How to Vanquish Fear the Moment It Crops Up
Whether it’s the art of seduction, social prowess, travelling the world, starting a new business, or just picking up a new hobby, every man wants to be fearless. Every man wants to be able to take life by the horns, challenge his own hesitations, and take a step into making himself better.
But how do you do it? How do you
Not just with jobs, not just with your social life, but with everything?
Today I’m going to talk about being fearless. I’m going to show you that you can transform yourself into a person who pursues his goals with endless determination.
In our modern world, you have technology that can do anything for you:
- Connect you to your loved ones in a matter of seconds
- Let you access information about anything you could ever imagine
- Give you tools to make every part of your life more convenient
However, in this world of endless innovation, men have lost a sense of purpose and introspection. We try to focus on making our lives more convenient, bringing in more money, passing our time enjoyably, starting a family… and then we die.
We are losing the ability to ask the greater questions that drive truly successful individuals. Every man who drives himself to move past his fears has one key attribute: a clear and unyielding sense of purpose.
I remember that moment a while back when I was sitting in front of my computer. I was staring a travel website, wondering if I could be the kind of man who lived abroad and spent a lot of his time travelling the world.
I had been to Europe a few times, and I had had brief stints in other parts of the world. But this time was much, much different. I was staring at a one-way ticket to Thailand, in a continent that I had never been to before, in a region of the world where I knew basically no one.
My hand was trembling just thinking about it. There were so many reasons running through my head about why I shouldn’t go. You have all of your friends here. It’ll be easier to find a job here. It’s better if you stick with what you know. Think about just going back to Europe.
But, for some reason, despite how scared I was… something was telling me that I had to make this journey. That no matter how alien it seemed, it was a path that I had to walk down. But it took me hours upon hours of thinking to be able to truly articulate why I was so compelled to make this journey.
Questions to Ask Yourself
If you want to develop a deep sense of purpose, you have to find out what’s important to you. If you don’t know what you value, you won’t be able to confront your sense of fear in order to achieve your goals. Ask yourself:
- What do I care about?
- What is the most important part of my life?
- What is the greatest challenge in my life currently?
- What are my short term goals?
- What are my long term goals?
- What tangible steps am I going to take to get there?
How to Overcome Fear? Get Specific
Next, you have to be specific. When thinking about being successful in life, you have to know exactly what you want. If you don’t know exactly what you want, you won’t know how to get there. Your mind deals in tangible goals.
Since I love eating, I often use food analogies in terms of
achieving goals. Let’s say it’s lunchtime. You’re starving, and you
decide that really want a sandwich. Your mind will go into overdrive
with all the ways it could get a sandwich into your hands. You could go
to the deli down the street, you could break out the bread and make one
yourself, you could get a woman to do it for you (just kidding… unless
But no matter how you end up getting the sandwich, you won’t stop until your mouth is biting through two pieces of soft bread with something in between them.
However, if instead you think “I just really want some food,” you’ll end up doing a lot of hemming and hawing about how you’re actually going to feed yourself, and you will probably do one of three things:
Settle for the first thing you can find
Waste time trying to be decisive but failing
Narrow down your options to something specific and choose something to eat for lunch
The third option will probably leave you fed and pretty satisfied
with your decision. The first two are
Until you figure out exactly what you want, you will have no idea of knowing whether or not you have it.
So why do men choose to live their lives this way? Are you one of them?
They’ll say: “I really want to start my own business someday.”
You’ll ask them what they want to do. They’ll say: “I don’t know, I just really want to help people.”
You’ll ask them when they plan to get started with setting the foundation. They’ll say: “I’m not sure yet. I’m just waiting for right moment. It’ll happen someday.”
You’ll ask them why they don’t start today. They’ll say: “That’s way too soon! I’m not ready for that.”
It’s too soon, you say?
Steve Jobs founded Apple at the age of 20. Bill Gates founded Microsoft at the age of 20. F. Scott Fitzgerald published his first novel at the age of 24. And you can bet they were working on those projects, or something like them, long before then.
It’s never too soon to figure out exactly what you want to do and start setting out a plan to be able to actually execute it.
I need to re-emphasize the power of decisiveness. In the earlier food example, no matter which route you ended up taking, you would eat something no matter what. You wouldn’t let yourself just starve.
Even if you ate something that you didn’t like that much, you would feed yourself nonetheless. But in the lives of men, too often they hem and haw their way into life starvation. I’m going to go more in depth on this point a bit later. But one way or another, you have to learn how to pick an attractive option and then actually follow through with it.
Decisiveness is not only the ability to narrow down your options; it’s also the ability to follow through with the option that you do choose.
