Meet Willie Jackson. Willie is an entrepreneur using his talents in all things technology, currently serving as the Director of Web Optimization at W3 EDGE. I was introduced to him when I watched the documentary I’m Fine, Thanks and thankfully he agreed to sit down with me and share how he overcame his fear to leave a job that no longer fit and do work that allowed him to be more of himself.
V: How would you describe the goal or the dream that you had but were afraid to go for?
W: The goal for me was working on interesting projects that mattered, working with people who I enjoyed being involved with and living life on my own terms, meaning that I didn’t have to show up during any pre-set hours, execute any particular tasks for anyone else’s impression of me doing a good job.
V: So, what about doing that made you afraid?
W: I come from a background with some intense professional development and mentoring so the goal was always to be this high powered board room executive. So it was a little tough as I got closer to those goals and really got in the corporate world that the life just wasn’t interesting to me. And when I looked around and saw people who were successful in that world and I saw what it took, what sacrifices they made in terms of their time and their life and failed marriages and things like that because of the dedication to their career, I just wasn’t willing to give that. It was tough when I had to take a look at my ambition and realize that the path forward that I thought was for me actually wasn’t gonna work out. So I really didn’t have a blueprint because you know, when you’re out here working on projects that you care about and you really take a look at the way that the world works, this is a project based society. The currency of the new world is not degrees and distinctions, it’s your reputation, it’s how much you care, it’s who you know, not in a “I’m cool” club way, but like who are you taking care of? Who can vouch for you? Who knows what your character’s about? Who’s gonna speak good about you behind closed doors when it really matters? So it was just a little tough because I didn’t know what that world looked like. There’s no class to take in this, you just kind of have to do it and trust that it will work out.
V: So how did that fear manifest for you? Was it thoughts you were thinking?
W: It was actually anxiety attacks. I’ll never forget it. I wrote a little bit about it on my blog in a post series. It reached the point where I was trying to straddle my corporate life and my freelance life that after a particularly bad day after some bad scheduling decisions I made, I had an anxiety attack on a Friday and it really shook me up. And I had another one that Sunday when I was packing to fly out on Monday again and that’s when I called my manager and my mentor and my parents and I was like “I can’t do this anymore.” So that really was the beginning of the end for me.
V: Panic attacks suck, for lack of a better saying.
W: It was the first time I had ever experienced anything like that. It was terrifying.
V: So, what did you do to help you move forward?
W: I’m not wired in a way that benefits a lot from planning. I’m really a fly by the seat of your pants kind of person so I just had to correct course and for me that was quitting my job and trusting that it would work out. I had a little money saved up, but more than anything I had assurance at that point that regardless of what it took I was gonna figure out how to make it work. So I quit, I had to leave my job. The full story is that following the anxiety attack my manager had me agree to come in because the flight was already booked. I agreed. But that following weekend, I was scheduled to attend something called “LiftOff Retreat” with Pam Slim and Charlie Gilkey in Mesa, Arizona. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, because I was just shattered. My confidence was gone. Things had come to a head. And when I went to the retreat, I was around people like me, crazy people who didn’t fit in anywhere, people in search of different things. But ultimately the purpose of the retreat was to level up your creative business and it gave me, just by virtue of being there and being around that creative energy, that’s really the confidence that I needed and the assurance that I needed to say, “alright I’m gonna do this.” So I decided on the flight home that I was going to quit. What turned into a plan to take two weeks off tentatively, turned into never returning to that job again.
V: So how did you deal with the uncertainty? I mean, you knew you had to do it, but sometimes the uncertainty can keep people from even trying.
W: I think I thrive in uncertainty. What certain people view as uncertainty, I view as opportunity. And when you really view it and you free yourself from the mindset that you need structure in your life, from a job perspective, that you need that structure to provide your income, it’s pretty straightforward and at that point I had been freelancing on the side for a while so for me it was more so a realization that I had more time to do the kind of projects that were making me money on the side instead of doing the same old thing which was living a double life and it was pretty challenging. I mean, everybody has to do that when you transition from full time employment to self employment. It was a little tough because I didn’t exactly go on my timeline. My body kind of decided for me that it was time to go so I attacked it head on.
