I’ve interviewed 12 people so far on fear and how they’ve been able to overcome it in their lives. I picked one short lesson from each interview I’d like to share here. Before I begin though, I want to let you know what I mean by the word courageous. Courage is not about fearlessly marching forth, totally certain about what you’re doing. Courage is about taking steps even though you are afraid. So here we go.
1. It’s rarely too late to overcome a fear. Patricia showed us that age is not a very good excuse for not going for that thing you’ve been wanting to do. Yes, there are exceptions and the outcome may look a little different than if you had started earlier, but go for it anyway.
2. Understand that there are risks to all actions and learn how to manage your fear rather than avoid it. Tom showed us that there are risks to everything, including just staying where you are and not making any fear-inducing changes. It’s about acknowledging the risks, deciding if you can deal with them or not and then taking action.
3. Writing out what you’re afraid of and the consequences of those fears becoming reality can help get it out of your head and put into perspective. Razwana showed us that more often than not, you realize that you can handle what happens.
4. You can’t really know if anything is going to work out if you don’t take that first step. Lauren showed us that even if it takes you a while to take the step, the step is still needed and it provides you with all sorts of information about yourself and what you are doing that you just cannot get by simply thinking about it.
5. Thinking about how you will feel years from now when you look back and see that you never tried to do that thing you were thinking of doing can act as a great motivator. Carrie showed us that regret sucks! How many times have you read or heard of some person on their death bed wishing that they had done something?
6. Lindsey showed us that you need supportive people in your corner to help you keep moving forward. It can be friends, family, a group of likeminded individuals, a therapist, it doesn’t really matter who, it just matters that you have them. It makes the journey a little less tough and a lot more fun.
7. Obstacles will come up along your journey through fear. JP showed us that the trick is finding ways to deal with them when they come up. You can’t know in advance all of the things that will happen, but that shouldn’t be an excuse not to try. You’ll figure out how to handle it one step at a time.
8. Duane showed us that overcoming one fear can give you fuel to overcome another. Think of a snowball rolling down a hill and collecting more snow as it rolls. In addition to momentum, overcoming fear also gives your self-confidence a boost which makes you more likely to believe that you can achieve the next thing.
9. Ariana showed us that part of overcoming fear is being able to stand in your truth and show your true self to the world around you. We all need each other’s brightness to shine even brighter. By letting fear keep you silent, you deny the people around you the joy of being around you.
10. Willie showed us that fear can manifest itself in more than just sweaty palms and a fast heart rate. It can also show up in certain behaviors like procrastinating, being irritable or overeating. It’s up to you to figure out how it manifests for you and then do something about it. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.
11. To learn how to trust yourself to achieve your goals despite fear, Melissa suggested that you practice making commitments to yourself and the people around you and then sticking to them. The things you commit to can be big or small, but the point is to be consistent. The more you trust yourself to keep your word, the more you will believe that you can achieve your dreams.
12. Brother Hue Chuyen showed us that sometimes, even though you’re afraid, the answer might be to just take a leap of faith and jump into the unknown. Sometimes an answer to your discontent won’t come from just sitting and thinking about it and you just might have to jump before you feel ready and trust that you’ll figure it out along the way.
So there you have it, 12 short lessons, 12 courageous people and food for thought. Do you have any lessons of your own to add? Thanks for reading!
Meet Brother Hue Chuyen, an American Buddhist monk living in Germany who is embarking on a journey to India despite having no income, no health insurance and no detailed travel itinerary. Does he feel fear? You bet! But he’s going to do it anyway. Here’s what he shared with me about himself, what brought him to this point and his thoughts about the whole process.
Becoming an “American Buddhist monk living in Germany”
I was born in Andover, Massachusetts, a residential town about a half hour north of Boston. My parents were Jewish, originally from the Bronx, and raised my older sister and myself in a white house on Elm Street.
When I was little, my father used to share with me stories of the supernatural. Everything from aliens to Bigfoot to mind control. He even went so far as practice “control dice” with me when we played backgammon, focusing on a specific number and trying to roll it. I think these early encounters with the supernatural world gave me an interest in seeing reality and understanding the secret working of the universe. This all went underground to a degree until I got to college. I went to the University of Hartford to study physics, still interested in understanding the world.
