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.
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:
- 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: