Facing Fear

My wife is in surgery

She is undergoing a common procedure as I write but there is always uncertainty associated with surgery. A million “what ifs” can surge through your mind and overwhelm you as you think about the possibilities. You put on a brave face and try to be confident so as to help her feel relaxed- to help her not be afraid while not verbalizing what you really feel. The reality of life is we all face fear and uncertainty nearly every day. We face it in life, in relationships, in business, in investments, in any risk we elect to take, and in any worthwhile venture. Fear is present anytime we embark on a new course, implement change, take a risk, or decide to lead.

The problem with fear

Fear can immobilize us. We all know of people who never take a risk out of fear, who refuse to challenge the status quo, who make every effort to conform, who never chase a dream or fulfill a greater purpose. We know of those who are paralyzed by irrational fears. The biggest limiter to what we can achieve is often ourselves. I know many people that will not admit to their fears. I am, however, firmly convinced that everyone at some level is afraid. Fear can immobilize us but it can also motivate us. I’ve met many people who have reduced their vision or dream to something manageable. They limited themselves so they did not have to face fear. It’s much better to increase your dream or vision and then learn to manage fear as it comes up.

Phantom fear

It’s important when you are afraid to distinguish whether the threat exists in your imagination or reality. When you ride on a roller coaster you can feel your stomach drop as the ride ascends and descends but the threat of harm is mostly in your imagination. The chance of an accident is nearly zero. However, if you are driving down a steep hill in the ice and snow and your car starts to spin out of control the threat of an accident is real and you may need to protect yourself. People who can’t distinguish whether their fears are based in imagination or reality spend their whole lives trying to protect themselves. They avoid all kinds risk, real and imagined, in an effort to be “safe.” Sometimes more harm is done by failing to act!

The benefits of fear

Fear can inspire us to greatness. If we use fear to motivate us and let it be the fuel to drive us to manage risks then we work harder, we never give up, we continuously learn, we become more resourceful, we find needed allies and partners, we become more creative, and we find ways to win. As we face fear and win we become more confident in facing more fears and taking more risks. Those that achieve greatness have faced fear and let it drive positive actions. They’ve let the desire to win overwhelm their fears and they achieve something that matters as a result. Fear can be helpful if it drives the right behaviors.

The nature of courage

Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the willingness to act in spite of it. Our heroes are people who accomplished something that mattered in the face of fear, at great personal risk, or at great personal cost. They are the ones that never gave up. Where is the hero, the leader, the influencer that never faced fear? They don’t exist. It takes great personal courage to accomplish something that matters. Courage also takes tremendous energy and willpower. Leading is not for the faint of heart. Leaders have learned to face fear and overcome it.

Go big or go home?

My wife and I laugh at how often I quote this mantra. I have faced fear and as a result have taken many big risks over the years with mixed results. Do I win 100% of the time? No, but I like to think that I’ve graduated to winning more than I lose. Do I always take big risks? No. Facing small fears followed by success leads to facing larger fears and, as a result, larger successes. You don’t always have to “bet the farm.” My experience has been that fear is never a reason to avoid doing something. Never make a decision that is based solely on fear.  

Planning for success

When you face fear you “do not go gentle into that good night.” Facing fear does not mean a blind charge into oblivion. As a leader you have the obligation to do everything possible to ensure success and to tip the odds in your favor. Do you have the resources, the drive, the creativity, the allies and team members you need for success?  Can you get them in the required time period? Can you tap into the right experts? How hard are you willing to work? How much physical and mental energy can you put into the effort? Nothing substitutes for tenacity in facing fear and in helping ensure success.

Fear is a fact of life

Fear is a fact of life. We all must face fear. If we aspire to lead or to chase a dream we must be willing to face fear and overcome it. If we are going to succeed at any endeavor, if we are going to do something that makes a difference, we must do so in spite of fear and uncertainty. Have the courage to lead. Have the courage to do something that has not been done before. Have the courage to make a difference. Have the courage to press forward in the face of doubters and naysayers. Let fear be your fuel rather than what stops you! Fight to succeed. Fight to win. Manage the risks as best you can but do not let fear stop you!

You may be wondering about the surgery. My wife came through it fine and is recovering well!
-Alan Buttery