If I’m not careful, fear will rule my life.
Some people who know me would be surprised by this. I tend to come off as self-assured, confident, and driven. And I am all those things!
But I’m only able to be those things after I accomplish one very important daily task:
I arm wrestle with fear. And most days, I win.
When I start my work for the day, there are a million things I can worry about. Will I get all my work done? Is it even possible with the amount of time I have available to me? Will I make enough money this month to keep running my own business? Am I doing a good enough job? What does “good enough” even mean, really? Will this work? Will this work???
But here’s the thing: after I made the transition into startups and then to a fully creative life, I’ve had to make a practice of doing things that scare me all the time.
Starting my own business scares me. Building OTR scares me. Thinking about whether or not it will all work scares me.
I used to be the most rigid of planners. I was a perfectionist. I only placed myself in situations where I knew I could win. But I’ve shaken my self to the core to rid myself of these things – and I’ve done it by practicing doing scary things every single day.
There are times when I think about giving it all up. Going full-time somewhere so I can cash in with a salary and benefits. Spend my free time reading and doing yoga instead of mentoring and building OTR. But I can’t do it.
Because I know OTR is my calling. I can’t not build OTR. Every point in my life has led to now, to OTR.
And, in order to give it my all, I want to keep my day job as minimal in time as possible. That’s why I’m running my own business (which gives me full control over my time). What this means is that I must make this work. The stakes are too high to give up.
So every day, I need to arm wrestle with fear. And I need to win.
You Can Wrestle With Fear, But You Can’t Fix It
Fear is a part of human nature. We have it because in many cases we need it (lest we take to diving out of planes without a parachute just because it sounds fun). But we don’t need to let fear dictate every single decision of our lives.
That’s where fear becomes a challenge.
Fear masks itself. It presents itself to us as the voice of reason. It tries to trick us with logic. But fear is fear – and fear’s main objective is to stop us from doing scary things.
The problem is, everything about leading a creative life can be scary.
It’s scary to put your work out into the world, especially when that work exposes the deepest parts of you. It’s scary to tell your loved ones that you want to spend your time and energy on something that may or may not ever pay your bills. It’s scary to even own up to being creative in the first place, because what if other people deem your creations unworthy?
These are fears that we all suffer with. They’re not going anywhere.
The good news is, if you feel these fears, then you’re normal! All you have to do is wake up, look at fear for what it is, and wrestle it down. Do your best to win that match every day.
The Problem with Trying to “Fix” Fear
I think our biggest struggle with fear comes from thinking we can fix it. But we can’t. Fear is a normal part of life that we all go through. But to think we can fix it directs our focus to the wrong point.
Why work on fixing fear when you can work on creating? Why focus on fighting against human nature when you can focus on making your creative work better?
Trying to fix fear is like trying to find a way to stop bathing. Sure, you can discover ways to make yourself less stinky, but eventually you’re going to need to bathe. Eventually the stink will win. And besides, is that really the stake you want to put in the ground?
What if you put this stake in the ground instead:
Discover your goal and then work like hell to achieve it, whether you fear it or not.
Fear’s going to be there. As Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic, fear is going to come along for the ride, but it’s not going to get the steering wheel. So just keep that map in front of you, let fear have a voice but not a say (another Gilbert-ism), and drive.
As you battle fear, just remember that there’s a much larger battle at stake: the battle to create the thing you feel called to create. Dealing with fear is one aspect of it, but it’s not the whole picture. And as long as you don’t let it become the full picture, then you will win that arm wrestle.
You will beat fear. But you won’t fix it – and that’s okay.