Dear E & V,
In your life you will encounter two types of fear:
- Good fear. It’s the fear you experience in those rare instances where your life is in danger and it gets you out of trouble. Like coming across a pissed off grizzly bear or pulling yourself from a burning car wreck.
- Bad fear. Fear that you’ll fail, be ridiculed, be embarrassed, or any other fear based on psychological “harm”.
Good fear keeps you alive. Bad fear keeps you from living.
There will be many instances in your life where you will be faced with a choice: do something amazing that you’ve always wanted to do but that takes you outside your comfort zone OR keep doing what you’re doing because you’re afraid of failing and live a life of regret.
The latter comes from over thinking. It comes from worrying what others will think…
What if I fail?
What if she makes fun of me?
What if he says “No”?
What if they don’t like me?
What if what if what if what if what if.
Fuck the what-ifs.
There’s only one cure for the what-ifs, and that’s action.
“Action cures fear.” – David J. Schwartz, Magic of Thinking Big
I spent too much time in my twenties worrying about what girls would say to me if I asked them out. I was afraid of rejection: what if they said no? What if they laughed at me?
I eventually sucked it up and tried online dating. I got a lot of “no”s. Many more “no”s than “yes”s.
But you know what? I started to realize that if that’s the worst thing that was going to happen, the risk was more than worth it. Because there were “yes”s, but they couldn’t happen without the “no”s first.
A more recent example for me was when, at 35, I started training to become a volunteer firefighter. It was something I always wanted to do.
At one point in the training we had to navigate the “Maze”, which was a multi-story tunnel/ obstacle course that we had to navigate in complete darkness to simulate finding our way out of a smoke-filled building.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid. What if I get lost? What if I run out of air? What if the instructors have to come rescue me?
But then something funny happened. Once I took that first step into the building the what-ifs went away.
Don’t get me wrong, the fear was still there. But it wasn’t the first thing on my mind. I was more focused on getting through the maze. And you know what — it was fun!
And the worst that would happen? I would fail and have to take the class again. Not the end of the world for something I really wanted to do.
Bad fear is not worth giving into. It will make your life boring, regretful, and anxious.
To quote Frank Herbert’s Dune (stick with the first book, the other two get weird):
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
Only you will remain. And only you will succeed.
I am a Father, Husband, Cowboy Philosopher, Volunteer Firefighter, and Professional Dilettante. I am nothing and I am everything. But when it comes to our relationship: I only wish you wonder and happiness.