The Top 4 Fears and How They Control You

Warning – this will make you uncomfortable, at least I hope it does, because I’m calling you out (and myself, and everyone else). It’s a truth and a reminder that we all need from time to time…

You see there is a secret Boogeyman that has been following you around your entire life, hiding in the dark, and you are afraid of him. No really, you are. He resides in your head, and whispers your insecurities quietly in your ear, precisely at the moments when you most need the confidence to take bold action.

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I decided this blog post needed to be written largely due to the response I got from my post about my experience with Soylent. I got contacted over and over with pretty much this exact formula: 1) That is cool/interesting/weird, 2) I kinda/sorta/really want to try that, 3) I’m worried that/I’m confused about/What if… [insert some random insignificant obstacle that will ultimately prevent them from actually taking action]

This is one of the best life lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur: taking action always trumps inaction. Even a failure is always a successful, because you always learn some great lesson, and at the very least you did…something.

We all worry so much about everything…What if this…what if that…. and this constantly prevents us from taking those risks we need to take to accomplish those things we daydream about. By default, we tend to imagine some amazing outcome that we would absolutely die for, then immediately think “I can’t because”. Once you remove that knee-jerk limiting response, literally everything becomes possible. And it’s not that you will succeed at all of those things that you will go for, but rather you will be willing to try and fail, and for at least some of them, you will succeed. And when you do it will be difficult to imagine for everyone who has never failed.

This tendency to place limits of what we believe we can accomplish happens to literally EVERYONE. All ages, genders, races, maturity levels, celebrities, CEOs, the Dalai Lama, Obama, literally everyone. The only difference is what you do with that stupid little voice in your head.

I’ve fallen prey to this line of thinking just like everyone else. In fact until a couple years ago I can honestly say this mindset was seriously holding me back. I’m hoping this blog post will help jerk you out of that place if you are there, because I know how much it sucks. Even now my boogeyman crops up now and again (and probably always will). But I refuse to listen to him. I now understand that little voice and now I just laugh when I hear it and keep on chugging. De-mask the boogeyman and he’s not scary – in fact he seems a little silly.

But let’s get into some specifics. Here are your top 4 worst nightmares that ALL of your fears relate back to:

  • Failure
  • Success
  • Embarrassment
  • The Unknown

Let’s go through quick examples as well as productive responses to each of these fears:

1. Failure: What if I can’t do it? What if I invest time and resources into this project and fail and I lose my house and can’t feed my family and my wife leaves me and I get cancer and the sun blows up…etc.

Response: Yeah, well what if everything horrible does happen, will you die, (ok maybe if the sun blows up) Or will you be fine 6 months after your world absolutely ends? Again, the best life lessons arise from failure and crisis, so it’s time to stop being afraid. Now…what are amazing successes which might actually happen if you ignore your fear and go for that thing you want to do?

2. Success: Many people are genuinely afraid of success, although this fear tends to be a bit quieter and often only arises when you tell #1 to shutup. What if I get that job I want but then I can’t handle it? Do I really know what this new opportunity looks like – what if I don’t like what I find? What if I’m disappointed by achieving my goal?

Response: You can handle it, and it is absolutely worth going for. I can say this without even know what IT is! Why? Because you are cultivating the habit of inaction by letting fears deter you, and you will forever be kicking yourself with what-if’s so just go out and do it!

3. Embarrassment:  This one actually use to be one of my biggest personal fears. In fact I used to have chronic anxiety and have even had a few full-on panic attacks in my day (I don’t recommend them). Embarrassment Fears looks like: What if I do something romantic for her and she just laughs, because she could never be attracted to me? What if they find out I’m not good enough/smart enough/creative enough to be here? What if they find me out? What if get up in front of everyone and completely choke – what if I look like an idiot?

Response: This one is soooo easy. Don’t give a shit. No one really cares anyways. If you take the time to remove all the insecurity weeds from your mental garden, you’ll laugh off any potentially embarrassing situation.  On a more practical note, this is the easiest to practice. I set aside 30 minutes every single day to purposefully do something really awkward to stretch my bounds of comfort. The harder, the more effective. In fact, I even exercised this a little bit above by broadcasting through the internet about my past anxiety issues.

On a more daily basis, I practice by doing everything from making goofy faces at strangers to putting on headphones and dancing salsa in the middle of my gym to asking for a girl’s number (out of my league) while I had chipmunk cheeks from a severe allergic reaction – she actually gave it to me, just goes to show you never know! The best part is these exercises are always a great laugh right afterwards, and sparks some seriously interesting conversations…

4. The Unknown: this fear is the most ambiguous, as it relates to general anxiety from just not knowing! Your brain will try to translate this anxiety into some (usually ridiculous) fear

Response: The trick is to understand that everyone’s afraid of the unknown…it’s a natural response. So rather than getting wrapped up in the fear, just…let go. Accept the beauty in chaos of the unknown. Over time instead of seeing the “unknown” you’ll begin to see opportunity, you’ll begin to see possibility.

