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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

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.

And you?


Photo by ramy