Through a close acquaintance, I got back into supernatural themes such as energy transmission, mind reading, and ghosts. Slowly I also started hearing about chakras and meditation. I ended up meeting a Reiki Master, a friend of my Father’s, and also a visiting Zen Master who happened to be giving a talk at my college. The interest in the supernatural slowly refined into a search for the spiritual. I changed my major from physics to art and joined the philosophy club, hoping to find the answers inside of myself instead of in the world. This passion for spirituality slowly gained ground in my heart and after graduating from university I traveled to Germany to visit the monastery of the Zen Master who I had first met in Hartford. The longer I stayed, the more it became clear that my search was not an external one but a deep and personal one. I felt that I was wearing colored sunglasses and everywhere I went, the world would also be colored. I reflected that it made more sense to stay in one place and “correct my vision” then traveling the world with a skewed perception. I ordained as a monk and have remained so ever since. This was 7 years ago.
Over my time here I have learned and grown but have also been aware of a slight dissatisfaction growing inside of myself. Sometimes it was louder, sometimes drowned out by the busyness of daily life, but it was always present. I have wanted to travel for a while but somehow could never make the step. Like I had the emergency brake on and I couldn’t figure out how to release it. As the dissatisfaction grew, more and more pressure was building up onto a certain point within my psyche until the situation became clear. It was fear.
I could see that one of the reasons I ordained was also because of security. I had food, clothes, a place to stay, an interesting life, position, and I could learn spirituality. However, the deep feeling that something “wasn’t quite right” was in fact because I was giving away my life responsibility. I was making myself dependent on a system to take care of me, thereby never really needing to grow up and face the difficulties of life. This also meant never being able to grow on a deeper level and never really coming into my personal power. After seeing this clearly, then it was just a matter of being honest with myself. Although the “existence fear” was quite strong, it felt more honest to plunge into it then to live a sort of half-hearted life. I simply couldn’t do that to myself any longer.
Deciding to go to India
I decided that I wanted to go to India as my next step. It is a complete crazy place where anything can happen. Spirituality and poverty and commerce and crime all seem to flow together in some great tapestry that is called “daily life”. It is also the birthplace of Buddhism and I feel quite optimistic and supported to go there as my next step. Specifically, I will travel to Bodhgaya—the place of the Buddhas enlightenment—and see where it goes from there. I am not sure if I will remain a monk in this next phase because it is still, on a very subtle level, a type of security that is keeping me from having to stand on my own feet.
In all, I have decided for myself that I would rather live a true life, one without regrets, and one that I can stand fully in my personal power, then a safe, prison-like existence where I cling to security and comfort. I have done that for too long already and it just makes me feel depressed. When I look at many people around me, I see that something in them has died. I guess it is something from their soul. When I look at children I still see the light in their eyes and believe that if I asked each child they could clearly tell me what makes them happy and what they want out of life. For some reason, as we grow older, whether it’s from education or disappointments or fear, we slowly allow that inner light to shrivel and perhaps for some of us even to die. We would rather live a life of comfortable safety then a life of freedom and fulfillment.
I cannot say what will happen when I go to India next month and I don’t worry about it either. I trust my heart and I am happy that finally after 30 years of life I am at point where I can fully “go for it” without even knowing what “it” is. I guess it comes back to something a young woman said to me at a Dalai Lama teaching in Hamburg a few years back. She told me, “You know, I just don’t understand people who tell me that they are lost. How can you get lost? There is only one way to go, and you are either going or you are not!” I’ve thought about that ever since, and now, for myself, I can truly say, I am going.
Are there things that you think you’ll pull from in terms of ways that you’ve overcome fear in the past?
I guess it’s a yes and no kind of answer. Because in one way I feel like this is the first time that I’m just kind of throwing myself out there with no real feeling of a base or direction. So I feel like I’m confronting things for the first time. Also, being a little bit more of an adult, because I came to the monastery when I was 22 and now I’m 30, my mind is in a very different place. Fresh out of college it was more about what would interest me, what seemed important. And at the moment it’s this feeling of, you know when you turn 30, at least for me anyway, it’s kind of time to get your life in order. You know, whatever you’re gonna be doing for the next 10-20 years, you’re gonna be starting it now. So, I’m going off another mindset. But definitely my training in meditation and self-acceptance and trying just to allow whatever emotional responses are there without them controlling me. I’m definitely affected by them, but they don’t rule my life and influence my decisions to that high of a degree.
Somehow part of the reason also is to reexamine where I’m standing at the moment and to say is this where you want to be standing fully. Even since I was a little kid I had this feeling like I don’t want to look back on my life when I’m an old man and regret something or regret not doing something. That would be probably like one of the worst fates I could have is to have this feeling of somehow wasting my life or not doing something that I really felt like was important to do. For some reason that’s really important to me, not to have this regret. Because I feel like the life I have right now, now that I’m home and I’m with my friends and stuff, I don’t feel like many people are doing really what they want to do. There’s people that are happy with what they’re doing and some people that are not really that happy with what they’re doing but they need money. But I haven’t met many people that are through and through really happy, and doing something that they want to dedicate their lives to as opposed to just doing a job as a means to make money to support this other thing called life which is like a house with a family.
