Fear shows up unbidden…and it’s rarely a useful tool for your best work. Hope, on the other hand, can be conjured. It arrives when we ask it to, it’s something we can give away to others again and again, and we can use it as fuel to build something bigger than ourselves. ~ Seth Godin
Seth Godin is the author of 18 bestselling books that have been translated into more than 35 languages. He’s also the founder of squidoo.com and The Domino Project. I’ve been following his blog for several years, and I appreciate his insight into business, marketing, and leadership and his passion for trying to change things, especially how our thoughts and actions affect others. The following article was posted on his website in June 2013.
Fearlessness is not the same as the absence of fear
by Seth Godin
When we deny our fear, we make it stronger.
When we reassure the voice in our head by rationally reminding it of everything that will go right, we actually reinforce it.
Pushing back on fear doesn’t make us brave and it doesn’t make us fearless. Acknowledging fear and moving on is a very different approach, one that permits it to exist without strengthening it.
Life without fear doesn’t last very long—you’ll be run over by a bus (or a boss) before you know it. The fearless person, on the other hand, sees the world as it is (fear included) and then makes smart (and brave) decisions.
Here’s an updated version of a Live More, Fear Less post from my archives.
There are so many things to worry about in this life: the state of the world with its pollution, wars, natural disasters, famine. There’s human trafficking, drug cartels, economic collapse. Some mothers watch their children waste away through starvation. Some fathers are beaten and killed for their faith or beliefs. Closer to home are the very real problems of putting food on the table, juggling bills, trying to keep a job, and deciding between paying the rent or going to the doctor. And then there are more personal worries like living alone or being lonely, growing old, and being forgotten.
It’s easy to worry, and it’s something I’m very good at because I’ve had lots of practice. When I feel myself slipping into that place where I need to print business cards that say “Cate Macabe, Professional Worrier,” I stop and try to put things in perspective.
If I’m living in a car or a bombed-out building, do I worry about how fat I look in my jeans? While I’m sitting by my child’s hospital bed, do I care that my gray roots are showing? What is the fear of growing old compared to the fear of having nothing to feed my children? How does the fear of crowds or heights or giving an oral presentation compare to facing the devastation of a hurricane or a flood?
When I received the news that a friend of mine lost her teenage daughter to the hands of a murderer, the first thing I did was cry, and then I wailed. I was devastated for my friend, the heartbreak she felt, the horror of the crime. And I cried out for her daughter. There was so much she didn’t get to do. She was too young to be taken from this life. The next thing I did was look at my own teenage daughter and my life with her. Did all my rules, and nagging, and too-high expectations create the relationship I wanted? Did I want to push her away or look at each day with her as a gift to cherish? I decided, on the day I got my friend’s tragic news, what was truly important and began making choices accordingly.
Don’t wait for a disaster to give you a new perspective. Decide now what is most important and take practical steps to follow through.
If living longer and enjoying your family as you age is what you worry about – walk a little everyday, make better food choices, exercise your mind. Is getting a job or holding on to one a concern? Update your skills, work for a temporary agency, volunteer in your field of interest.
Doing something for someone else can shift our focus and also change how we look at our own lives. Visit an elderly neighbor, hold the hand of someone who’s grieving, watch a busy Mom’s kids to give her some alone time, send thank-you cards and letters to soldiers serving overseas (especially in combat zones).
Today, this minute, we can’t help a starving child or love an orphan on the other side of the world, but we can contribute money or time to organizations that can. And if we have the heart for it, we can foster or adopt and change the life of such a child.
Unless we do something with our worry, it becomes a waste of our time and energy because it’s really only a useless exercise of the mind. Don’t let the worries of life get you down for long. Take one step back if you have to, then two steps forward and keep looking ahead.
What do you do to stop worry from getting out of hand?
Image “Keyhole And Ladder” courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
by Alice Winston Carney
The flying lesson starts well. I am in the pilot’s seat; Eric, my instructor, beside me. I taxi onto the runway, call the tower, “8330X-ray, ready for take off”, loving the sound of my confident, female voice.
I give the engine full power, pull back on the controls when the speed reaches 70 knots. The little plane rises off the runway into the clear California sky. I level the plane, execute a smooth turn, reporting to the tower, “8330X-ray at 1500 feet, turning right, heading towards Tahoe.”
Below us the green and yellow agricultural fields checker their way across the great San Joaquin Valley, bisected by the American and Sacramento Rivers. All the world is blue, gold, and deep green as we head towards the foothills, Folsom Lake a sparkling dot below us.