V: So, how did you feel after you quit and you started doing your own stuff?
W: Number one it was a huge burden lifted. There are a lot of things that go along with the 9-5 routine that are just a really poor fit for how I’m wired. And it was also a really big challenge because I’d developed a lot of really bad habits in working in corporate America. I think the most egregious was the fact that I would sit in front of my computer even when I wasn’t being productive and when you work for yourself that is a very bad thing because if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. So I have to be very mindful of the fact that when I’m working, I’m working.
V: What would you say you learned about yourself through taking that step?
W: Well, a lot of these things I had learned already because I had already started along the self employment path, freelancing, before I officially quit. But what it allowed me to do is actually leverage more of my skills and things I already knew about myself. Number one I enjoy taking care of people. I’m really a people person. I used to call myself an introvert, but I’m a very bad introvert ‘cause I really love people. I do enjoy my quiet time and my personal space, but when I meet somebody who I share a connection with I always look for a connection with people and freelancing and delivering services around my technology experience, allowed me to solve problems in a way that people really appreciated. One of the reasons that I was good at my job was not because I was so talented technically, but because I shielded my clients from a lot things that terrified them, like the acronyms that govern my life like PHP, FTP, HTML. People paid me not to have to worry about the things that terrified them. And because I understood my role in that ecosystem, I was able to really make a name for myself down in the Atlanta area without needing to advertise or really market or anything. I was very fortunate because when you take care of people, they’ll refer other people and I had a line of people waiting to work with me. Working in a more freelance capacity allowed me to just be more of who I am, if that makes sense.
V: Yeah, that makes perfect sense. So do you still experience fear now?
W: I do. I’m at a point in my career where I can see the next level in the distance and it’s on the other side of the mountain. And what’s required of me, as an executive in training, is not only to be able to do the work of two or three people but I need to make it look effortless and I need to do everything else. So it’s really challenging because it’s not that the work is so hard or complicated, I can do the work. It’s that you have to do it every day, you have to do it quickly and you have to think really critically about the problems that are coming down the pipeline. So the fear manifests itself really indirectly, like I’ll want to sleep in, and I’ll want to ignore urgent emails and just things like that. Steve Pressfield is one of my favorite writers and he talks about this concept of resistance which in plain English is the invisible force that keeps people from doing the work of their lives. And he talks about how there are two lives in all us, the life we live and the unlived life within us. And that mental framework was so powerful for me because when you’re cognizant of it, you can see how it manifests itself in your life through things like procrastination and avoidance of important things and really letting important parts of your life just really go poorly, to use polite language. Things like not following up with people or not taking care of things in your personal life, there are all these ways that the resistance is manifested in your life and it’s not so much that I live in fear, I’m not a fearful person actively, but the fear of getting to the other side of that very much manifests itself in ways that I have to be very mindful of. It’s like the Marianne Williamson quote, you know, we’re not afraid of the bad, we’re afraid of the greatness.
V: So what advice would you give to someone who was thinking of doing something but they were stopping themselves because they were afraid?
W: It’s a tough question to answer because fear is good. Fear is a compass when you leverage it right and you’re really in tune with it, it’s one of the things that I learned from Seth Godin. Seth used his fear as a compass, when he’s afraid of doing something, he moves in that direction. He’s at the point in his life and his career where he knows if it’s fearful then or if it causes him to feel fear then that’s probably the direction that he should be going. I’d have to ask some follow up questions, but I guess for the purposes of this interview I would say: understand why you’re fearful. Are you fearful for any practical and realistic reason like is this something that could cause you to suffer financial loss? Could it cause you to be ostracized by the people you love and care about? Are your feelings of fear rooted in feelings of self worth and confidence or are they real practical fears? ‘Cause I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with fear, but the type of fear matters and what’s triggering the fear matters and how legitimate it is, these all matter. So I’m not at the point where I would say “Do it anyway!” Because I think there’s some very important implications around the decisions we make with our career. I’m not really in the advice giving business, I can only speak to the challenges that I’ve overcome and how I’m wired and I’m not like everybody else so I’m very careful when dispensing advice.