For myself I really had the feeling that I have to be fully honest with that feeling, even if there’s a little bit of discontentment to really examine that. And I see that even though I had a large house, a community and food and pretty much everything on the survival level that anybody could want and more and then also a computer and seminars and things that were interesting, I had almost everything I could want. Everything that the average person would say “Yeah, this means happiness.” There was still that part of me that felt that I was a prisoner of the security feeling, of being there because it was easy, because it was safe and I wasn’t really standing on my own feet. And for myself, that’s a no go.
In the end for me, that’s the key to personal happiness, when I’m standing in my own power. Because otherwise it’s like the feeling of a dream where you try to scream and no sound comes out, like you’re trying to connect to your force and it’s not there and that’s kind of like how I felt, like I was just floating somehow. Somehow half alive and it was enough, but God, I don’t want to live a life that’s just enough, I want to live a life that’s fully joyful and enriching and present and to just be fully honest to myself.
Because also I feel that my life is a lot about supporting and encouraging and inspiring other people to really make the most of their lives and to find their happiness and unless I am through and through an example of that, how do I expect to really encourage and empower others? I can only empower somebody else if I’m in my own power. I also didn’t want to live a contradiction in some way.
So what did you think? I loved how he is in tuned with the messages he gets from within that say it’s time to move on, you’re too comfortable. It’s so hard for so many of us to hear those messages, let alone heed them by taking a leap. Also, since I’ve been interested in meditation for a while and attempting to practice it more in the last month or so, I like how his background in meditation taught him how to just be with those fearful feelings that come up. If you’re interested in trying meditation, here is a short article by Jack Kornfield that I found helpful. And if you want to follow along or support Brother Hue Chuyen in his journey, you can visit the Facebook group that he set up here.
Photo: Brother Hue Chuyen
If you liked this interview, you might also like:
Interview with Carrie English – “Regret is the worst”
Interview with Razwana Wahid – “When something is really scaring you, you have to do it.”
Meet Melissa Joy Kong, former CEO of start-up centered media company Technori and most recently one half of the Lovementary road trip, where she traveled across the United States recording real-life love stories (how cool!). I’ve been a frequent reader of her Tumblr blog and decided to ask her to talk with me about fear and she graciously said yes and had lots of helpful things to share with us.
A quick heads up, this is a pretty in depth read, so feel free to break it up into multiple sittings as needed, put on something comfy, grab your favorite snack, get out a notebook and pen, and without further ado, get to reading.
V: So what goal or dream did you have that you were afraid to go for?
M: So I just completed a three and a half month road trip with somebody who is now a friend, his name is Nate Bagley. And the two of us found out over this past summer, in 2013, that we both had pretty much the exact same project in mind. I wanted to interview 100 couples who were really in love and figuring out how to make marriage work and interview them on what it took to build a great relationship and travel across the country and write a book about it. He, about four months earlier, quit his full time job and decided to pursue a podcast called the Loveumentary full time. A mutual friend introduced the two of us, we talked and we knew almost immediately that we needed to do the project together because it was just way too serendipitous for us to glance over it.
It took us a couple months of planning and sort of like saying that you’re going to do something but you’re still kind of like one foot in and finally on September 2nd, I decided to buy a one way ticket to Utah, pack all my stuff up, move it into storage in Chicago, which is where I was living at the time and give it a go. And at this point we had no money, we had no idea how we were gonna make this trip happen. Our plan was to do a Kickstarter campaign, but that takes like a month. So here we are, no money, figuring out how to basically live and feed ourselves while we’re in Utah figuring out this project. And the crazy thing about it is that Nate and I didn’t actually meet in person until Day One of the trip.
So when you talk about compiling a bunch of fears, there’s the financial fear of how are we gonna eat, there’s the fear of is this project even gonna work out, there’s the fear of leaving everything that I knew behind and loved, you know, my startup job and my city and my friends, my home and all of that, in pursuit of something that I just had a very strong gut feeling about and that’s kind of the first thing I’ll say about the idea of hugging your fear.
