2 min read

Redirecting fear - a work in progress

Inspiration for a new experiment

On my trip to San Francisco two weeks ago, I finally met one of my closest work friends in person. We're so different professionally and in our ambitions (hint: he’s in sales), but we've connected on personal growth and cultural background, and found we’re able to help each other because we’re so different. He gifted me a book that he said touched him deeply: The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. I sure wouldn't have picked up this book myself, but it made me tear up on the plane ride home and delivered a message at the right time. It also made me feel understood. The author seemed fundamentally motivated by the same things I am, which is rare to find, and though we have very different specific experiences, I could see overarching parallels in our careers.

One line in the book referenced a saying: that everything we do is driven by fear or love. I had never heard this cliche before (a Google search verifies this is a cliche), but it was original to me on that flight home and prodded me to examine what I’m doing through this lens.

The love side of this exercise was easy. My fears were tougher and more illuminating to question. What am I really afraid of? What is useful about these fears? Can I take the useful parts and discard the rest? Also: where do these fears come from?

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Last night, my mom called me as I was going to sleep. Actually, my dad dialed, and then handed the phone off to my mom—I’m guessing because, once again, she thought she couldn’t figure out how to call me from her smartphone, and rather than try to figure it out, she asked my dad to do it.

I told her about some of my plans, and she responded with a cross-examination, and the message that “a lot of people want to do this and try, but they can’t figure it out.”

This reaction was entirely predictable, and has played out so many times that I have to believe it’s habit more than conscious thought. Sure enough, after I countered her initial message, my mom acknowledged that there is basically no risk to my plans.

There is clearly some fear programmed deeply in her. To make her message bearable, I had to recognize that at the core, her doubt is a surface-level expression of love. She’s concerned for my well-being because she loves me. That’s the message I now choose to respond to, not the surface-level one.

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Facts are facts. Some of my fears stem from things I do. This past week I did some things I thought were great, and also some things so concerning, that I thought I had surely moved past, they made me not even trust myself. This time I asked, “How can I ensure this never happens again?” (Or at least get 99% of the way to never?)

To cut to the chase, as an experiment, I added a column to my spreadsheet, a column titled “Scary thing.” It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek. Every day, I’m going to write something in that box that seems “scary,” and do it anyway.