fear.” Wyman
During the past few weeks, I realized just how afraid I’ve been for so very long. I’ve been successful and people look on and admire my accomplishments. But…I look on and see what a mediocre life I’ve lived, because I let my fears decide for me until I no longer had any joy, no dreams and moved day to day wondering if this is it. So, am I still afraid. Yes! But, now I know it’s there and I face it and talk myself through it and step out and do what I have to do, anyway. It’s been hard but it was harder living life as if asleep. Thanks for reminding me that it is ok to be afraid. What’s not ok is to abdicate the throne of my life and let fear rule.
With you! We will never stop being scared but we WILL take action in spite of our fears (mostly). That’s why I started a 100 things I fear in 100 days project that I’m updating every day on my website. By the 100th day (Dec 30th) I’ll have faced a TON of fears and overcome them. From making videos and putting them online, to inner demons, all are being faced and stretching my comfort zone.
I actually get travelling can be scary but after a while, one gets used to finding solutions. I’ve lived in 4 countries on 3 continents in the last 9 years and it was always hard and scary in the beginning but I knew that would only be a small part of it. The experience can’t be beat.
What people really mean when they say things like you’re so fearless, wish i could be like that, is “I wish I had the guts to do that but it’s really not THAT important to me”. If your soul called you to do something, you would do it and take fear along for the ride.
Rock on mate! Tia @TiaSparkles
Thanks, Chris, for writing this. People often assume I am fearless because of what I do. I can get kinda indignant about it. Feeling fear and acting despite it is part of the territory of creating anything. Conquering that fear is one of the hidden honor badges we don’t often claim.
You’ve done a great job of articulating what I’ve felt about fear. Thank you!
The reply to fear isn’t the multifaceted thing with Preparation or Trauma or — I’ve already forgotten the rest. Fear has a perfectly good opposite: Anger. As Terry Pratchett said: “Don’t get afraid, get angry.” The more you apply this, the better you will be at it.
That’s really all there is to it; no need to overthink it.
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