Why fear isn't so scary

“I’m not afraid of dying, I’m afraid of not trying” - Jay Z

Fear is the ultimate catalyst for personal and professional growth. Despite what we’ve learned growing up, fear is not a bad thing. Why? It is obviously scary, terrifying, and all around awful, but it can motivate you to take action against potential threats to your comfort zone.


My deepest fear is failure. I have very high expectations for myself to leave this world a better place than I found it, so when failure seems imminent, I go into “fight or flight” mode to circumvent the looming threat. This fear pushes me to do things that I would’ve easily avoided out of pure laziness. My reaction to the threat of failure is what drives my desire to step outside of my comfort zone. As difficult and almost embarrassing it can be at times, it is helpful in identifying your sources of stress/anxiety and working toward mitigating those risks associated with them.


While working on this post, I asked a few people a simple question “What scares you?” Here are the top five answers:

  • Losing everything

  • Instability

  • Mediocrity

  • Public Speaking

  • Unemployment


So, how do we face fears such as public speaking, losing everything, and mediocrity on a daily basis? We face them with preparation, zeal, and courage. If you are afraid of losing everything, design a strategy on facing the worst possible scenario. 


Step 1: Define the worst case scenario.

With my grave fear of failure, the worst case scenario is that I’ll end up stuck in a job that I hate, but need in order to pay the bills. For those who are afraid of losing everything, identify what is "everything" actually consist of?

Step 2: If it occurs, how do you plan to recover? 

If I fail, then I could get another degree, broaden my network, take advantage of all available opportunities for growth and exposure, and erase some of those weaknesses (remember to conduct your SWOT analysis!). If you are one of the many people who hate public speaking, how can you recover from an awful presentation? Is it possible to request a "do over" or can you follow up with the audience with a nice written message to supplement the previously presented information?

Step 3: What can you do now to mitigate the risk?

(i.e. losing everything or facing unemployment)

Update your resume or CV (and LinkedIn) with current projects, presentations, and volunteer roles. If you are able, begin collecting data on key metrics (metrics and outcomes data looks really good on a resume). Save. Save. Save. (read Dr. Love's post on how and why to save here)

In theory, this seems simple, but it allows me to plan for the worst, so that I can achieve my best.

What scares you? How have you face your fear? Comment below!