Recognize Small Defining Moments
With several hours and a million-and-one thoughts racing through my head, wondering what the hell I was doing, I started realizing that whether or not I clicked that “book” button was a small defining moment in my life.
I started thinking about the two paths that were presented before me. On one path, I could go down the same route that most twenty-somethings in America go down:
Get a traditional 9-5 job for a somewhat respectable amount of money
Settle into a comfortable routine
Find a nice girl who is good – maybe not amazing – but good enough
Eventually settle down with a mortgage and children
Hope to make small advancements in the career along the way.
Or… go down the corollary track of grad school
On the second path… I could travel to a completely different land, have experiences that I wouldn’t be able to imagine, meet some incredible women, and be able to live stories that I could tell for the rest of my life.
But, I knew that even this second track was cliché. I didn’t want to be the typical twenty-something backpacker seeing the world as a way to avoid making real-life decisions and running away from the responsibilities of adulthood.
I knew that I wanted to make my travels a deeper experience. I wanted to collect stories that would give me subject matter that would improve my writing career. I wanted to use the opportunities of the Asian living experience to get a deeper grasp on my personhood and to absorb a better understanding of selflessness. I wanted to use the tranquility of travel to scheme the new business ventures that I had always dreamed of launching.
And all of these thoughts were terrifying. But I knew that this was a defining moment. And I also knew how to overcome the fear I was feeling at this moment. I knew that I didn’t want to wake up as an old man (or even a thirty-year-old) wondering why I was stupid enough to stop myself from taking the plunge.
I hit “book”… and I never looked back.
Once you get a strong grasp of yourself and the things that you care about, you’ll be able to be a lot more confident in pursuing your goals with fearless determination. But that’s only the foundation of being fearless; an important foundation, but still the foundation. Learning to be fearless also requires:
- Normalcy Shifts
- Laser Focus
- Massive Effort
- Finding a Greater Fear
- Learning to Laugh
- Taking a Chance
A fearless man is not something you become overnight. And being a fearless man on one occasion doesn’t mean that you’ll stay that way on another. You have to persist.
This idea of patience and persistence applies to individual instances and the fearless life more generally. What I mean is that a lot of the fear and butterflies from any situation will come from the first 5 to 10 minutes of an occasion.
- The first minutes you talk to a new girl
- The first ten minutes of a job interview
- The first five minutes of a speech you have to give
In the same way, most of the fear of a goal comes in the initial stages:
- Telling your family and friends that you’re investing thousands in a new business
- Getting that first blog post up for your new blog
- Finding your way around for the first few days in a new country
But, the funny thing is once you get past the initial stage: your fear turns into excitement and rational preparation. Your brain is amazing at returning to neutral no matter what you do. Make a billion dollars? You’ll get used to it. Sleep with the world’s top models? You’ll get used to it. Become Iron Man? You’d even get used to that.
The key is to understand that the initial discomfort is inevitable… but it will also pass. You have to stick with a situation and fight through the hesitation and awkwardness until you hit the point where you actually start to feel pretty comfortable.
When I first landed in Thailand, everything was new. The people, the language, the food… it was all so dizzying and fascinating. But after being there for several months… I got used to it. Street vendors selling grilled scorpions? That’s old news. Ladyboys at every turn? Check. Almost getting hit by a car every time I go for a walk? Cake.
Once you get back to the neutral point, you start to wonder how you ever could have been scared to begin with.
Chase wrote a very comprehensive article on visualizing. Read it here. Visualizing is based on the premise that your brain really can’t tell the difference between thoughts and reality if it’s in a deep enough state.
So if you visualize yourself overcoming your fears and achieving your goals, then your brain will essentially treat it like you already have. So when you face your fear, it’s a lot easier because your brain “has already been through it.”
But, it’s not enough to know what you want and visualize getting it just once or twice. You have to keep reminding yourself of your goals. It’s going to be incredibly easy to lose your energy or sense of motivation and just fall into a trap of complacency. But if you visualize several times or week (or preferably every day), you’ll stay clear on what it is you need to do – and more importantly – why you need to do it.
Get Used to It
Don’t fall victim to pedastalizing your goals. If you have a goal in mind, think very rationally about it. Treat it as if it’s already happened, and think about all of the issues that come along with it.
Let’s say that you really want to date a bombshell of a woman, but you’re too scared to approach her. How do you overcome that fear? Well, when you think about her, instead fantasizing about how super-terrifically-amazing it would be, ask yourself some real questions about what it’s like to be with another human being:
- How do I tell her if her breath smells or she keeps bad hygiene?
- Do I have to start keeping tampons in my bathroom?