I think that we make decisions out of three major places. This isn’t scientific; this is just sort of metaphorical. I think we make decisions out of the head, the heart and the gut. I think the head is sort of our rational, logic, analytical part of us. I think that heart is the emotional, feelings-based, relational part of us. And I think the gut is a feeling of constant and comforting certainty that something is the right thing or that something is the thing that needs to be pursued. My head has failed me and my heart has too. The heart can be quite irrational and the head can be devoid of serendipity and joy. But the gut never leads me astray. When I think about all of the big gut level decisions I’ve ever made never once did I regret a decision or think later on that it was the wrong thing to do. So I think that the more you tune into your gut feeling, and the stronger that that gets, the easier it is to follow it, and the easier it is to just sort of listen to that part of yourself which I guess for me was the first step in overcoming my fear. So this trip was the most recent instance where I totally hugged my fear and made out with it and everything.
V: So you talked about there being that period between having an idea and then deciding on it, what was happening during that time? What feelings? Behaviors? What was going on in your mind?
M: It’s a really weird thing, it’s like….have you ever had something that happens in slow motion and you feel like you’re either watching something crash and burn or you’re watching joy accelerate in slow motion? It almost feels totally out of your control, you just have to sit back and observe? And that’s what the few months leading up to me taking that leap felt like. It was observing me about to take an enormous leap that in many ways was completely irrational and even I think some would consider, my mom in particular, not safe. You know, getting in a car during a period of my life when I don’t have health insurance, driving with a stranger that I’d never really met in person and didn’t have that much history with, all these sorts of factors and I think sometimes when we’re chasing after something that we really want, one of the things that people always come up against is that they’re waiting for a sign. They’re waiting for a sign that they need to go take a leap and the truth of the matter is that the sign is that you had 24 hours. That was your sign. The sign is that the sun came up and you got out of bed and you could do whatever you want with that time.
It is really simple, we find ways to care about things that aren’t really gonna matter to us. I do this exercise that some of your readers might love, it’s based on Danielle LaPorte’s “core desired feelings”. And it’s an exercise that I call “Core Desired Moments.” The Desire Map, Danielle LaPorte’s book which is an amazing read, is about basing your goals off of how you want to feel. Do you want to feel joyful? Do you want to feel loving? Do you want to feel open?
But I was having a difficult time just coming up with three to five feelings, I was like “I want to feel like twenty different things!” So I created this exercise that I called “Core Desired Moments” and basically what I did with this exercise is imagine myself, and it could be different for everybody, but I personally picture myself at the age of 85 and I was sitting on a porch of a really nice house and my granddaughter comes up to me and she asks me “Grandma, tell me about all of the favorite moments in your life. The moments that brought you joy and made your life awesome.” And I sit there and I basically write what I would tell her. And as you go through those moments, you’ll learn a ton of striking things about yourself and what you desire and a lot of things will surprise you almost always.
One that surprised me was that in my single life, I spend about 70% of my time on work and professional related activities like answering emails or going to conferences and only about 30% of my time with friends, family, things that rejuvenate me beyond my daily run and my core desired moments were exactly the opposite. About 70-75% of them were all related to family and people and relationships and only about 30% of it was related to work and so I thought to myself, and this is the big thing about getting over your fear, it requires not just a sign or someone giving you the security, it requires a paradigm shift.
And the paradigm shift is one of undoing all of the layers that we’ve been taught to think through, like that we need security to be ok. And we have to have a full time job and it’s got to be in one of a dozen very specific industries that everybody tells you about when you’re ten years old like “You can be a doctor, an astronaut, a writer, a lawyer or a chef or something.” There’s nothing outside of that framework. So it requires this shift in thinking about how life needs to be and that happens sometimes really gradually. It was a process that took me 3-4 years, it certainly didn’t happen overnight. But I got to a point where I was able to do things, a little bit more unconsciously at the time, more consciously recently with an exercise like core desired moments where I’m like this is the life that I genuinely think will make me proud of the woman that I was and the life that I led 60 years from now. And the only thing stopping me from becoming that woman is me waking up in the morning and waiting for things to happen for me to get to that place and just going out and doing it, even if it’s just small.
I will say that I think that a big part of being able chase after the things that you want to do but fear doing is being super super thoughtful about who you spend your time with. I think that it’s something where when we’re young, this is another thing that we’re trained. We go into school and we want to hang out with the cool kids. Even if the cool kids don’t fit us, even if they’re not the best to be around for our personal growth, that’s who we want to be with. And later in our lives I think that we forget that we are consciously alive human beings who get to actively make decisions about who we spend time with. I think it really is true that you become like the 5 people who you’re with the most, a Jim Rohn quote. And not enough of us are thoughtful about designing the way that we spend our time and who we spend it with. That’s made a huge difference for me in my ability to pursue things. I decided to actively surround myself with people who believe that literally anything is possible, which was not part of my paradigm growing up, by any means. You can train yourself. Wherever you come from, whatever circumstances you had, whatever was held against you, you can train yourself to think through life differently and better and in a way that is more engaging and enlivening and joyful. It just takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight.
