Whether you know it or not, we’re all on a cliff together.
Some are standing around idly, waiting for things to happen, while others are shuffling around, moving towards…something. They’re not exactly sure what just yet, but they have this inkling in the back of their skulls that there has to be more to life than this.
The first group, the Standers? For the most part, without a major intervention, they’re hopeless.
The second group, the Watchers? That’s where most of us are, where you are (otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this), but I don’t want to focus on them either. It’s this third group that I’m most obsessed with.
There is a difference between this group, the Jumpers, and everyone else. For them, that mere tickle is transformed into a drum beating inside their mind, beckoning them forward while others simply meander around.
They’re called Jumpers because they don’t just listen to the battle call; they answer it. They dive off the cliff and into the frightening unknown in search of what drives them.
But why the hell are they jumping? They don’t know what’s out there. For all they know, it could be a land filled with quicksand pits, poisonous fruits, machine gun toting fembots and Velociraptors equipped with samurai swords and dream killing missiles!
As someone who’s run the gamut from Stander to Watcher to Jumper, I can assure you that taking the leap of faith is not only worth the risk, but is absolutely necessary if you want to live the kind of life that you imagine yourself living.
I don’t claim to have all of the answers as I’m still making my way through this world myself, but I want to share some strategies that I’ve used to deal with fear along the way.
1. Tackling your fears may get you killed.
Havi Brooks over at The Fluent Self got me thinking about fear in a different way. First things first: we’re not going to tackle our fears head on from the jump. Why not? Because that’s a sure fire way to get taken out faster than General Tso’s chicken. That would be similar to starting a videogame, completing the basic tutorial and then waltzing up to the final boss ready for a showdown. Some fears are rational, but most are simply powerful illusions brought about to keep you on the defensive; reacting instead of being proactive. Therefore, the first step towards fear domination is not going after them right away, but simply acknowledging that they are there.
2. Become curious
If you want to piss fear off, treat it as a curiosity rather than something to be afraid of – it hates that. This is where the actual facing of your fears come into play. March right up to the beast’s den and look it up and down. Walk around; study it; learn all that you can about it.
When you notice that sense of dread creep up inside of your chest, ask yourself why you feel this way. Ask yourself as many questions as you can about why this situation or action scares you so much. Is it from a past experience that you or someone else had? Is it your imagination getting the best of you?
The more you familiarize yourself with this seemingly foreign emotion, the more you’ll realize that it’s actually not some malevolent emotion, but your friend. Your fear loves you. It loves you so much in fact that it’ll do everything in it’s power to keep you from being hurt or disappointed. Sadly for you, fear is the offspring of Professor Xavier and therefore has the ability to project devastatingly horrible outcomes of future events into your head in an attempt to keep you from breaking out of your comfort zone.
Don’t jump out of that plane – you’ll die!
Don’t ask that question – they’ll think you’re a fool!
Don’t pursue that idea – you will fail!
3. Ask “what if”
Now that you know your fear is coming from a place of love and not hate, you can get down to the business of letting it down gently with these two simple words: what if.
What if you don’t die when you jump out of that plane? What if it’s an even greater feeling than you thought it would be?
What if you help yourself and others when you get the answer to that question?
What if you don’t fail? What if you succeed? What will your life be like?
Fear, obviously, won’t have any logical response to these questions, and will respond by yelling even louder, but you’re prepared. Let fear know that you’re a grown man (or woman) and are capable of making decisions for yourself without it’s input.
4. Look to the Jumpers
Don’t ever take fear’s word for anything, unless you want to become one of the Standers or Watchers. Fear’s main job is to keep you paralyzed, keeping the impossible from becoming possible, so the only way forward is to challenge it’s claims. The most difficult part is that you haven’t done what you want to do just yet, so you really don’t have any tangible ground on which to base your hopes and dreams on.
The answer? Look to the Jumpers.
Chances are anything that you want to do has been done before, and if that’s the case then you’re literally surrounded by a wealth of evidence that you can use to counter fear’s persistent urgings. Take advantage of these resources! If you lived in Gotham City and wanted to become a crime fighter, it’d be silly not to look to Batman for advice. Want to become a motivational speaker? Anthony Robbins has already paved the way for you. Dream of writing a book on a subject that you’re passionate about? Chris Brogan and Julien Smith have you covered. What if you simply want to see as much of the world as you possibly can? Chris Guillebeau can show you how.
The best thing about this group of people is that, having once been in your shoes, more often than not they’ll be willing to help assuage any fears that you have as long as you’re willing to ask for their advice.
The Jumpers are here to show you what is possible. If it can happen to them, it can happen to you as well.
5. Just do it.
Nike had it right all along. With all of this lovey-dovey, touchy-feeley conversation going on, it’s easy to just acknowledge that your fears are there and not do anything to move past them. Likewise, I’ve seen several would-be Jumpers get stuck in the planning phase for far too along and accomplish nothing. Like my good friend JC says, planning is good, but doing is better.
You’ve gone on your quests, you’ve upgraded your weapons and armor, but sadly you’ve leveled up as far as you can without facing the boss and progressing forward.
You’re ready now, and the stakes are higher than ever.
When in doubt, shoot first and figure it out as you go. At worst you’ll fall short of your initial goal while at the same time proving that your fears were grossly exaggerated, using this experience to move you forward over time. At best? You’ll reclaim your life from the clutches of fear and take a huge step past your peers and towards your dreams.
30 day Sexification Challenge: What are your fears? What scares the hell out of you? More importantly, what do you plan to do/have done about it? Pick one or two fears that you’re committed to working on and leave them in the comment section or send them to me via-email if they’re more private. Let’s keep each other accountable and use the next 30 days to work towards crushing them.
Matt Kramer says
Great article Roger! Very inspiring. You have a great talent for explaining- especially through video game metaphors. Keep em comin in 2011. Happy new year!
Roger Lawson II says
Hopefully I get to see more of you in the new year now that I’ll be around those parts a lot more often. Respect knuckle!
I for one never like to regret missing an opportunity because I didn’t act on it. The “what if’s” become way too annoying.
Just do it is incredibly powerful. Most times if it doesn’t work out, you’re usually in the same situation and nothing’s changed!
Roger Lawson II says
Ain’t that the truth.
You pretty much have nothing to lose and everything to gain by moving forward on your fears, and the longer you wait the less likely you are to ever act on them.
Nancy C. says
Ok, this is a weird one. I really have a fear that if I don’t pay attention and read everything on political blogs that the world will go to hell in handbasket. Strange, huh? My New Year’s resolution is to be focused on my goals and eliminate distractions that keep me from reaching my goals. This fear is a biggie and I want to eliminate this distraction.
Roger Lawson II says
It could be worse – at least you aren’t hooked to the blogs AND all of the politically oriented showed, because that would lock you into a chair for most of the day and keep you distracted from actually doing things…which is exactly what the aliens want. *puts on tinfoil hat and pants*
That’s a good New Year’s Resolution though. Having that goal to focus on kinda streamlines things as far as “what I need to be doing” vs “what I want to be doing” goes. High five to that, Nancy.