- What if she starts getting really needy and interferes with my friendships?
- Is she the kind of person I could spend a quiet evening and watch movies with?
- What will it be like to see her in sweats and no make-up?
- Will I have time to comfort her if she gets really stressed out about work or family?
These are all things that come with dating a real life woman. Of course there will be amazing parts; but there will be boring, mundane and sometimes even nasty parts too.
And if you can shift your mindset to preparing to be with someone who’s an actual person, you can shift to actually bringing yourself to be with that person… instead of a fantasy island version of them.
This is what I call a normalcy shift.
Don’t Get Distracted
If there’s something you want to do, then do that thing. If there’s someplace you want to go, then go to that place. Too many people are absolute experts at distracting themselves.
They could be working on their business, but maybe they should spend a little more time working on their fantasy team and wondering why they didn’t draft Peyton Manning
They could be planning their dream trip to Mali, but instead they’re on Facebook stalking their ex or playing Farmville
And the thing is… it’s comforting to distract yourself. I’ve seen so many people do 90% of the work to achieve their goal, and then distract themselves day after day while telling themselves that they’re “basically done.”
They use these distractions as a crutch to avoid the fear of following all the way through on something that they really want. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. But if you want to be fearless, you have to be deliberate with your time and effort. Keep your eye on the prize and don’t stop until you get it.
Leave It All on the Field
“In great matters, men show themselves as they wish to be seen; in small matters – as they are.”
Learning how to be fearless means learning how to put forth your full effort in every situation. I know it’s hard. I know it’s tiring. But if you’re learning to develop a sense of fearlessness it’s too easy to give in to the “I could’ve done it if I had tried harder” mentality.
You have to try hard all of the time. When opportunities present themselves, you have to go in knowing that you put in your absolute best. And that can be anywhere from just asking a girl for her number to making a large investment in your new business.
I can’t tell you how important it is to set a strong precedent during the small occasions. Always seek out and say yes to new opportunities. If you start to slowly build up that fearlessness muscle, it’s going to be much easier to flex it when the chips are down.
Find a Greater Fear
In life, doubt stops people from succeeding 10 times more often than failure ever does. Fear is really an indicator that you should do something. It’s a resistance telling you that there’s a challenge that you subconsciously want to overcome.
But to overcome it, you have to find something that you fear more than what you're trying to do. I talked about this in my piece on demolishing approach anxiety. You should have a thought or idea that’s 100 times more terrifying than facing your fears.
For me, it’s simple. And for me, it’s only two words. What if. Those words have haunted me too many times in my life. The mere thought of those words make me shudder. I can’t look at a beautiful girl – whether she’s black, Latin or white – who’s my type and go home wondering what would have happened if only I had talked to her. I can’t look at a life opportunity that really gets me excited, and yield to the fear of putting myself out there only to wonder what could have been had I decided to throw my hat in the ring.
For a lot of men, the fear of regret is enough of a motivation to keep them going. But everyone is different. No matter what your particular case may be, you have to find your motivation. Did you have a painful social experience that you never want to feel again? Then think about that every time you have social anxiety. Did you become obsessed with a girl? Think about never wanting that to happen again every time you want to run away from an approach.
Learn to Laugh at Yourself
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said something stupid in front of a girl, or during a meeting, or at a conference, or wherever else you don’t want to say something stupid.
But you have to learn to laugh at yourself. If you learn to laugh at yourself, you’ll never be afraid to fail. You’ll just find the humor in the crazy situations that life throws your way, and you’ll be able to move on.
And once you learn to find the humor, you’ll learn that you need to fail in order to succeed. So next time something goes your way, just laugh about it. Make a joke and realize that in 98% of your interactions with strangers, you’ll never see that person again, so it doesn’t even matter.
Take a Chance
You’ll never overcome fear by just staying in your head. You have to be decisive and learn to take a chance. Once you learn to laugh at yourself and find a greater fear, this becomes much easier. So if you find an interesting option, go for it and see how it turns out.
Hit that “book” button. Try that new restaurant. Pick a girl and approach her. Be decisive, and jump at the chance – you may never have it again.
Fear is not something that you will ever completely rid yourself of. There’s really no such thing as being “fearless.” Fear is actually a very healthy and necessary response for people. But what you can learn to do is develop the habit of acting in spite of fear.
If you take the time to understand your purpose of action, and take
the steps to move ever closer to seizing opportunities, then you too
will be become fearless. The amazing thing about becoming fearless is
that once you start tackling a fear in one area of life, you become
addicted to the feeling, and you want to challenge yourself in every
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”
– Franklin Roosevelt
See you on the other side of the world.
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