V: So what helped you get in the car and get moving?
M: I think that probably my unfair advantage is that I knew when I was eleven years old what I wanted to do professionally. I fell in love with media, absolutely head over heels, so by the time that I graduated from college I had done six or seven internships in the media world. And that doesn’t happen very often so I feel that I was just blessed with the foresight about what I loved from a young age. And that bought me time, but time doesn’t erase fear.
I would say what helped me was realizing that for the rest of my life if I want to chase big things, I needed to get excited about being terrified. Like that feeling that you get when you’re terrified of taking a leap, all that is is a lack of trust in yourself. All that is is you saying “I’m not willing to take a bet on me.” So it’s no wonder that things don’t line up. It’s like we’re on a different wave and we want to be up here but we’re like down here somewhere and we’re wondering why we’re not getting the things that come as a result of traveling the distance between the two, it requires a leap and I think people tend to think about taking a leap as like you take a leap and you just kind of fall down. But I would encourage people to think about it as taking a leap up. The very worst that is going to happen is that you fall back down to where you were, you just figure out how to bounce back up again.
And I think the other big paradigm shift is deciding that comfort is the thing you should be afraid of and uncertainty is the thing that you should chase. And when I say that, I mean that you literally train yourself to feel afraid when you start to get too comfortable. ‘Cause I think when you get comfortable, you really stop growing. This sounds very masochistic, but truly I think that we forget that the experience of pain and uncertainty is the only place where true growth happens. And if we can’t get used to the feeling of finding joy, genuine happiness and joy in the uncertainty, then it’s going to be really difficult for us to take those leaps. And all it takes is a decision that you’re going to view something through a different filter. That’s it.
One of the biggest things that I learned recently that completely shifted the way that I started to think about the outcomes of my life, cause things happen, things very rarely work out the way that we think they will and it’s really easy to get bitter and pissed off at life and other people when things don’t work out. But I read this recently in a book called The Tools which is a pretty good read, and he said at one point, the biggest disconnect that we as people have is that we are almost solely concerned with external success. You know, finding the perfect partner to be in a relationship with, raising the perfect kids, finding the perfect house, finding the dream job, getting paid a lot of money to do that dream job, you know, like all these things that are external.
So when we think that that’s the goal, it’s easy for us to be upset or pissed off or disappointed or hurt or whatever, when expectation and reality differ because our goal is those external things and very rarely is our reality those external things. And what the author said is what we forget is that the World, the Universe, who I call God (or you could replace it with any word for what you subscribe to) is concerned purely and simply and solely with the strength of our hearts. And when I heard that I thought, man, if you put all the hardship in your life through that filter I can see why every missed opportunity, lost job, empty bank account, like why all those moments happened. They were meant to strengthen my heart and my faith and my trust in myself, in the world, in God, in the network of friends and family around me, in being ok with being dependent sometimes. And when you put life through that filter of “How is this an opportunity to strengthen my heart versus how is this a failure about not getting exactly what I wanted externally?,” it changes everything.
So that’s another big thing that I would say towards the end of the process of starting to overcome your fear, if you can just switch the way that you view the outcomes of your life that maybe don’t go as planned and think about how they can strengthen your heart then it gets a lot easier to take leaps.
V: You mentioned a little ways back that one of the reasons that people don’t take that leap is because they don’t trust themselves to be able to do it. So how do you build that trust?
M: That’s a great question. I was just talking to my friend the other night about this, I’ll use my specific example for this, but there are many other variations. I grew up in almost poverty. And I was insulated from the experience of that quite a bit because my mom is one of the most loving people I’ve ever known and probably will ever know and when people fill you with love, being poor, you don’t really feel it as much. But when I look back on it now, I’m like, wow, we were poor. And one of the biggest ways that I see my upbringing affect my life now is that I literally for a really long time and sometimes still, I doubt what is possible for my life. I think one of the things we all kind of struggle with is getting to a place where we almost immediately in our heads go to the worst case scenario and we start to think to ourselves ok, this obviously is never gonna happen because of this and I’m never gonna get this job because I don’t have enough experience or this person is never gonna date me because I’m not lovable. They’re all lies or rather they’re all very neutral opinions that we get to add power to and the power is either going to support us or detract from us. And I think about my circumstance growing up and how I pulled myself out of it.
