What do the movie Star Wars and the TV program Lost have in common? They both make an appearance in this interview. Meet Lauren Doney, owner of the online fashion boutique Lamalu. Lauren fought her fear of starting her own business, not to mention doing so while working full time at a job in marketing. Lauren talked to me about her fears and how she moved and continues to move through them.
V: When you were thinking of starting your business what kinds of things were you experiencing? What was going through your mind before you started?
L: Well, to back up a little bit I had the idea in 2009. I graduated [from college] in 2010 and I kind of forgot about the idea. Early 2011 I wrote up a business plan for it and even made plans to present it to my family and get some kind of funding. But I don’t know if either no one took me seriously or I just didn’t really think it through. So it wasn’t necessarily the most serious thing and I actually had a friend and we kind of tossed around the idea of doing it together. Then my friend dropped out and I was so gung ho about doing it, but I was so scared to do something by myself. So another year passed and it’s still in the back of my mind ‘cause I had this business plan that had gotten a little bit thicker. I kept it in a folder on top of my washer and dryer, right next to my door to come in and out, so anytime I opened or closed the door I saw it. And the more that I thought about it, the more I was like “I’m terrified to do this. I’m the only person that would be financially responsible for it. I’m the only person that would come up with these ideas. And what if I fail? What if I do this, try my hardest, put every single inch of my body and soul and I fail?” I mean I was so scared. I didn’t know what to do. Eventually I prayed about it, I cried about it. Oh I really cried about it constantly. I was physically sick several times too. I mean it was terrifying.
V: When you were crying what were you thinking about?
L: I was nervous, I was scared to move forward, I was scared to not do anything. I was frustrated about taking three years to decide. Honestly, as the business owner now, I have friends and I have family that I can ask for help occasionally, but at the end of the day they’re not responsible for this. They’re not my employees; they’re just lovely, lovely people that help me when I ask for it. I’m the only person that’s responsible for this and that’s downright terrifying. I mean, crap, I’m still scared.
V: So what would you say has helped you over these past few years to keep moving forward and to actually put the business out there and run it despite being afraid?
L: There was a quote, it wasn’t new to me, but I re-stumbled upon it and I’m not sure how. It basically says “Do or do not, there is no try” something like that. Have you heard a quote like that?
V: Yes, I feel like that’s from Star Wars.
L: That would be hilarious.
V: Isn’t Yoda in that. Yoda, the little….
L: Oh, my God that is Yoda!
V: It’s a good quote!
L: Really, I think a lot with my heart, but I try as much as possible to think with my brain. And when I looked at the numbers and I looked at the startup costs and I said “Do I want to always be answering to someone else for the rest of my life, regardless of if my business is a success or not? Or do I want to try to do this?” If I don’t try, I’ll never know what can happen. If I fail, I fail. I’m 25, I think I was 23 at the time, and I just ran out of excuses honestly. I really felt the fear and I had to push through it because, at that point, I was so determined. I mean I don’t half ass everything, but I half ass a lot of stuff. And I’ll pick something up, I’ll start it for a while and I’ll quit it. Like running, I got really into running for a few months. I haven’t run in months. It came down to “I’ve got to do this one thing and I have to complete this and I’m gonna do it as hard as I possibly can.” I had to really compartmentalize and push the fear away as far as I could. Because at the end of the day, if I think about every single thing that makes me nervous about this I probably wouldn’t get out of bed anymore.
V: So you mentioned the quote that you had, were there any books you read or movies you watched or songs you listened to or anything that helped you too along the way?
L: Not so much, but I will say that I had also stumbled upon Lara Casey’s blog and if you read her blog, she is very motivating. And it was that coupled with so many other things. What scared me initially in starting up the business is not what scares me now.
V: So, what’s the difference?
L: What scared me more when I was starting was…I don’t know why…I was scared of the UPS shipping and different shipment methods and figuring that out. Now that doesn’t really bother me at all. The tax man bothers me, I’m scared of him. Honestly the scariest thing for me is not growing, not continuing to grow. What if this is it? What if I don’t continue to grow? Since I’m still working a full time job, every cent of my free money is dumping into the business in terms of advertising, blog marketing, SEO, everything. So I guess it’s one of those what if I fail still. So maybe I am still scared of the same things.
V: And do you still do the same things to help with that fear?
L: Yeah. Honestly, I do because I have to press through it. I can’t quit now. I have thousands of dollars of merchandise in my house. I can’t quit. Not that I honestly want to. It’s just…it comes down to do I want to feel the fear or do I want to ignore it? And I choose to ignore it. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the show Lost. So in the first episode, I can’t remember if it’s…what’s his name? Jack?
V: Yeah, the doctor?
L: Yeah, the doctor or the girl…I can’t remember what her name is on the show, but her name is Evangeline Lilly in real life. One of them says to the other “You can only let fear hold you for three seconds and then you have to push through it.” Even in non business related things I’ve been trying, at least that, to deal with it. I’m scared of bugs. I saw a cockroach yesterday I was like “Alright. One, two, three. Squish!” That doesn’t necessarily work in the business sense exactly, but it comes down to whether you’re gonna let yourself feel this fear or not. If you’re going to let fear consume you, then don’t get out of bed. (Varonica note: I found a clip of this scene on Youtube)
V: What advice would you give to someone who has a dream or something that they want to do but they feel like they can’t do it because they’re afraid?
L: If you don’t try, you’ll never know. Do you want to be “what could have been?” or do you want to be like “I did this”? I tried this. I failed at this, but I still did it. That seems better to me than saying “Yeah, I thought about that, but I never did it.” How many people’s lives would be different if they said “I was kind of nervous to do this or that so I didn’t”? What if they had done that? What if? The swimmer who completed the swim from Cuba to Florida yesterday, did you read about that? (Varonica note: Diana completed her swim September 2, 2013). She was 64 years old! She tried that for the first time when she was 22. That’s amazing! And she had so many reasons to be scared and she did not let it stop her. And honestly anyone that’s successful, unless your dad is Bill Gates or something and you’re naturally rich… Bill Gates must have been terrified. Steve Jobs had to have been scared. But people do not end up successful without sucking it up. For lack of a…you know that’s a really good phrase. Suck it up. Deal with it.
V: Is there anything else you want to say?
L: I guess when it comes down to it for advice, then this is what I keep telling myself too if you look for excuses why, you’ll never do anything. If you stop looking for excuses and start doing, that’s when you’ll actually do stuff. And another thing, I read this on Whitney English’s blog, it’s like the idea behind her business. She writes a list of the top three To-dos of that day. So if you break down everything you want to do for an entire week but only give yourself three things to do in a day it seems so much less than giving yourself 21 or more and if you only cross off two off your list. Oh, I still got two thirds done versus oh, I only got two out of 21 things done, that sucks. Divide and conquer and I think that’s the best way to do it. Rome wasn’t built in a day. You can’t expect to finish everything you want to do, but you still have to start in order to do it.
So that’s Lauren’s story. Visit her boutique Lamalu to learn more about her and see some of the fashionable and reasonably priced items she has (she’s not paying me to write this!). Aside from the “Yoda moment,” my favorite part of the interview was seeing how sometimes it takes a while to get up the nerve to do what you’ve dreamed of doing, but it’s never too late to start. What have you been thinking of doing for a while that you can take some steps towards today, fear and all? And if you haven’t already, please sign up for email updates under the pretty blue box on the right (or down below if you’re reading this on a mobile device).
If you liked this interview, you might also like:
Razwana Wahid is the awesome founder of Your Work is Your Life where she writes extra helpful articles about work and life and also offers copywriting services to make your writing pop. Based in Paris, France, Razwana hopped on Skype to talk to me about an experience she had in her own work history. She was just full of helpful thoughts and tips to help move through fear to reach your goal and I’ve highlighted some in bold text below. Enjoy!
V: How would you describe the goal or dream that you were afraid to go for?
R: This was a few years ago and I was in a job that I thought I loved at the very beginning and then I absolutely hated. I hated it so much it used to make me feel ill. And my goal at the time was to leave my job, but without a job to go to. I was so defeated that I didn’t even have the heart to job hunt. It was just a case of “Let me break out of this and see how long I will last.” But I have no money saved, not enough to keep me going. So the fear was that I’m gonna stay in this job forever, but I actually want to leave.
V: So how were you feeling? You said you were getting physically sick? What thoughts were going through your head when you were thinking of wanting to leave?
R: I got caught up in that TGIF stuff that happens in an office where every Friday I felt great because the weekend was coming up and I didn’t have work and every Monday I felt suicidal because I had to go to work again. The discussions in the office were echoing the same feelings and I felt defeated because I looked around and everybody said the same thing as me but nobody admitted to wanting to leave and I wondered whether they were just saying it because that’s what people do or whether they all felt the same as me but were scared to make any moves. So I felt very paralyzed by the job and I felt like my life was being dictated by this income that I was getting, but I hated what I did during the day and I was spending ten hours a day in this office, five days a week. I just felt completely trapped.
V: So what was your breaking point?
R: Well I actually ended up having a very physical reaction to the job. This one day, it was about a week before I left, I handed in my notice, and I drove up to the car park, it was a Tuesday and it was August time so it was really dark outside and I actually parked up and opened the door of my car and threw up in the car park and I thought to myself “I’m not sick. I didn’t eat anything dodgy. This is my body saying ‘what you are you doing?’” So I had a very, very physical reaction to it.
V: So how did you turn it around? What did it take? What kind of things did you do?
R: Well I talked to a few friends about how I was feeling and they all gave me very different opinions and one of them said, and she was very risk averse, she said “Make sure you save up some money and then leave your job because you’ll never know when you’ll find a job, you may not and you don’t want to starve.” And I had a house at the time so I had a lot of bills and I wasn’t married or anything so I didn’t have somebody else’s income to rely on. One of my friends who’s a complete dreamer said to me “Hey, you know, you want to go for something, just have faith it will work out” and I kind of thought “Yeah, I’m not really sure I buy that argument because when my mortgage isn’t paid I can’t call the bank and say ‘Hey guys! I have faith! I’ll pay, but not this month.’” You know, it’s not going to happen. So after I spoke to a few friends I decided that I would bite the bullet and I calculated how long I would stay floating financially for and it was three months. And I thought if in three months I don’t find a job, then I’ll worry about it then. I decided to defer the worry because I thought three months would be fine. So I just discussed it with people who mean me well.
V: That’s good, the talking. I find that a lot of people are saying that just having a network of people you can talk to about it is really, really helpful.
R: Yeah, and I think having somebody who’s been through it before helps. At the time I didn’t have anybody that had been through it, I mean, you know, my friends and even I at the time, have known [the experience of] “the job I hated, I‘d find another one and then I’d leave because then you’d know that you have something else to go to.” But I was sort of saying, look, I don’t have another job; I don’t even know where I see my career going. So I’d rather just leave this one that I hate, get some mental space and see what happens. And to a lot of people that was a scary notion because it’s almost like the complete unknown. But after I sort of thought about it, it didn’t really feel that scary because I knew I had a plan.
V: So what was the plan?
R: My plan was very simple. I decided that I’d hand in my notice. I had four weeks of my notice period to work and then I would take a week off and sort of do nothing for that week and then I would start looking for jobs. I actually moved into a new industry when I had this job so I used to be a project manager and then I moved into recruitment and I realized that I loved project management and I missed it. It’s what I wanted to go back to at the time. And I just figured ok, I need to find a way of convincing people that this gap in my experience of a project manager is ok and I’ve learned new skills so I kind of figured that I’d contact my ex-colleagues, contact recruiters, contact local companies, that sort of thing. So I had a job hunting plan in place.
V: How did you deal with those feelings of not really knowing what was gonna be the end result?
R: So for me, I think, fear of the unknown is quite big for me because I’m a planner by nature so I like to know what’s coming up and not knowing what’s coming up can make me feel quite uncomfortable. Not now, but it used to at the time. And I sort of decided that I would write down everything that I was afraid of happening and write down what the consequences of that was and whether I would feel too uncomfortable with the consequences, and writing it down helps a lot because it was almost like I was clearing my brain out of all the words in my brain. I was scared of not being able to buy food. I was scared of not being able to pay my bills and I would lose my house and what would that mean? That would mean that I would then have to move back in with my mom, “Oh, my God.” I would do anything than have to do that. I was afraid of losing face in front of my friends because I was trying to put on a really strong you know “I’ll get through this, I’m strong enough to do this” face. And I was afraid that I was unemployable. I was afraid that if I started a new business venture then that would fail. I just wrote everything down and wrote the consequences and decided whether I could live with them or not. And at the end of it I realized that actually the worst thing that could happen is if I couldn’t fend for myself financially. But then I kind of thought, well how many people do I know that are like that? I couldn’t think of one person. And then I thought, ok now I understand what I’m scared of and I know what the consequences are I can deal with it now and it cleared my head and the unknown kind of became this thing that existed but it wasn’t ruling my thoughts.
V: So what was the outcome?
R: I ended up finding a job in two months rather than three and when I first started I got laughed at by so many recruiters it was unbelievable and it made me realize how toxic that industry is and I was in it for two years. Every recruiter I phoned and I said “Hey, you know, I was in recruitment” they automatically hated me. “I was in recruitment, I’m not anymore. I used to be a project manager, I worked blah blah blah and I want to do this again. What are your thoughts?” And they all just said “Absolutely impossible, not going to happen. No recruiter, no company would hire you because you have such a gap in your experience, not for the kind of salary you’re looking for, etc. etc. etc.” So then I decided, I’m gonna ditch the recruiters and I’m going to contact companies myself. I ended up finding a company that was a thirty minute drive away from me and they happened to have offered a project manager position to a person who then turned it down so they were desperately looking for someone who could start tomorrow rather than somebody who had a month’s notice to work and I happened to be that person. And they didn’t even talk about the gap in my experience they just said “When can you start?” And I was like “Ah! Ok! This worked out rather well!” I felt like I, I wouldn’t say I’m lucky because I don’t believe in 100% luck, but I really really worked hard because I knew that if I didn’t have an income it would impact me and I wouldn’t be able to stay in my house and that sort of thing and it would bring additional worry into my life. So for me it really worked out quite well.
V: And how did you feel after you achieved what you were afraid to do for so long before?
R: I felt like such a rock star! I felt great! I was like “Well, why was I waiting? What took me so long?” It also made me realize that actually sometimes when something is really scaring you, you have to do it. Because my body and my mind weren’t saying I hated the job just because it was something temporary. That carried on for six months. It wasn’t just a colleague I didn’t like or some aspect of the job that I didn’t like it was this thought never went away. So I learned that when your mind keeps repeating something it’s repeating it for a reason then you have to address it. I felt a lot stronger for it, for sure.
V: So has what you feared changed since then and how you handle the fear now however many years since this happened?
R: Well, I’ve been through a few more things since then, I guess, where the fears that I had at the time did come true. So I had the fear of not having enough money to run my life and live and that has happened. I have had a horrible experience with money a few years ago; it’s not the case now. And I’ve had experiences of being all alone in a new city and not having any friends. Not like losing face with friends, but not having anybody around that I could actually speak to. And all those things that have happened since have made me realize that the stuff that you’re scared of it’s just a part of life. You must have heard it before; it’s your body telling you fight or flight. It’s the natural reaction, it’s your chemicals. And it’s what you do with those fears that’s important. You can either listen to them and believe them and be succumbed by them or you can just accept that they exist but try and do something to convince your brain that what it’s telling you isn’t true. And I’ve learned that if I get my body into action and do something then my brain kind of goes “Oh, ok. So I told you you were scared, but you’re actually not. I get it now. I’m not gonna be that scared now.” That’s a lot of what I learned.
V: That’s awesome. Were there any resources that you turned to whether it was books or quotes or songs or anything that you found helpful?
R: Gosh, I read so many books. I can’t think of one book that I turned to but my friend once said to me, and this is kind of the cheesiest line ever, “After the darkness there’s always light.” And I think when you say that to somebody when they’re in the dark, when they’re in that period where they just feel so scared that it’s never going to work out it’s possibly the wrong thing to say, but it helps me a lot because I thought what she’s saying is that this time isn’t constant. The whole nature of life is that things change with every day, with every step, you know. Every little action that you take, things always change. And now I realize how much it helped because it gave me some hope that there is this other side where I won’t be feeling like this and it was surprising how easy it was to change my life from being this “I’m really scared to leave my job” to actually leaving my job and then finding something that led me to where I am today which is just fantastic.
V: That’s awesome. So what advice would you give to someone who is in a situation where they want to do something that they’ve always wanted to do but they’re just not taking any steps because they’re afraid.
R: I think it’s really important to acknowledge what you’re afraid of because in my experience so far, the bare basics of what you’re scared of doesn’t really change. You know, I’m still afraid that I won’t have enough money to survive. I’m still afraid that I’ll be all alone forever. I’m still afraid that I’m not good enough for certain things and those things have always remained the same. So I think it’s important to first acknowledge what your fear or fears are and then decide how is this fear impacting this decision I have to make and just list out all the things that you’re scared of and all consequences because the first thing I find is they’re not as bad as they look and the second thing is how likely are they to actually happen? Well if I do everything I can to make sure they don’t then they won’t they probably won’t. And then I think the third thing is to really think about who in life you can speak to whether it’s a friend or a family member or a colleague or somebody who’s a professional like a therapist or something to kind of make sure that what’s on your mind is something that you should really be worried about or whether it’s something that’s just a consequence of the fact that you need to go for something but your brain is paralyzing you. Damn those brains. I think sometimes it’s good to have an experience that scares you because you can always draw on it. When you’re doing something else that’s scary you can say “I survived this other thing so then this thing isn’t so bad.” I think it’s just part of life.
So, that’s Razwana’s story. I wasn’t lying about all those helpful tips, right? Did anything catch your eye? Have you ever made a list of your fears and their consequences? Did that help? If you want to learn more about Razwana or read some of her writing (she’s really good, open and honest), visit her at Your Work is Your Life. And if you haven’t already, please sign up for email updates under the pretty blue box on the right.
If you liked this interview, you might also like:
Tom Ewer left his 9-5 job in 2011 to become a professional blogger, creating Leaving Work Behind and to write freelance articles for one hundred or so blogs. Tom was kind enough to sit down with me and talk about some of the fears and doubts he had before leaving his “great” job and taking the risk to become an entrepreneur. Even if you aren’t thinking of leaving your job, Tom has some great tips that he learned while going for his goal while still feeling fear and doubt. I’ve added some emphasis in the parts that jumped out at me while I was listening.
V: So, for people who haven’t read your blog, Leaving Work Behind, how did you get started with that?
T: Back in May 2011 I was in a job I really enjoyed, the job was great. I basically had an epiphany over night and realized that I didn’t want to be employed. When I was a kid I just always assumed I’d become an entrepreneur because my dad was and I realized after five years that I wasn’t. I figured what I needed to do was make money online because I needed to find something that I could do in a relatively short space of time. Because I had my full time job, I would only be able to allocate maybe a couple of hours a day to it so I started down that road and at the time I didn’t know what I was going to do but I knew that I needed to hold myself accountable. So Leaving Work Behind started as basically a public accountability journal for my own journey in trying to quit my job. It’s developed a lot since that, but that was its original aim.
V: Were you afraid when you were planning this? How did you experience any fear when you were either leaving your work or creating the website?
T: Well, starting out I wasn’t really afraid because there was not really anything to be afraid of at that point because I wasn’t really taking any risks. I know a lot of people go as far as to be afraid of even launching a blog and publishing content. But in terms of being afraid generally, of course the whole concept of quitting my job, which I did in December 2011, that of course brought with it an element of uncertainty. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it outright fear, but I certainly know that a lot of people would perceive it as fear. But I think I had a very objectively useful way of handling that move in a way that kind of quelled the fear for me.
V: And what way was that?
T: Well, essentially I try to turn what is typically a very subjective and emotional decision into an as objective decision as possible. So for instance, for a lot of people, the concept of quitting your job is a very frightening one. Just in principle it’s frightening, if I’m gonna quit my job there’s risk. What if it doesn’t work? What if I don’t earn enough? The first thing I told myself was anything in life is a risk. If you stay in your job, you might get fired tomorrow. That’s the risk. You might get made redundant. You might become involved in a workplace accident of some kind and not be able to work anymore. You know there’s a million and one opportunities so the first thing I realized to help myself cope with fear is that life is all about risk. Even if you lock yourself in the house and don’t go anywhere you still might get robbed and assaulted in your own house so there is risk. It’s inherent, so I realized that because everything is risky there are just different levels of risk. Staying in my job was relatively low risk and quitting my job was relatively high risk, but they were both risks from a financial point of view. And then I flipped that on its head and said “Well, ok, what about my happiness? Let’s think about that for a minute.” And then I realized that for my own happiness, staying in my job was very high risk and then quitting my job was probably medium risk because who knows what’s going to happen when you quit your job. So that was the first thing I did, I tried to tell myself that everything in life is a risk and therefore you shouldn’t just fear quitting your job on the basis that it’s a risk because everything’s a risk. Then I tried to quantify what I was doing, so instead of making an emotional decision, I said “How much money do I need? How much money am I currently making? How much money do I need to make?” You know, all these kind of number based calculations. At the time I wasn’t making nearly enough to support myself, I could see I was making a certain amount per hour and from that I could determine that if I worked X hours I could earn enough to support myself worst case scenario. And I figure out the chances of me not being able to do that were extremely low so I thought, obviously it’s a risk quitting my job, but I feel it’s a very manageable risk. Worst case scenario I have to get a part time job, I have to make ends meet. But it’s almost a bigger risk for my own happiness or for the whole kind of “what if?” factor for me not to do it than me to actually do it.
V: That’s very helpful. In the first part of your “My Story So Far” post, you mentioned a mantra that you used. It was “Sometimes you simply have to accept the risk inherent in things and move forward regardless of fear.” That basically encapsulates what you were just talking about doing. Right?
T: I think so, yeah. Kind of separating it out on its own it can be construed in many different ways, but the kind of elevator pitch for avoiding fear that would be it for me. That sometimes, you’ve just got to suck it up because life is full of risk so best to pick a risk that might end up in something truly rewarding than to take the easiest route and just feel totally unfulfilled in your life.
V: And mentioning it as a mantra, did you put that somewhere or did you say it to yourself occasionally? What made it a mantra for you?
T: I didn’t put it up anywhere. I’m not the kind of guy who has that motivational poster on their wall to remind them although I can definitely see why that is useful. I guess I just made it a part of everything that I was doing. And this applies to everything that I do whether it be about taking risks and beating fear or being motivated or just being happy. I make a certain way of thinking drive me. So, for instance, with that I would when I’m waking up say “Look, I’ve gotta do this. I don’t have a choice. It has to happen.” I just make it part of everything that I do and every kind of relevant act that I take is done with that thought in mind. So it’s always there at the forefront of my mind, even if I’m not actually saying it to myself over and over again or reading it on the wall.
V: Do you find that the things that may have either scared you or just made you uncertain in the beginning are different now and maybe also the way you face them might be different now?
T: Yeah, massively so. And I think this is something that a lot of people who are afraid of certain things can benefit from. The first thing is that generally speaking if you want to achieve something there is at least one other person out there, probably hundreds and thousands, that have achieved the equivalent of what you want to achieve with less resources available to them, with less opportunity and probably less personal intelligence, experience, whatever you want to call it. What you’re trying to do is not a miracle, it’s probably been done before and it’s probably been done by someone who has less resources available to them both materially and mentally so there’s nothing crazy about what you’re trying to do. And to build upon that I would say that whatever you are trying to achieve in the grand scale of human achievement is this tiny, tiny drop in the ocean. I don’t want to put people down on their goals because that’s meant to be a positive statement. It’s meant to be that no matter how challenging you feel your goal is, in reality, it’s actually tiny and if you can make it tiny, if you can recognize it for what it is then that can really help you to lose a little bit of the fear of trying to do it and the fear of failure. That’s certainly what I do these days, for instance, when I was trying to quit my job at the time there was a voice in my head that said “No, no, you can’t do this.” To be honest, I probably experienced doubt a lot more than fear. So there would be a voice saying “You’re not meant to be this person who quits their job and starts a successful online business. This isn’t you.” So you’ve got that continuing voice in your head. The difference for me now is that when I look up to a similar goal relative to where I am now, say to make two hundred thousand dollars in a year, instead of a voice in my head saying “Oh, you can’t do that. That’s not possible.” The voice is instead saying “Why not?” If you actually go and look at the percentage of the population of the US, the top five percent make above one hundred and thirty thousand. And I say to myself, “Why the hell can’t I be in the top five percent? You know, that’s a big number. That’s hundreds of thousands of people. What is stopping me from being one of them? Am I too stupid? Am I not experienced enough? You know, what can stop me?” And the answer I invariably give myself is “Screw that! I can do that! No problem.” And to take that attitude and to say, for instance, say I want to earn more than 50% of the population, which is maybe thirty five thousand dollars or something like that. If you can kind of frame it in the context of “I believe I am more capable than half the people in the country” then it suddenly becomes a far easier proposition.
V: So what would you say to someone who was not stepping forward into living their dream because they’re afraid?
T: Most people have excuses. The excuse is typically “I don’t have time.” Whether that’s in the form of: because of my kids, because of my job, because of X, Y, Z, that’s usually an excuse. It’s actually hiding something else which is often fear. But sometimes they do honestly feel like they don’t have enough time. The first thing I say is that, similarly to what I said previously, there is someone out there with less time and resources available to them that have achieved what you want to achieve. So don’t tell me you don’t have time, you tell me one of two things. You either say “I don’t want this enough” which is fine. If you don’t want it enough than fair enough, if you’re happy to kind of stick at what you’re doing and accept the status quo then more strength to you. So you either say that or you admit that you’re afraid or you admit that you doubt yourself. Make that honest admission to yourself and the people around you. And I find that if you admit that to yourself, that can take a big weight off your shoulders. If you can say, “I am afraid” then that’s kind of like the first step in the right direction. And once you’ve admitted that you’re afraid, you then have to ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that can happen? If I try and do this, what can I lose?” And if the answer is “I can lose fifty grand” then yeah, you might want to think twice about doing what you’re trying to do. But if the answer is “I could lose a lot of time trying to do this thing and it not work out. I could get de-motivated by failure. It could make me feel like I’ll never succeed.” Then I say that’s not a good enough reason. There are very few things in the world, when it comes down to it, that are a good enough reason not to try and chase what you really want to achieve in life. Fear and doubt are the biggest ones, but the great thing is that they’re actually in your head. They’re not real. They’re these mental concepts just within your brain and they can dissipate tomorrow or they can grow stronger but they’re not real, physical things. As far as I’m aware, you’re typically far more equipped to cope with the fear.
V: So, is there anything else about fear or doubt that you’d like to share?
T: Well, first of all, they are inevitable. Anyone who tries to avoid it is missing the point. Fear is not there to be avoided, it’s there to be managed and fear can be a good thing. Fear stops us from walking out in front of a bus. Fear stops us from buying a hundred thousand dollars worth of lottery tickets in the hopes of winning ten million. It’s useful. So it’s not about defeating it, it’s about managing it and it’s about recognizing when it’s useful to you and when it’s not. And if you’re trying to do something where the worst possible outcome is you fail, but you don’t actually and nothing truly monumental happens then you have to recognize that the fear is not productive. And if you can do that then you really have won half the battle regardless of what you’re trying to do. I find that when it comes to succeeding in anything, whether it’s building a business or trying to achieve a specific achievement, if you can put fear in its place and persist then that success will almost inevitably come to you if your goal is reasonable enough. Persistence really is the key. If you can manage your fear and just continue to persist for weeks, months, years, however long it takes; persistence almost always ends in success. The only thing that will stop you from succeeding, ninety-five percent of the time, is stopping. So if you don’t let your fear get the best of you and you allow yourself to persist and believe that that can ultimately help you to succeed then you almost definitely will.
SO, what did you think of Tom’s story and thoughts about fear and doubt? What jumped out at you? Have a similar story? Please share in the comments below. I’ll be posting another interview next Wednesday so make sure to check back next week and follow me on Facebook and Twitter in the mean time for updates, inspiration and sharing.
If you want to learn more about Tom visit him at his website, Leaving Work Behind.
Patricia Wilson describes herself as “curious,” “driven by fears” and “smiling and very upbeat.” I found that to be true when I interviewed her. Patricia shares with us how she overcame her fears and perceived physical limitations to lose 50 pounds and become an “athlete.”
V: How would you explain what you wanted to do and what fears you were having when you were deciding to do this thing?
P: So, I am turning fifty in a week. I have had Lyme disease since probably 1980. And so the results of that have been bone degeneration and muscle degeneration. Four years ago in a series of things, I’ve had both hips replaced, shoulder replacement and neck fusions for multiple discs. So, why am I telling you that? Well because I decided that I wanted to CrossFit. And, of course there’s that fear, that, I don’t know how much you know about CrossFit, but it’s a pretty intensive workout program. It’s very military based, you’re flipping tires, lifting weights over your head, you’re running. But I did that after the surgeries and it’s a year later and I’m doing amazing and doing as much as people are doing without having those limitations.
V: How did that happen? Deciding to do CrossFit?
P: So, a friend of mine had been doing it for about a year and she kept provoking me and trying to tell me, “hey you need to do this, this is great.” And CrossFit is very, I don’t want to say cultish, that’s the wrong word to use, but once you do it you they say, “drink the Kool-Aid.” Once you do it, you really get addicted to it. She kept provoking me and provoking me and at that time when she was talking to me about it, I was fifty pounds heavier, so I was pretty heavy. I’d been very sedentary. I was in my brain thinking, “Oh, man, I’ve had these surgeries, I’ve had all these complications, with fatigue and everything else, there’s no way I could CrossFit that’s just crazy. No frickin way.” So she started kind of talking me into it if you will and it’s always been something I’m very self-conscious about myself because I’m not a small person. I’m 5’5. At that time I was probably 185 pounds and because of the surgeries I thought maybe that’s something I couldn’t do. Even though my doctor said, do whatever you want to do as long as it doesn’t hurt. So I said I’m not going to do this until I lose a little weight before I go in there. So I started this paleo diet, have you ever heard of that? So I’ve been doing that for a year and a half now and I did that for eight months prior to going into CrossFit. And I lost about 18 pounds. So she kept saying “Come on, you’ve gotta go, you gotta go.” So finally I said “All right, fine. I’ll frickin go!” I was scared to frickin death because these people that go into this, they’re beasts. I mean, they are like intense. I thought, “Oh, God, I’m gonna go in there this fat girl with these shorts and this tank top. I’m gonna look like a big tub of lard.”
V: So you were afraid of being judged?
P: Yeah, I was afraid of being judged. I was afraid that I couldn’t do the movements because there’s a lot of squatting and heavy lifting and I thought “I can’t do this.” And they have a foundations class prior to you starting so you have to pay a ridiculous amount of money to do this class and I thought “Oh, God, I’m gonna waste this money and I’m gonna hate it.” But I went into this foundations class, and I was so afraid to walk into this place, I can’t even tell you. It took everything I had to walk in there. But I did and the coach was amazing and he knew what I had gone through, but he didn’t baby me and I hate to be babied. He had me doing these squats and all I could do is this very minimal squat and he’s like “Oh, that’s good! Keep going! Keep going!” And just over a process of time, it’s been a year now, I lost fifty pounds, which was my goal by my fiftieth birthday. And I’m doing deadlifts at 155 pounds and I’m doing squats like everybody else and I’m flipping 300 pound tires and I’m doing all kinds of crazy stuff.
V: So what helped you move forward through your fears?
P: Well, the biggest thing I think was that I knew that I could do whatever it is that I could put my mind to. I knew that I could do that. I’m really shy; really, really, really shy. The CrossFit people are very unified and there were a couple of people that were very supportive that would high five me, tell me I’m doing great or whatever and not that I need the encouragement, but when you’re talking about someone that’s very shy, that makes a big deal. What got me through the fear of going in was the fact that I saw that I could actually do it and I kept surprising myself. I still surprise myself. I’m afraid every time I walk in that box. Every single time. Every single time you have fear.
V: The box being what?
P: In CrossFit they refer to the place in which you work out as the box because it’s an empty space that doesn’t have machines. You are the machine.
V: And even now after all this time you’re still afraid?
P: After a year I’m still afraid. Yes. But that fear drives you to do every single workout. I don’t look at the workout prior, I try not to look at the workout, it’s a lie if I tell you never. But I try to not look at the workout prior to going in because it could possibly keep me from going and doing it. But, yeah, I’m afraid every single time. I’m afraid that one, I’m not going to be able to do it. Two, that I’m walking in possibly by myself, that’s another thing. Being shy that way and it’s a little bit insecure. I’m better now, but there is a time when I wouldn’t even walk in there by myself. But, I’m doing better. Even after a year.
V: Well you’re still doing it.
P: Yup, I am still doing it. Fifty pounds later and doing things that I never in my wildest dreams at my age thought I could do – never, never, never. I was walking through the airport, ‘cause I travel a lot, and some guy stopped me and he goes “God, you look strong.” And I thought “What in the world is he talking about? Me? I look strong? Are you kidding me?” He was like “Oh, my God you look so strong. You must be an athlete.” That’s the words he used – an athlete. And I never in a million years would have thought someone would refer to me as an athlete. That was cool. That made my day.
V: That is pretty cool. I wasn’t expecting that, the athlete part. But that’s pretty cool.
P: Well, in CrossFit, that’s what you’re called. Everyone’s an athlete in their training. That’s what you’re doing. You’re not just working out, you’re training for something. I’ve done benefits for CrossFit. We were doing an event for Christmas and we’re raising money and there’s an exercise where you’re jumping from the ground onto a 24-inch box and I was jumping up on the box and I was only five months into doing this now and I fell on the box and gashed my leg with the corner of the box and I just kept going. I finished the workout, I wasn’t gonna quit because with the time that I took, we were raising money. I was bleeding like frickin crazy and you could feel it running down my leg and I went up to my coach and I showed her the gash and I said to her “Coach, hey, look at this. Do you think I need stitches?” And she was like “Oh, My God Patricia! Get your ass to the freakin’ hospital.” You could see the bone sticking out.
V: Wow! That’s determination.
P: That’s determination. But I still get on that box. I took that box, I put it in the other room and I looked at it and I said “Box, you are not getting the best of me. I am getting back on you and I’m gonna keep jumping on you.” And I’ll be darned I did it and every single time I have to do box jumps I still feel that fear and I have to keep talking to myself to get on that stupid box. It’s crazy. So it’s a mind thing. It really is.
V: What advice would you give to someone who has a dream but they think they can’t do it or they shouldn’t try because they’re afraid?
P: I would first ask them what they’re afraid of and if it’s failure, I think failure is a learning process. I think failure is good. I don’t think failure is bad. Cause that’s what most people are afraid of is failure and I would always ask how they would feel if they didn’t do it, whatever that is? How would they feel if they didn’t do it? Regret?
So that’s Patricia’s story. She reminds me of three things: 1.) Never underestimate the power of a friend in your corner who helps push you through your fear. Even friendly strangers can be very helpful too. 2.) It’s never too late to achieve new and interesting things. You’re not too old unless you say you are. 3.) Hugging your fear is about learning how to act when afraid and not learning how to not be afraid. You can do great things AND be afraid. And one last note, just in case you wondered, I am in no way endorsing or not endorsing CrossFit. Patricia could have done a number of things to help get over her fear of physical movement and losing weight (Zumba classes, bicycling, kickboxing) and it would have been equally inspiring and helpful. The point is that she overcame her fear and chose a direction and stuck with it. What did you think of Patricia’s story? Have you faced something similar? Share with me and your fellow Fear Huggers in the comments below.