How many opportunities have you talked yourself out of recently? Are your fears keeping you from surmounting the obstacles in front of you? Will confronting fear help? How can we turn fear into an ally that helps us achieve our goals?
In his presentation at Profit Con, Mike Agugliaro of CEOwarrior.com helped me find some big roadblocks within myself. We’ve explored a bunch of those blocks in the last 5 articles: Warrior Strong, Taking Initiative, Conditioning, Facing Demons, and Ingredients for Life.
Together we’ve learned that being the youngest of 4 growing up in MN may not be serving me in all situations, but it’s a part of me that I need to embrace. I don’t need to let those experiences make me hesitate in the decisions I need to make today, and I don’t need to get rid of them completely.
I was overthinking, second guessing, and being afraid of what others will think. Each of those are choices. I can learn to make different choices.
It’s easy to say that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Fear can immobilize us at critical moments, making bad situations worse. Fear can also spur us to action. Are fight, flight, and freeze the only options when confronting fear?
Picture yourself in front of a crowd of people. They are all looking at you and waiting for you to say something. How does that make you feel? As much as the internet says that fear of spiders is the most common phobia, I know a lot more people who are afraid of public speaking, including the ones who do it on a regular basis. I mean, really… If you had to choose between dealing with a spider or having to speak in public RIGHT NOW, which would you try to weasel your way out of?
What if it didn’t have to be that way? What are we really afraid of?
Are we afraid of the act of talking in front of a group, or are we afraid that we’re going to screw up, make fools of ourselves, be judged, and ultimately that people won’t like us because of it?
Now there’s a can of worms. This goes so much deeper than confronting fear of public speaking. This gets into the very nature of human relationships and what it means to truly connect with the people around us. We’re not afraid of public speaking. Our fear is having everything we hold dear go up in smoke if we screw it up. We’re afraid of rejection. The question is, who is rejecting us?
We are rejecting ourselves.
The Power of Fear
Here it all comes full circle. Over the last handful of years I have started doing a lot more writing and public speaking. People tell me that they look up to me and that I inspire them. They tell me that I’m a natural. They tell me that all of this comes easy to me. Never compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.
Up until I saw Mike’s presentation at Profit Con, my leadership boundaries were screwed. I didn’t know which way was up, much less the “right” thing to do in any given situation. I had managed to remove the word “should” from my vocabulary when speaking with other people, but I had not figured out how to stop second guessing EVERYTHING I did. My head was spinning with self judgement.
The people who look up to me can’t see what’s going on in my head. Not unless I write an article about it, anyway, so that’s what I am doing. You’ve made it this far in the marathon with me. We’re on the home stretch now, confronting fear.
Mike showed me that I have some serious work to do, and he showed me that I am up to the challenge. If one really awkward little girl can become someone that others look up to, that means that anyone can. When people look at me they don’t see the awkward little girl. Even as I’ve shown her to you with each of her painful and embarrassing ingredients, we can see together how each of those things does not have to define me or hold me back.
Nonetheless, there I was at Profit Con, shaking like a leaf.
It doesn’t matter how many people say they look up to me or tell me that I inspire them. If I don’t have the guts to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done, it’s all worthless. Mike challenged my ability to lead, and I realized that I had growing to do, fast. I wasn’t ready to grab the opportunities that needed to be grabbed when they presented themselves. I was freezing.
The limiting thoughts going through my head about aversion to competition, needing to share limited opportunities, and letting someone else shine all boiled down to one thing: excuses. I was never going to make anything happen if I was making excuses. Could I prove to myself that I could do this? I couldn’t just believe it any more. I needed to know. It was time for confronting fear, and I was going to do it in front of everyone at Profit Con.
I promised myself in that moment that the next time an opportunity came around, I was going to jump on it, and I would give it my all. That opportunity came fast, as Mike asked for volunteers to get on stage and strike a Warrior Strong pose. I turned my fear in to fuel, and I ran. Literally. I had to run to the stage in order to not talk myself out of it.
When I got there, I jumped up onto the stage… and I nearly wiped out in the process.
I don’t know what anyone else was thinking at that point. It didn’t matter any more. The worst case scenario of me almost falling on my face in front of my colleagues actually happened, and the world didn’t end. The marathon doesn’t end when I trip over my shoelaces.
You’ll never see me shaking
People don’t see me shake when I’m on stage. They don’t see my pulse racing. They don’t notice when my conscious mind takes a moment of back seat as my mouth just fills the space. The audience doesn’t see me focus my fear and turn it into fuel. When I’m shaking in my boots, it’s because there is so much energy coursing through me, my body almost can’t handle it. Without fear there can be no courage or bravery, right?
When I spoke to Mike just a few days before writing this, I asked him how he feels when he’s leading. Does Warrior Strong include shaking in your boots?
Not for Mike. Mike said “You’re already brave. Just let it out.”
It isn’t that Mike is confronting fear. The fear just isn’t there. I think he’s the first person I’ve met who doesn’t get at least a little nervous. Now that I’ve seen it’s possible, it’s something to work toward.
Mike told me that we are all at an unfair disadvantage. We are all carrying judgments from our parents that have been handed down from generation to generation. We are conditioned in our childhood to uphold the social mores of what is “appropriate” and “normal.” Maybe those beliefs served the social dynamics of the 1920’s, but they are not serving us today.
He asked me: Do I need to learn to share, or do others need to learn to step up and take what they need?
How much of my fear of public speaking is based in my belief that it should be scary? Would confronting fear be necessary if the fear was not necessary?
Then he added, in addition to those judgments, we are now each comparing ourselves to a marketing framework. We are surrounded with idealized messages of what the “perfect” human looks like and acts like. None of us see ourselves reflected there. Mike said, “We are living in the shadows of a fake paradigm. We need to decide what’s real.”
Change is Choice
This can all change at any moment that we each choose it to change. Our limiting beliefs are the only things holding us back. Those beliefs are carved into the recipe and ingredients of who we are, and they are backed with all the profound emotions that we felt as children. Until we create new patterns of behavior with strong emotional attachments, the changes we are working to make will not hold.
Mike doesn’t experience fear when he’s speaking. He doesn’t shake like I do. That sounds like something great to look forward to.
This is not easy work, but it is worthwhile. We are talking about saving the world, one person at a time. You can find massive amounts of information on how everyone else achieves their success. The line between success and failure lies in how your mind works and in the beliefs you hold. Do you have the right mindset? We each need to choose to let go of our limiting thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. Who do you want to be? Is that going to get you to where you want to go?
There is Always a next level
The journey of leadership doesn’t end. You don’t get to become Warrior Strong just to take a seat on the couch and sit out the next race. As soon as one marathon ends, we start training for the next.
For me the next level was the path not taken that day at Profit Con. This was the path that no one saw but me, where I let an opportunity pass by. You get to hear all about this in our next article. This was the path not taken that I called to ask Mike about. In that call I got more than I bargained for, so be sure to stay tuned for the final installment in this series. This is where the miracles happen.