Fear as Fuel

Fear. It is hardwired in us all, yet some of us manage to conquer it, and some of us are also crushed by it. Why is it that we are so paralyzed by our fears, and how can we overcome them? Is it possible to become fearless? Is it a good idea? I'm going to tell you my thoughts on the matter.

In order to understand fear, it helps to think back to the good old days of being a caveman. The reason why we all still have the ghost of fear lingering inside our mind is that your great, great, great x50 grandfather used fear to avoid being killed by that sabretooth tiger hiding in the bushes. The fact is our brains still believe that there are monsters hiding in the bushes, they haven't quite caught up to the fact that we live in the 21st century. This leads to all sorts of other irrational fears and this is what's holding almost all of us back from going after what we truly desire. Fear is a tool like any other, and the sooner you understand how to harness it, the sooner you will come to appreciate it.

People are afraid of all the wrong things these days and they let their often irrational fears hold them back. For example, the fear of public speaking is usually greater than the fear of death. The other main culprits are typically the fear of rejection, loss of money, embarrassment and humiliation, and most importantly failure. Not to mention all the other random phobias that people have which I don't have enough time to write about every single one.

Lets debunk these main fears though starting with rejection. It is a simple fact of life that not everybody is going to like you, I tend to think of it like 33% will strongly dislike me, 33% will be neutral towards me, and 33% of people will absolutely love me. The goal is to connect to the third group and ignore the rest. If you are in sales you know all to well the pain of rejection when you know you have an awesome product or service that could help out the prospect, but they aren't receptive. The fact is you have to look for the buyers and no matter how good you are you will never sell everyone. Now of course this applies to other areas of life such as dating and what have you but you can see how it all relates.

Next up is the fear of losing money and going broke. I believe that this is honestly what keeps the majority of the population working in the same 9-5 job that they hate, the salary slave mentality. The first thing you need to know is that you can always get more money. Most of my readers live in a society that has enough social nets to help out when times are tough, so the chances are you are not going to be homeless and die on the streets if you start your own thing and it goes belly up. Hell, even if you have to be homeless for awhile when you are making your business, it will make your success story that much better! One way to help you get out of the scarcity mentality is to give an uncomfortable amount of money away to charity. This isn't a "law of attraction" kind of deal where you are praying to god that he will give you riches if you give money to this charity, a kind of exchange if you will. No you should do this without expecting to get anything back, and you should do it even if you are broke. The fact is you will never get rich if you are afraid of losing money, period. Felix Dennis talks about this in his book How to Get Rich- If you don't see making money as a game you will never ever get it.

How about the fear of embarrassment or humiliation that comes when you inevitably fail? First of all I think if this is holding you back, you need to develop thicker skin. This one is interesting because it shows that you really care about what others opinion of you is and that it is enough to stop you from going after your dreams. Felix also talks about this in his book. It is an unfortunate fact of life that if you are someone on the rise, you will get haters or naysayers who are constantly trying to hold you back, or secretly wishing they had the courage to do what you are trying to do. We can all benefit from getting more courage, it is an essential skill. One great way to develop the habit of courage is to read biographies of brave people throughout history. Alexander the Great is a classic example of someone who conquered his fears and used them to build one of the greatest empires in history. His famous quote is "Through every generation of the human race, there has been a constant war. A war with fear. Those who have the courage to conquer it are made free, and those who are conquered by it are made to suffer until they have the courage to defeat it, or death takes them." This is just as relevant today as it was 2300 years ago.

I believe we are all victims of a little something called learned helplessness. The psychologist Martin Seligman discovered this and wrote about it in his book Learned Optimism. The now famous study involved placing dogs in boxes with an electrified floor, one box had a roof and the other did not. What they found was that the dogs that could jump out of the box were not really affected, they would get shocked and simply jump out. However the dogs who could not escape would basically lay down and just take the shocks, knowing that there was nothing they could do ( PETA would love this one). Even when the roof was removed, the dogs would not jump out. How do you think this relates to us today?