V: Do you have any final thoughts?
W: In the context of fear and overcoming it? There’s a few things. Number one I started writing more. Writing has been really transformative in my life. There was a period for a while, months in fact, where I was writing every day and it’s such a brilliant record of what you’re thinking and how you’re thinking. And I feel like for me writing gives me access to the subconscious. Because there are things that you’re always churning through, the day to day tasks, but there are a number of things that you don’t actively think about because you’re busy and for me I find that writing, particularly in the context of journaling, that gives you access to what you’re really thinking. So when you combine journaling with writing in public, like showing up every day and actually putting yourself out there, risking shame and judgment by sharing your thoughts with the world combined with proper rest and giving your subconscious mind the time to churn through the things that you’re dealing with, I find it to be a really powerful combination. And I find that my writing has improved over the years which means that my thinking has improved over the years. David Heinemeier Hansson who is a partner at 37signals and the creator of the Ruby on Rails web application framework talks about if he’s considering two different applicants for a job and one of them is the better writer, he’s going to hire the better writer because a better writer is a better thinker. So one of the gifts that I’ve given myself and I’ve experienced along this journey is the gift of becoming a better writer and a better thinker through habits like journaling. Another really critical lesson that I’ve learned is that the path that you’re going on in reaching your goals is just as much about the journey inward as it is about the journey outward. Mastery of self, that’s not something you do after reading a couple of books and going to a Martha Beck retreat. It’s a lifelong, not only learning about yourself, but making adjustments and becoming the kind of person that you want to be. And a lot of my friends are in the health and wellness and coaching space and I learn so much from the philosophies that govern their life. It’s almost like that becomes your number one job, what you do for a living actually comprises only a small subset of your existence because it’s like the culmination of everything that you’re learning and putting together. Most people are on autopilot and when you live consciously and you’re going down this path, it just changes what you do so instead of it being work, your work is art. I do some of the things that I do, it’s almost like meditation because of the focus it requires. I’ve done a lot of reflection on how work can be meditation and how focus enhances all of the things that we do, specifically like it’s easier, particularly in my position because I deal with a lot of inbound email, it’s easy to just jump from message to message and try to keep people happy with responses and not actually get anything done. But when I find my real breakthroughs and the real progress I make on tough projects is when I block out the world and I really focus and I lock in on a task. That’s when I can apply the things that I know, the things that I’m thinking and my hunches and I come through with solutions that really move the needle on my work. So I think there’s a lot of overlap between things like art and meditation and focus and the craft of your vocation that you don’t really realize when you’re on autopilot.
So what did you think? Lots of great stuff, right? My favorite part was when Willie spoke about the other ways that resistance (and I think fear) can manifest itself. So often we consider things like procrastination as just a bad habit or worse, “just the way I am,” but if we look closer, it’s likely that it is a symptom of a fear that we’re not addressing. And if we ask the questions that Willie suggests, we can get to the bottom of why we’re actually afraid and then move forward.
I also second his recommendation of writing. I’m probably biased because I’ve been journaling almost daily since I was in my preteens, but writing (even if you never share it with anyone else) can help you really get to know who you are and it can be extremely cathartic if you allow yourself to be open and honest on the page.
If you want to learn more about Willie, visit his website here and also I recommend reading his posts on his site to learn even more.