I think the first thing is if we can create safety and comfort for the people around us, or if we had that provided to us, then it makes us so much more comfortable taking leaps in our lives. But not all of us have that built in safety and comfort so it makes it doubly hard to take leaps sometimes and what I would say about that is growing the confidence to trust yourself, the biggest thing that it comes from when you don’t have all that safety and comfort and cushion and stability is to be in integrity with your word.
I learn more and more that being in integrity means that what you say you value matches how you live your life or what you say you’re gonna do matches what you actually do. And your word is your bond, not just with the world, but with yourself. And when you actively practice being true to your word and doing the things you say you’re going to do, then it makes it a lot easier to believe that the things that you promised yourself in the future will actually happen.
So an example of that is to just start off really small, say you really have low trust for your ability to accomplish your dreams. Say “I am gonna wake up tomorrow morning at 6am and go for a run” and if it’s on that calendar, no matter how you feel, your ass is getting out of bed at 5:45am and you’re going for a run, and that’s it, end of the story. It’s not about your feelings, it’s about what you committed to and how you’re gonna be in integrity with yourself.
We’ve just become a generation where we’re terrified of committing to things and what I would say to people, and I’ve heard this from so many people I respect and admire, Oprah is one of them. Even though she is one of the most busy people on the planet and probably commits to things and then gets invited to the president’s house, no matter what comes up she always sticks to her commitments unless she’s deathly ill. And I think it’s so important to do that.
If people are feeling like they’re lacking confidence in themselves, I would say take a look at how good you are at committing to things cause I would guess that there’s probably a big disconnect there. If people really want to start feeling more confident in themselves and in their lives and what’s possible for them, just start committing to things whenever you can. The next time someone asks you if you want to go to dinner, be like yes, I want to go to dinner and then don’t cancel. If you work at a job where you make your own schedule and deadlines, build in deadlines, promise people things. Say I promise to get you the first draft of this document by this Thursday at 12pm and then get it to them by Thursday at 12pm.
Because if I can make the small promises to myself and say ok, I’m gonna be strictly a vegan for a week or I’m not gonna have any wine at the party tonight or I’m gonna save $100 by the end of the month, these little things, which don’t seem like a big deal, when you do them and you keep those promises then I know that when I say I’m going to build one of the most successful, engaging and honest publications in the world by the time I’m 50, I’m going to do that. And I know that when I say that I’m going to have a marriage that despite the expected ups and downs of marriage and of life, I’m going to have the most kickass, stellar, loving, passionate, awesome marriage with whoever I get to marry. I can trust that that’s gonna happen because I am somebody who is in integrity with their word and with the people in my life. So anybody out there who’re struggling with that piece, with having faith and trust with themselves, start making commitments.
V: That’s powerful. How did you handle any doubts or fears that happened once you had already started and were in the middle? How did you keep going?
M: Alright, for anyone out there who is reading this, I’m just gonna say this. The last three and a half months of my life, were probably three and a half of the most emotionally, physically, intellectually, and personally grueling months of my entire life. And from the last three and a half months I would say one, what I have learned is don’t judge a book by its cover. Seriously. Because even if the book is exactly like the cover, exactly what you expect, at least ask questions to verify before you make the assumption. ‘Cause I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met along the way who were like “Oh my gosh, you must be having such a blast.” And it’s awesome and it’s great and it’s like you know what I am blessed beyond belief, but the last three and a half months were fucking painful, for a lot of reasons.
The second thing that I would say is I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to give up on this trip. I wanted to give up at least fifty times and just throw the towel in and just be like “I’m done, I’m not doing this anymore.” If we can remember that the point of life is the strength of our hearts and that process takes refinement, shedding of some bad lessons and growing of some good ones. As intensely painful as something is, the ability to lean back and be the observer of your life, versus the one freaking out about it, is incredibly freeing.
And when you can just sit back and observe yourself in massive amounts of pain, whether it’s struggling with intense loneliness, or with fear of being a failure, or fear of being unlovable, or fear that no one cares about you, or fear that you’re not accepted, or fear that you’ll never be successful, or you’re never gonna get enough done, or that you procrastinate too much, whatever it is. Everything that I just listed is something that I felt at some point in the last three and a half months. To be able to go through those things and to sit in my bed or in a car and just cry and let myself observe my willingness to go through pain and not judge it and not try to rush out of it and not try to numb it with television or alcohol or food or whatever numbing mechanisms that we’re all so good at using (myself included). To just sit back and observe myself going through that pain freely without any pressure to get through it quickly or faster than is normal, all I can say is that that’s when you start to feel really alive. Because when you hit that point, Seth Godin refers to it as the “dip”, when you just want to give up and you just can’t do it anymore and you feel like you’re literally at your edge that is when magic happens 100% of the time. And I think that that’s the gift of not being afraid to live and get your hands dirty. You’re blessed with a river to clean yourself off in.