I believe we are trained by our current system to "not jump out of the box". Society needs to have its worker bee's and our educational system reflects that fact. The reason why we respect people like Richard Branson or Elon Musk so much isn't because they are billionaires. It is because these guys are the ones who took huge chances in their life, and could have easily failed but yet they managed to do incredible things. You will experience fear when you start trying to improve your life in a big way, and this is a good thing. In the book "The Way of the Superior Man" By David Deida, he talks about living your life on the edge of your fear as a way of expanding your comfort zone. This is how you know you are on the right track and this is how you grow. In The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone, he says that "Fear is actually a sign that you are doing what's needed to move in the right direction". F.E.A.R stands for False Events Appearing Real, and Cardone's advice is to eliminate time from the equation since time is actually what feeds fear. Whenever you feel afraid of something, that is an indication that you need to do it immediately ( within reason, don't be stupid).

Action is truly the only way to eliminate fear and science backs this up with so called fear annihilation techniques. If you are afraid of snakes, they would put you in a room with snakes, or in an elevator if you are afraid of enclosed spaces. Exposure therapy is a very powerful way to banish this imposter once and for all.

While it is important to try to annihilate your fears, you don't want to be rid of them completely. In battle the soldier who is fearless is usually the first one to be killed. You have to find the balance between being fearless and being made helpless. In business you need to know what your risk tolerance is. You can do a very simple test by saying what is the potential upside and downside, and what is the probability of that scenario happening? For example, if you are wondering whether you should leave your job to start a business you could say well I am making 50,000$ a year here, I have a guaranteed income but I am not happy. If I went to start my own business, my potential income could be 100,000$ ( or unlimited) and I would be more satisfied with my life, what is the potential downside here? Well lets say there's a 40% chance I will fail with my business, so that would be .40 x 100,000 or 40,000$. If I stayed at my current job I will continue to make 50,000 so 10,000$ more, but what about your happiness factor? This is where you find the balance. Its been said that business is all about taking the bets that have a large upside and small downside and avoiding the opposite, the difficult thing is when you have multiple choices that have large upsides and downsides. This kind of rationality can really help your decision making process, and you can improve it by playing certain games like Poker, Chess, Backgammon, and Bridge.

One not so talked about thing I think affects us is the fear of success. The dreaded question that always starts with what if. For example: what if I go out and start my own business and become successful, well some people won't like me anymore, or it will be too much responsibility, or I will have to deal with customers. The list goes on and on and on. The truth is it wont be easy, but you have to ask yourself what's worse? Living a mediocre life and taking the path of least resistance, or actually going for it and making it happen? I know one thing that helped Jeff Bezos decide whether or not he wanted to leave his successful Wall Street career to create Amazon was something he called the regret minimization framework, check it out on Youtube. What he did was basically say when I'm 80 and I look back at my life, will I regret not taking this risk and staying with my stable job. It turns out when you look at things with the end in mind, it makes the decision very obvious.

So at the end of the day I think we can really benefit from ditching all the dumb fears and only focus on the one we should really be losing sleep over. That is, wasting our life away or having a shitty life as Tai Lopez would say. One of my favorite philosophers Seneca said that we are immortal in our desires and mortal in our fears. What this means is that we tend to believe we have all the time in the world to accomplish our goals, but in reality we could be here today and gone tomorrow. In the book "Seneca: On the Shortness of Life ", he says "We are all frugal when it comes to protecting our personal property, but when it comes to squandering time we are extremely wasteful when we should be the most stingy!" This is reflected in our actions today. How many of you have no problem watching TV for hours, but when it comes to doing something that might actually improve your life like exercising or reading, you don't have time for it? If you have trouble with procrastination, keep those quotes in your mind. One amazing advantage to the time we live in is that we have all the knowledge of the smartest people who ever lived easily available at our fingertips! I would suggest you become familiar with philosophers like Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and many more. In the words of Charlie Munger "make friends with the eminent dead".

The practical things you can do today to conquer your fear are the following: take massive action before time has a chance to feed your fear, give money to charities, learn to manage your risk by playing games of chance and strategy, use the regret minimization framework, study the "eminent dead", and read biographies of great people who had courage. Learn to dominate your fear and use it as fuel to skyrocket your success.

Do it now.

~Ben

 

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