Then Eric says, “Reduce power to engine, pull back on the controls,” two acts that go against logic when you are 2000 feet above the ground in a small tin can.
“Time to practice stalls.”
My pounding heart overpowers all sound, color drains from around me. “No!” I want out of this airplane.
But I am training as a pilot. I must learn to fly in all situations. I cut power to the engine. We float through the sky in an eerie quiet. My hands sweating, I pull back on the controls, raising the nose of the airplane until all I can see is sky. The nose goes up, up, then gives a dip down. A warning buzzer goes off. I have put us into a stall.
“Push the controls in, fast,” commands Eric. This is the third, most illogical step. Pushing the controls in, away from me, aims us towards the ground, causes the airplane to gather speed, dive, straight at the tree tops and rocks.
“Push, push,” Eric, yells. “Keep the wings level.”
As I write this, many years later, my fingers quiver on the keyboard, my breathing is shallow, and my stomach lurches. I remember the fear as I pushed the controls fully forward, forcing the plane faster and faster towards the earth. All I wanted to do was let go, to have Eric take over, to be out of there.
But I stayed with the airplane. As our speed increased, Eric said, “Pull back, nose up. Watch the wings. Give it full power.” I did. And there we were, flying level, the engine purring, the wings lifted by a cushion of air and motion, Folsom Lake blinking its blue eye up at us. Only then did I feel the dampness on the back of my shirt, the sweat flowing down my sides. Only then did I breathe.
This is how I feel about writing some days: that I can’t write; that I don’t know how to write; that if I do write, the words will fly out of control and I will be hurtling towards the earth; that I want out of the desire to write.
I have learned that if I hold on, keep writing through that fear, I will level out again, I will go to a place that teaches me lessons about myself and fear. Writing is the lift under my wings, navigates me through the huge blue sky to where I want to go. Writing can make me as proud as I was when I became a pilot.
Alice Winston Carney is director of Hermit’s Peak Press, which publishes original voices of Northern New Mexico. In 2010, she published A Cowgirl in Search of a Horse, a memoir of growing up in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Along with the authors Gerald and Loretta Hausman, Alice runs the annual Green River Writers Workshop in Las Vegas. You can visit Alice at greenriverwritersworkshop.com and on her Facebook page: greenriverwritersworkshop.
This article was originally published in the August 2013 issue of SouthWest Sage and is reprinted here by permission of the author.
Today I’ve pulled a post from my archives (December 2012), inspired by an awesome trip to Glacier National Park. If you have time, please check out a new article at my Wanderer website titled “Dare. Dream. Write. More.” about why I decided to break my pledge not to make New Year’s resolutions.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road wound upwards around the ice-carved mountainsides of Glacier National Park in northern Montana. Forests of evergreens, patches of fading wild flowers, and the yellow-orange of still-changing foliage spread out before me along the road on three sides. Even the cliff face on my left, climbing toward an autumn sky, held beauty in its grey hues, and jagged lines and shadows. Mountain buttes hid the foothills of ridges. Ridges bowed before peaks. Each layer a darker shade of blue to purple-grey. All filled the horizon above v-shaped valleys.
I went around a curve, the traffic slowed to a standstill, and there, blocking the panorama, was a rocky outcrop with a rough-hewn tunnel leading through it. In comparison, the harshness of the lifeless stone and the spiny, leafless trees here didn’t hold the same beauty as what I’d just passed. Behind me, the view was still so awesome I could have stared at it for hours, if not days (so different from the grassy mesas and the looming shoulders of barren mountains I often hike near my home 1250 miles away).
On through the tunnel, and the vista was again wondrous ahead, this time less so behind. And so, The Going-to-the-Sun Road shifted before and behind, in varying degrees of glorious – because, really, even the views that held too much brown and grey or not enough mountain or sky, still held perfection in their own way.
During one of those moments in my ascent when I just had to stop and try to take it all in, I thought of how much looking back can ruin my present and my future. The landscape of my past is filled with both beauty and ugliness. But living in the past – whether glorious or gritty – has often been a trap that keeps me from living in the present. At the same time, working busily for tomorrow (even if tomorrow means the end of the day) without enjoying this very day, seems as much of a waste.
I don’t make true New Year’s resolutions, but one thing I’m going to try very hard to do this coming year is to enjoy my every today and hope more in the future.
What changes do you want to make in the new year?