At the end of the day all these fears relate back to not understanding that you can always find a way, you can always break through every external barrier once you remove the much stronger internal barriers. I think we complain about so many people being lazy – but I think people are almost NEVER lazy. Seriously. “Lazy” people just don’t believe in themselves. We see their inaction even in the absence of external barriers, because their internal battle hasn’t been decided yet.

So stop worrying, and start doing, or else people will think you are lazy! 😉

I challenge you to do something TODAY that you’ve been holding back from for any reason. Go for it and let me know how it goes – I’d love to hear about it!

Two books you need to right right now:

1. Positive intelligence by Shirzad Chamine

2. The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama

8 replies
  1. That guy
    That guy says:

    I heard soylent can actually regenerate human limbs. So I should cut off one of mine because I think its going to make a discovery to change medicine if it works? Action better than inaction?

    Hyperbole, duh, but point worth making.

    I could also respond to this post with a movie title.

    Yes Man.

    You are in the middle of that movie, where will you be at the end?

    Reply
    • Grant Weherley
      Grant Weherley says:

      Well if you’ve heard about it, I suppose someone has beat you to it!

      Action is always better than inaction, because if you are dumb enough to cut off an arm inn the first place, it’s only a matter of time…

      Yes, sir? You, that guy, think I am a Yes Man, man?

      If Hollywood is right, I should be soon facing a huge conflict as a result of saying yes, then ultimately spending the rest of my life/movie thinking “ohhhh NOW I get it – the stupidly obvious lesson – the point is to just not hold yourself back or be afraid to do things…”

      Reply
  2. Curtis
    Curtis says:

    A lot of people’s fears center around not being liked. you could call that “failure” of people liking you, but the fear is not of the failure, the fear is of people not liking you, so it is both definitionally and colloquially distinct. I think that should be a fifth one you add.

    Reply
    • Grant Weherley
      Grant Weherley says:

      That is very true Curtis. I suppose I could do a WHOLE separate post focusing on social fears, of which there are many. P.S. Of all the people who would end up on here and commenting, glad to see one is you. We better be careful though – I can see this becoming a full tangential digression on human nature that goes on indefinitely 😉

      Reply
  3. LoveWithTheGoPro
    LoveWithTheGoPro says:

    I understand the point you are trying to make in this post “Don’t let your fears hold you back from doing things that you want to do”. However, there is a flip side to this coin.

    For example, lets take the fear of embarrassment. You recommend doing something totally awkward everyday and that people don’t care. This is true of strangers who you are not going to meet again but not necessarily of people you hang out with everyday. Keep doing awkward things in front of people you meet everyday and you quickly become the weirdo of the group, which has inherent implications like people not taking you seriously.

    Reply
    • Grant Weherley
      Grant Weherley says:

      In my opinion, if you are unable to be yourself around your friends…are they really your friends?

      Don’t worry I am not suggesting to be totally impulsive, but rather consistently expanding your comfort zone by doing things that you are afraid of.

      If you want to be innovative, or do something truly great you will inevitably be operating outside traditional social rules, and thus can benefit from practicing the art of doing what you gotta do even if other people might disapprove or look at your funny!

      Besides, I do awkward shit all the time and it’s something many people appreciate about me. A sense of genuiness aside slight awkwardness 😉
      – Grant

      Reply
      • LoveWithTheGoPro
        LoveWithTheGoPro says:

        Haha I agree with you. When I was traveling Thailand this time, I would approach random women with the crappiest pickup lines and my mates and I had a good laugh about it. But then there have been times where I have taken the “being/saying awkward things does not matter” thing a little too far i.e. saying whatever comes to mind, and it did not have good results. You live, you learn. Just thought I should put that out there. Great blog by the way. I think you have convinced me to buy your book 🙂

        Reply
        • Grant Weherley
          Grant Weherley says:

          Much thanks for the support man! Yes I have totally been there as well 🙂

          One can definitely take it too far, but at least as a principle I believe it is always better to make a mistake of ambition or of “doing” that you can learn from, as opposed to a mistake of “not doing” which usually doesn’t get you anywhere!

          Hope you enjoy the book as much as the blog (personally I think it’s better quality haha)

          – Grant

          Reply

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