11 April 2020
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Do you wear a cape of fear?

During the week I saw a colleague of mine step up and confront a situation in the workplace that others had run miles to avoid. Their running had cost the business hundreds of thousands of dollars but they just could not face their nemesis — themselves and their fears!

Jim Rohn the inspirational US business speaker, who Anthony Robbins started out working for as a young man filled with aspiration, made famous a line that a lot of motivational speakers use, which goes like this: “Just about everything you want, is just outside your comfort zone.”

I’ve talked to and analysed tens of thousands of business builders, entrepreneurs sports stars and other high achievers and I can’t recall one that made me think: “How did a frightened person like that kick so many goals?”

Of that’s not to say that there weren’t plenty of outstanding success stories who always were self-confident and fearless. I do know many who were outsiders and loners as youngsters, who failed at school and had low opinions of themselves, until they found what they were really good at and teamed it up with a passion to want to do this certain thing better than most!

Richard Branson told me he used sport to offset his embarrassment of being dyslexic but after he broke his leg and could no longer play soccer, school became an emotional challenge. His passion became his start-up businesses and he found out, to his utmost happiness, that he was damn good at business.

I’ve found Sir Richard to still be a reserved guy one-to-one but when he confronts an interview situation, he grows in confidence. And why wouldn’t he, given what he’s achieved.

Given how hard it is for many of us to overcome the fears that often hold us back in business, in relationships, in sport and life, I thought I’d look for some processes that might help you to step up and get outside your comfort zone.

Minda Zetlin, the co-author of The Geek Gap, writing for www.inc.com, outlined eight steps to turn you from the gutless lion of The Wizard of Oz to someone channelling Arnold Schwarzenegger in all his movies!  

(That’s my portrayal of what you might be and what you could become but given the potential spoils from changing you and your level of courage, I’m happy if I’ve got you interested.)

Her no-nonsense approach to fear-busting is worth sharing with you.

First, Minda says you have to ask: “Should I take action to solve this fear?” I find in just about every area of important endeavour in our lives if we know we are not up to performing well, then you should seek professional help. Going to a psychiatrist when your father dies and you’re young makes perfect sense but so many of us find “shrinks” way outside of our comfort zones that we don’t deal with emotional issues that hold us back! If you know you lack guts, either commit to a self-driven plan to change that or seek help. Oh, that’s if you want to be a success!

Second, remind yourself that fear can harm you. Many of us eat or drink when we feel pressure and both actions under duress have the potential to do both physical and emotional damage. See your fear as something that needs to be addressed before it comes back to bite you.

Third, another reason to take on fear to beat it is that it actually releases damaging chemicals. “You may think it's your judgment deciding that something is dangerous and you should be afraid, but what actually happens is that chemicals are flooding into your brain,” Minda points out. “Experiments have shown that fear can be induced artificially by injecting these chemicals.”

Fourth, I had an uncle who lived on the South Coast of New South Wales and when he came to Sydney he was afraid of getting lost so my Dad would meet him at Sutherland — an hour’s drive from our house! — to guide him into the big smoke. That always surprised me as a young boy and it was doubly confounding when I learnt he had owned a pub in Wilcannia as a young man and lived to tell the tale! Uncle Cookie needed to widen his comfort zone and we do that by identifying what we don’t like doing and then setting a task to take on that fear one at a time. This is a good way to widen the comfort zone that’s holding you back.

Fifth, Minda says you need to engage your cognition. “One good way to take back your brain from chemicals that are flooding it is to do something that engages your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that reasons,” she recommends. This involves things like problem solving, crossword puzzles, doing your books etc. We’re talking about distractions to give your brain a break from fear-generated chemicals.

Sixth, and Minda gets basic in telling us to name your fears. Yeah, write them down but the better step is to share them with family and friends. The first is easy but the second takes guts! Start with the “write ‘em down.” Then write beside them how you think you’ll beat that fear. After you do this, tell a friend about what you’ve achieved then share a fear with them. This is a process that has success written all over it.

Seventh, and that new chestnut was thrown at us by Minda and it’s what Dr Ross Walker would endorse — meditation. This seems to be becoming the ‘solve all’ process for so many of our problems. Could it be that most of our problems are actually residing in our heads? And haven’t they been messed around by a whole host of well-meaning people, including ourselves over more years than you really want to remember.

Eighth, Minda says “Embrace your fear, then let it go!”

Some fears are justifiable but you have to keep them in context. You can say, “most people are scared of Hells Angels moving into the house next door” and walking the back streets of Rio in Brazil looking like a wealthy Westerner. Some fears have to be beaten, such as standing up to a bully who’s giving you anxiety but others, such as worrying about illnesses that could one day visit you, need to be addressed by some medical inquiries but then need to be dismissed. If you can’t do this yourself, then I’m back to where I started: you need to seek professional help.

I know this is easier said than done but I liked Minda’s focus on the chemical side of fear, as it should make someone lacking in guts say, for example, in fearing to say something to someone that I’m actually hurting myself!

And that realisation should be a powerful motivation for anyone lacking courage to change their mode of operation.

As the old saying goes: “If it’s to be, it’s up to me!”

I’ve always loved the cliché: “No guts no glory” and what many of you potentially successful Aussies need to appreciate is the most gutsy and rewarding thing you could step up to do is to recognise how fear is hurting you emotionally, chemically or physically and in terms of your success.

Embrace this story yourself, as I intend to do, and share it with the people you love and who you want to see enjoy the happiness that comes with success.

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