If you liked this interview, you might also like:
Interview with Tom Ewer – “Fear is not there to be avoided”
Interview with Duane de Four – Conquering a fear gives you momentum
I’ve written some about the things that I’ve done to overcome fear, but there are many more things that I’ve done to make fear worse. I find that sometimes we can learn what to do by acknowledging what doesn’t work.
So here are just five of the things I’ve done over the years that made my fear worse. Maybe you can learn as I did through my trial and error.
I spent a lot of time just being afraid and not taking a closer look at why I was afraid. This avoidance caused the fear to grow. It’s like a child being afraid to look under the bed because she fears a monster is there. The only solution is to pull up the comforter and take a peek. The longer she waits, the bigger the image and fear of the monster becomes.
You can’t fix something if you don’t know how it’s broken. I once was afraid to repair an estranged relationship. I spent many days wanting to make amends, but feeling too afraid. But I couldn’t move forward until I asked myself what exactly I was afraid of. Was I afraid of being rejected? Was I afraid that I wouldn’t be able to handle the emotions that came with reconciling? Getting clear on why I was afraid helped me to prepare (as best as possible) for what I was about to do.
If I had a dollar for every minute I’ve spent overthinking I would be a bajillionaire. Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema says it best in her book, Women Who Think Too Much:
I used to think that my overthinking helped me; it made me more knowledgeable about what I was going through, what I feared. Even when I was clearly getting deeper and deeper into sadness, I still thought I could think my way out.
When you’re afraid of something, it helps to think about what you’re feeling, think about the situation, and think about what steps you can take. There is a point though when thinking starts to provide less and less rewards until it then becomes detrimental to your situation and mental health. It can also stop you from taking any action which is the key to moving through fear.
The trick is to learn how to stop yourself when you get into an overthinking rut. You do this by observing yourself in the moment. At first you’ll stop yourself after a long time of overthinking, but the more you practice the faster and sooner you will catch yourself and be able to redirect your energy.
Closely related to runaway thoughts is believing every single thought that you have about fear. When I was afraid to do something, my tendency was to think about the worse case scenarios and believe that I was absolutely right that those things would happen. I’ve found that more often than not I am not a fortune teller (which is probably pretty obvious).
Believing every single thought I have about what I fear and my ability (or lack thereof) to handle it just keeps me from even trying. And when I think about the times that I actually pushed through my fears to achieve something, it was because I ignored those thoughts that said “You can’t do it. It’s too scary.” and just took steps forward.
Being an introvert, I relish my alone time, but too much of it, especially when I’m struggling with fear, is not a good thing. When afraid, it’s important to be reminded that you’re not alone. This means talking to a compassionate person, participating in a helpful group or at the very least reaching out to someone online or by phone.
Sometimes I would feel some shame and embarrassment about being afraid so I would keep it to myself and feel horrible, like I was lacking as a person. It wasn’t until I began sharing my fears with family, friends, a therapist that I realized how common my feelings were and that I didn’t have to keep it all to myself. And most of the time, the simple act of sharing made the fear subside.
If I’m honest with myself, most of the things I fear doing are not life or death, but treating them like they are just makes me miserable and the fear worse. I’ve found that practicing letting go and just looking at life for what it really is made some of the fears seem silly.
Yes, fear feels real and threatening in the moment, but lightening things up and asking “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” And realizing that the world will very likely not stop turning if my worst fears are realized helps me look at the bigger picture and take steps outside of my comfort zone.
So those are the five things I’ve done over the years that made my fear worse. What do you think? What things have you done in your life to make your fear worse and how have you turned it around?
If you liked this reflection, you might also like:
Afraid you’re not doing enough? Just observe and write.
Can you Be Grateful for Fear? Here Are 7 Reasons Why I Am.
Julie M Elman illustrates other people’s fears for her website Fear Project. The fears she covers are as varied as the people who submit them, but it’s cool to see all the creative ways she chooses to display them. One I like a lot was about fear around decision making as it reminded me of a reflection I did a little while back.
She also has a Q & A post on her site answering some questions about why she started the project, what some of her fears are and how she handles fear in her life. I like how she has a philosophy that she calls “dare-to-suck” which is all about allowing yourself to take risks despite how things may turn out. This is so hard for me and a good reminder. She says, “I can only speak from my own experiences with fear — but I have found that facing the fear head-on and walking through it is one way to lessen its power. Sometimes, I’ve discovered, things are a lot bigger and scarier in our own heads.”
Check out her site and browse through the illustrations, you can even purchase them.
Chirlane McCray, wife of New York City’s new mayor Bill de Blasio, recently shared how she overcame (and is still overcoming) her fear of public speaking. This was so nice to read. For many of us, public speaking can be terrifying and it’s nice to read about someone who is in the public eye who struggled with it too.
One thing she says is “It’s not that there’s any magic to it. It’s like a muscle, you just do it, and do it, and do it again.” I think this takes away the magic from it and makes public speaking not something that you can only do if you were born with certain qualities, but makes it something that can be learned that can be less scary the more times you do it.
This isn’t new, but I just found this video on the YouTube channel WellCast about overcoming fear. It’s illustrated and the five tricks it presents are actually very helpful. It’s also funny to me because the example used in the video is of someone who was afraid to learn how to drive (I just got my driver’s license, something that terrified me before).
I love when words are used as acronyms. Dr. Pamela D. Garcy recently wrote an article for Psychology Today where she shared the acronym for FEAR that she created to help her clients:
Focus instead of freaking out
Expose instead of escape
Approach instead of avoid
Rehearse a lot
The article goes into each letter in depth and it was really helpful, the kind of article you refer back to and try out, and I suggest you read it if the acronym looks at all interesting to you. She also shares the LMNOP Cycle, another acronym created by Akshay Nanavati. I love how there are so many different ways to deal with fear and going for your dreams!
Any thoughts on this week’s resources? Any to add to the mix? Share below. And if you have a suggestion for the next Resource Roundup, send me it here.
Meet Ariana Proehl, creator of Know This! TV, a space for helping people see the beauty and importance in self knowledge for the betterment of themselves and the world around them. Ariana shared how she hugs her fear of becoming her best self. Lots of helpful resources here including the awesome quote by Marianne Williamson which was my inspiration for naming this interview. Let’s go!
V: How would you describe the goal or dream that you were afraid to go for?
A: I’m afraid of realizing my best self. When I look at the things I’ve taken on–starting my online show, putting together a 14-city U.S. talk show tour in two months, weathering start-up entrepreneurial storms–the dream itself and the risks involved with pursuing it haven’t really scared me. The dream of being successful and fulfilling my purpose is what scares me. The Marianne Williamson quote, “our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure,” sums that up.
V: What about going for this dream made you afraid?
A: The root of my fear is that I know, undoubtedly, that I can be successful– really successful–if I focus every cell of my body and put the fullness of my mind and spirit into its possibility. I’ve also feared that if I showed up fully as the real me, that I wouldn’t be accepted or it wouldn’t be “good enough.” So I work hard, but I also hold back a little subconsciously because the idea that I’m worthy and deserving of all the joy and fulfillment my heart desires doesn’t align with the part of me who grew up with little self esteem and thought I didn’t matter much because when I was myself, people ran away from me or gave me crap. We tend to be scared of that which we’re not familiar, and feeling worthy of joy is not familiar. While I know mentally that it’s not about anybody else’s opinion, and I know I’m not that little kid anymore, it’s still triggering.
V: How did you experience the fear (ex. thoughts, physical sensations, etc)?
A: My mind starts racing with all sorts of untrue or untested thoughts about how people will react or what they’ll think about what I have to say and share.
V: What did you do or what happened to help you move through your fears?
A: For a while, when I would post a new video or article for example, I’d have to turn off the computer, get up, leave the room and start singing a song to myself or call somebody to distract myself from the anxiety and nerves of having put myself out there. Now I meditate daily to quiet all the “little hater” voices in my head as Jay Smooth calls them (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TpmJgSfZ_8), and get in touch with the part of me that knows anything is possible. I shoot for 15 minutes each morning, or try to get at least 5 minutes on busy days.
V: Has what you feared and how you handle fear changed since you’ve achieved this dream?
A: Yes, in that I can post my content now without having to run into another room to “hide” from the internet. I continue to have fear around that–around how my work will be received, but it’s easier to talk myself through it and just do it now. It’s a process, every day.
V: Do you have any quotes or books that helped you with fear?
A: “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” –Audre Lorde
Also, the poem “A Litany for Survival” by Audre Lorde
I watch this video clip of Maya Angelou on Super Soul Sunday: The Revelation That Changed Dr. Maya Angelou’s Life.
I glance at this .gif of Prince just being so boss, per usual.
V: What advice would you give to someone who has a dream, but thinks they can’t achieve it because they’re too afraid?
A: First I’d ask them: how bad do you want it? If they answer really bad (because you have to want it really bad!), I’d tell them to get to the root of what they’re actually afraid of: is it failure? Being broke? Is it a fear of success? Of being hurt? Disappointing someone? And then trace back to where that fear comes from. When you know the root, you can begin to gain power over it–it doesn’t necessarily disappear, but you see how it functions and you can master it and use it to fuel you forward instead of holding you back.
V: Any final thoughts?
A: Be intentional with your life, and with your dreams. There are so many external factors that affect us and can distract us daily, fueling our fears and having us just rolling through, accidentally making choices, waiting for life to happen and just playing it safe. Remember your life is not an accident, it has purpose, so show that purpose–or the search for that purpose–the intention it’s worthy of and deserves.
So, what did you think? I love all the helpful resources that Ariana shared with us, especially their variety: we had poetry, books, video and even a funny GIF.
I love how she moved from hiding after sharing her work with the world to being more and more comfortable with sharing it. Sometimes sharing yourself, your real self, and your creations can be so scary. But I think it’s worth it.
How have you hugged your fear to share yourself and your work with the world or even just a person close to you? What other things did this interview bring up for you?
If you liked this interview, you might also like:
Interview with Razwana Wahid – “When something is really scaring you, you have to do it.”
Interview with Duane de Four – Conquering a fear gives you momentum
Duane de Four, a self described “speaker, educator, media critic and blogger” in the areas of gender violence prevention and sexual health education (among many other things, he does amazing work) has a story that many of you will find familiar. After being laid off from his job, he hugged his fear and found a way to work for himself. Duane sat with me and spoke about his experience.
V: How would you describe that experience or goal you wanted to go for but had some fear over?
D: Well the experience that I thought of for this interview was starting my own business. It was just something that I wanted to do for a number of years but always had a lot of fears around it. I wondered if I’d be successful, if I have the drive, all those kinds of things. How would I make it work?
V: What about that made you afraid? What thoughts were you having? What did it bring up for you?
D: I think we kind of get these messages that we’re supposed to get a stable job and earn your income and work your way up the ladder and all that kind of stuff and so I had those fears of what it meant to break free of that process. The fear of the unknown, what was gonna happen, would I be able to pay my bills? All those fears of stability. And then of course self doubt. I can kind of be unmotivated and unfocused and unorganized and so I was doubting myself and my ability to do it and stick with it. So a combination of external fears and then those internal self-doubts.
V: Were you getting anything from people around you that made your fear better or worse?
D: I was getting both. And actually my father had worked for himself for some time and we could debate his success. I mean, he never really talked very much about his affairs with us, but certainly we weren’t rich or anything like that. I think my brother tends to be a little bit more into stability and that sort of thing than I am. And so I think he was sort of, I don’t want to put it on him, but some people would give me those, my mother too, “Get something stable and get something you can count on.” Some people were more on that side and some people were just like “You know, just do it. You’ll regret it if you never try.” And then part of it too was not necessarily knowing who I could turn to for advice or assistance on how to make it work. It’s one thing to talk about it, but then actually going through the steps was a whole different process in itself.
V: So what did you do? How did you make it happen?
D: So in some way I feel like I cheated a little bit because I actually got pushed into it. I got laid off from my job. And I had been thinking about it for years and I was actually doing some consulting work on the side with an organization that I used to work with. On occasion I would do trainings and stuff with them. So I was in a position where when I got laid off I instantly was like I have to make ends meet so I called people that I was consulting with and I was like “Hey, I’ve got more time on my hands, do you have more work for me?” And they were like “Oh yeah, I’ve got this and you can that.” And so I was able to quickly start getting some work which certainly made it easier. But I still at that point wasn’t really thinking of it as a business that I was doing. I was just working, doing jobs to pay the bills. But after a few months of that, I was getting steady work and I was getting calls from other people who were hearing that I was on my own. So just building up my name over the years doing work for other people, I created a good enough name for myself so that when I was ready, once they heard that I was available, they started calling me. So through seeing these things come together I was like, “Maybe I can make this dream happen.” The real test came when I actually at the same time was interviewing, applying for jobs and I had a job interview and I got offered the job so then I had to decide, cause it was a full time job. Do I stick with my business and make sure it’s a business and that’s my thing or do I take this job? So of course I was asking people questions, I posted things on Facebook and it was the same thing some people were like “Do it! You may never get this opportunity again.” And some people were like, “No. Go for the steady job. Go for the security.” In some ways that was scarier than when I started it. Because like I said I was sort of pushed into it by getting laid off. So now I was at a point where I actually make the choice for myself. But I just couldn’t shake this feeling that if I didn’t do it I would always regret it and if it didn’t work out I could probably find another job. And I got laid off when people all over were getting laid off when the economy tanked so it wasn’t like it was gonna be necessarily easy to find another job, but I just felt like if I didn’t give it a try I would regret it forever. And I think that scared me more.
V: And so you ultimately decided not to take it?
D: Yeah, exactly. I told them no. And that was nerve wracking. But I think it was the best choice that I probably ever made.
V: That’s awesome. So how has dealing with fear changed or stayed the same now that you are working your business instead of starting one?
D: Well, you know, I still encounter fears in doing my work. Like starting my blog (How Manly) is an example of another point where I was like “Alright, can I do this? I don’t think of myself as a great writer.” I had a couple of false starts where I started something then it didn’t really work out until I finally got it to the place where it’s at, a place where I feel like this is something I can build on. I think for me, my process is I need to sort of dip my toe in a little bit before I dive right in. For different projects or different things that looks different each time. It helps me to sort of get some sense of what I’m about to enter into before I do it.
V: What would that look like? The “dip toe in” process?
D: Well, with launching my business, I was doing this consulting work on the side while I still had a full time job. It was there when I needed it. It was ready for me to grow it. I think had I not been doing that I probably would have been like “I don’t know what I’m gonna do” and I would have taken the first job offer I got. And like I said with the blog, I kind of attempted a couple before I really got this one and came up with an idea that I really liked. I talked things over with people a lot, as much as possible. I still deal with fears, definitely. Like I have a serious fear of heights and I was at a retreat for some kids and they had a ropes course. And I had tried a ropes course once and I got like half way up the ladder and I was like “I can’t do this” and I came back down. But this time, they were all having so much fun and I was like “You know what, I want to have some fun too.” And what I told myself was “You know what, I’ve done scarier things than this. I’ve started my own business. I’ve traveled to Kenya on my own. I did things that have real world consequences, well potential real world consequences, with no safety net like when you do a ropes course. I’m gonna conquer this too.” And I did it. And I was shaking the whole time. I had to stop and pause a lot but I did it. The fact that I had overcome other things before in that moment also allowed me to say “Ok, I’ve overcome harder things, now I can do this.” I think conquering a fear can help give you that momentum to overcome other fears, big or small.