And to anybody out there who is going through something or in the midst of chasing a fear and they just want to through the towel in and quit, what I would say to them is, when you’re 85 years old, and your grandkid is asking you what makes you proud in your life, if you quit right then and there, wherever you are right now, I’m talking to you, whoever’s reading this who wants to quit, and you can say that genuinely it felt like the right time to quit and you’ll have no regrets about it, then by all means quit. We don’t need to see everything through to the end. But if you feel at any level, that you will break your own heart a little by quitting, then you just can’t. You just have to keep going.
V: Do you have any books or quotes or anything that help you move through fear?
M: Yeah, one of my favorites, one of the books that really created shifts for me almost immediately was one called The Untethered Soul. It’s a pretty short read, but it’s dense material so it’s one of those things that you kind of have to meditate on and just go through slowly. But man, that book will kick you in the ass if you’re living out of fear. It’s a great book. It’s sort of along the lines of The Power of Now, but it does a great job of explaining things a bit differently that really resonated with me.
Another book, it’s literally my favorite book in the world, is a Christian book, but I would say that anybody out there who is interested in leading a secretly incredible life needs to read this book. And if they can deal with references to Jesus, even if they don’t subscribe to Jesus, I would really highly recommend this read. Because I truly think that the way this man writes, I can’t think of a life that I would want to live more than the life that this man lives. It’s a guy by the name of Bob Goff and he wrote a book called Love Does and the book is basically just about love doesn’t just sit around, it does stuff and it talks about this guy who just lives a literally secretly incredible life and does these obscenely cool things with his family and his friends and his little kids and is just a gem of a human being and I look up to him more than I look up to anybody else that I don’t know. I look up to him more than Oprah, more than anybody. He’s just one of those guys that you know that sitting down with him and having a conversation with him will bring you joy. And I can’t think of anything better in life than that. So I highly recommend that book for anyone who just wants to have a living, breathing example of what it means to live a life on fire and at a place of love and not fear.
I really really love Danielle LaPorte’s The Fire Starter Sessions. That is an awesome book. She also wrote something called The Desire Map which is basically about the core desired feelings principle that I was talking about a little bit earlier. Danielle LaPorte is amazing and she’s literally like a Goddess. Everything that that girl says is truth with a capital T. She’s awesome.
There’s another book for all the women out there that I think is a really fascinating read. The title is not the best, but it’s by Marie Forleo, and she wrote a book called Make Every Man Want You. And you would think that it’s this straight up dating book, like what manipulative tactics can I use to get men to like me, but really what it’s about is how to glow from the inside out. Like how to just be authentically you and just glow in a way that makes everybody want to be around you, not just men, everybody. Like little kids and dogs, everybody. I was shocked by how incredibly thoughtful and well written that book was given the title and what I expected from it, so I highly recommend that book for all the women out there.
And I’ll give two more. The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck is another great one. He is just an incredible thinker. His definition of love is the commitment to somebody else’s growth. It’s a bit heady, he’s a psychotherapist, so he comes from that sort of background. But he has some really fascinating insights on love, money, life, career, all of that in this book so it’s one of those classic personal development books.
And the last one I would suggest is a book by the guy who wrote the famous The Four Agreements, but I personally think this book is the much better book than the The Four Agreements and it’s called The Mastery of Love and the it is all about love and how to love other people well and I think that it’s hands down one of the best books on love out there on the market. He definitely takes a little bit more of a spiritual perspective, non-denominational, but spiritual nonetheless and it’s just a fascinating read.
V: Any final thoughts?
M: If you’re waiting for a sign this is it. Your life is going to be determined by a bunch of the decisions that you make moment to moment. There isn’t ever going to be a perfect time. You’re never going to be fully ready. There’s always going to be a reason why not to do something. For anything worthwhile, there will always be an element of fear and for the things that are the most worthwhile; there will be a lot of fear. And if you can trust in your gut and be willing to get excited about that feeling of being afraid, sometimes terrified, you will live a truly magnificent life. So my last piece of advice is if you’re waiting for a sign, this is it, trust yourself and go for it.