V: I find that to be true too. So you talked some about talking to people, did you have any books or favorite quotes or anything that helped you when you were feeling like “I’m not so sure, I’m afraid, but I want to do it.”?
D: No, I don’t have books necessarily that I turned to. I guess I think of people that I know who’ve overcome big fears and their experiences. Historically, I view Harriet Tubman as a hero of mine. And I just think about her experience that she was a free slave and she was helping free all these slaves. And the consequences for that were humongous and she was able to free many slaves, hundreds of slaves, and never get caught and just the strength that that took to do it. Or people that fought for social change, you know, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, people like that. I do sometimes think of some of these people and sometimes that can be counterproductive because I think I’m not like them. I don’t have that ability, but sometimes I am able to say “You know what? If they can do it, I can do it.”
V: That’s nice. It’s like someone’s life is their book.
D: Yeah, it can serve as inspiration. That’s why I think people love autobiographies so much.
V: So, what advice or tips would you give to someone who is reading this and they’re still like “Uh, I want to do this thing, but I’m still not sure cause I’m afraid.”? What would you say to them?
D: I would say, test the waters if you can. If it’s something where testing the waters is reading about it or getting to know as much as you can about whatever it is you want to conquer or do. I’ll talk to people all the time who say “You know, I’m interested in having my own business” and I say “Start off on the side while you have a stable job so you can see is there a market for this. Can I make a go at this?” So test out the waters when you can. Really think it through before just diving in when you can. And, I don’t know. YOLO (You Only Live Once). Post that on your wall if you need to. You know actually, there is a quote that I do think of which is helpful. I think the quote was “Fear of suffering is often worse than the suffering itself.” I mean, it sounds kind of morbid, but I think of it in the sense of like fear of being jobless and the repercussions of that are often worse than, for a lot of people, if you are jobless. You can maybe pick up side jobs or, you know what I’m saying? I think we blow our fears up to these big extents, like “Oh my God, my world is gonna end. This is how bad it’s gonna be.” And we think of all these things and I think you’ve talked about this on your blog, some other people mention this you make it bigger in your mind than it’s actually gonna be in reality. So try not to get caught in that mental self-talk cycle, that negative self-talk cycle.
V: Anything else you’d like to share?
D: We were talking about that sort of negative self-talk. Really explore the roots of that negative self-talk. What is it? Where does it come from? Is it stuff you heard in your childhood? Is it because of past experiences that went bad? Are you dealing with depression? Understanding where that comes from is helpful. And actually at one point I found this iPad app called Unstuck and you can put in goals. Are you familiar with it? I think that’s actually pretty good because they give you thoughts on why or what your block is and what you can do to counter that block so I think it can be helpful to not just think about conquering your fear, but trying to understand what it is that you’re afraid of in the first place. Because if you can figure that out, then that gives you the steps to conquer it and then hug your fear.
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So, that’s Duane’s story. And no, I didn’t pay him to use “hug your fear” in a sentence during the interview, but I do remember cheering at the end! What do you think? What stood out to you?
There are three things that really caught my attention.
First, I love his story about the ropes course. Overcoming fear really does create a momentum. Doing it once makes the next time a little easier and the next time a little easier and on and on.
Second, I cosign on his mention of the Unstuck app. It really does help you get to the bottom of why you’re stuck on your goal and it does so in an entertaining way.
And third, I loved how he spoke of how people can inspire you just by living their lives. I truly believe this too. We have so much to share and learn from each other, especially as it relates to overcoming fear. Who inspires you to overcome your fear based on how they lived their lives?
Photo Credit: Clinton Blackburn
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Interview with J.P. – “Just grit your teeth and go forward.”
Interview with Lauren Doney – “There is no try”