So there you have it, lots of good stuff. This is definitely one to bookmark and come back to, right? There were so many helpful tips, thoughts and resources that Melissa shared, so I won’t re-mention everything, I just want to mention my two favorite takeaways:
– First, it is so affirming to know that someone you admire struggles at times with the same fears that you do despite seeming to be completely fearless. I know I’ve been guilty of judging her book by its cover. And I’m pretty sure that you can think of some people who you admire too. It just means that we’re all human, and to be human means to have fear sometimes. And to know that it’s likely that even after achieving many awesome things, there will still be fear at times, oddly makes me feel better.
– The second thing that hit me like a ton of bricks was the idea that your ability to keep commitments with yourself dictates how much you trust yourself. This was so huge to me. I’d never made this connection before, but once Melissa said it I saw it so clearly. It’s so easy to believe that letting yourself down doesn’t really matter, but it slowly erodes your belief in your capabilities because if can’t believe that you will follow through on the everyday commitments, it’s not so much of a stretch to believe that you can’t follow through or don’t have what it takes to reach your larger goals. This is definitely something I’m working on getting better at.
What are your favorite parts? Any aha moments? If you want to learn more about Melissa, visit her blog here.
If you liked this interview, you may also like:
Interview with Ariana Proehl – Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Interview with Duane de Four – Conquering a fear gives you momentum
Happy New Year!
Like many people, I spent much of December thinking about what I want in my life for the next year. Part of that includes my intentions for this blog; more of it includes all the other areas in my life that I want to improve.
Starting this blog has made me realize that I’m not as afraid of failing as I am of succeeding. What would it mean for me to do well? What responsibilities and expectations come along with success? Am I capable of handling them?
Like the much repeated Marianne Williamson quote:
It’s easy (for me, and maybe you too) to fear being a failure because you get to mentally play out all of the ways that you might be incapable. I think it’s harder to overcome the idea that I can have what I want. I’m used to the negative thinking and considering myself less than. That’s one thing I’d like to change in the New Year.
Setting goals that scare you can open you up to doubts about your worth, but it’s good to get your beliefs about yourself out in the open. You can’t adjust what you’re not aware of.
Part of thinking about what you want for the New Year is looking back over what happened in the year that just ended. So this is what I’ve also been doing.
Starting this blog was a big set of fear inducing steps for me. It was also one of the highlights of this past year.
This is the first time that I’ve ever shared my writing in public (aside from school).
It’s the first time I’ve cold called (or emailed) people I didn’t know asking them to help me when I had nothing to show for it besides my word.
It’s the first time that I’ve actually interviewed people and had to act like I wasn’t terrified that they would see right through me to the scared, inadequate girl I felt like I was.
I sometimes downplay how big of a step for me this all was as it doesn’t seem like it should be that scary in comparison to other things (like jumping out of a plane, speaking in front of thousands of people, starting your own business, [add your own gold standard scary experience here]). But then I have to stop myself.
If these are the things that make me afraid, then that’s where I am.
It’s not about doing things that other people think you should be afraid of. It’s about looking within to see where your comfort zone lies and then taking steps based on that. “Little” fears are just as important to pay attention to as “big” ones.
Starting this blog has challenged me to reconsider what would make me happy, reconsider how I feel about myself, reconsider how I WANT to feel about myself. It’s made me ask myself some honest questions: Do I feel that I deserve good things in life? Do I want to be happy? Am I willing to do what it takes to create a happy life for myself even if I’m terrified and uncomfortable at times?
And I don’t know the answers to all of those things right now. But I’m learning that that’s ok. I’m also learning that I don’t have to know all the answers before I take a step. I don’t even have to feel like I deserve good things before I try anyway.
So when you’re setting goals for the New Year, be kind to yourself. Applaud what you did last year that worked and acknowledge (without judgment) what didn’t work and what you learned from it. Focus on the things that scare you and how you’d feel if you did those anyway. Pay attention to what feelings and old beliefs come up and don’t be afraid to question them. Life is short; we are all doing the best that we can do. What matters is that you just keep at it and don’t give up.
Thanks for coming along on this ride with me. I hope that I can continue to bring you things that will help you overcome fear in your life. Let me know if there is anything that you’d like to see or any topics you’d like me to cover.
Let’s make 2014 a happy, healthy and fear hugging year!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I wrote and/or your experience with setting goals for the New Year.
If you liked this post, you might also like:
Scared to Make A Decision? You Don’t Have To Be.
Afraid you’re not doing enough? Just observe and write.