Use fear to your advantage

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10 year-old wisdom

Fear. This phenomenon affects almost every person we meet in our daily lives and yet, is never fully addressed. I believe understanding our fears is the key to overcoming them. Jerry Seinfeld talked about fear during one of his stand up comedy routines. At the time, in the United States, the number one fear was public speaking. Number two was death. “Death!” he proclaimed, “Death? That means that at a funeral, you would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.”

 

Can you guess what the most common fear of the American people is today? A break in service…as in no bars, no signal. The term phobia is one way we hear about chronic fear today. In a recent study, TIME magazine found over 50 million Americans are plagued by some phobia today. There are many that you or I would recognize but many others border on the ridiculous. There is a fear of chickens, of ventriloquist dummies, and bald people to name of few. I mean there is even a fear of phobias- phobophobia. It is my personal belief that these terms will only grow in years to come. Why? People like to identify with something. Hearing that their condition has a name provides the comfort of identity in an alienated world. There are many irrational fears but how about we talk about a completely common and normal one.

Can you identify with a fear of failure?

When I listen to entrepreneurs speak on their successes, many say they would never have chosen their business if they had known how hard the road would be. So why did they do it? I’ve heard one recurring theme- youth. They were too young to be discouraged or put off by naysayers. They had a vision and intended to follow through on it. Consequently, that vision and passion holding a lot more weight than a thorough business plan to Venture Capitalists these days. The point is that Youth doesn’t know or recognize fear of failure nearly as much as someone that has seen his or her share of hardships. Kids dare to dream and change the world. Ask a kid what he wants to be when he grows up and you will most likely get a response like the president or an astronaut. If you ask an individual recently unemployed or laid off by this recession the answer will be very different. Of course there are exceptions but don’t miss the point. I remember my Dad put this career question to me at the ripe age of ten. With a smile, I responded, “I’ll be an athlete first and then an entrepreneur and then a teacher. When I retire I’ll run for president.” Not to toot my own horn (because I’m far from any of these positions) but I knew how to dream even at that age. Kids seem to know something that the elders don’t. Or maybe its what these kids don’t know. Either way, you are free to come to your own conclusion. I think we should be fearful of something far more crippling than failure. Average.

 Average, mediocre, pedestrian, common place, ordinary, run-of-the-mill- call it what you like. This attitude affects far more people than any fear or phobia. This is what happens when you grow up. I’m ten times more worried that sometime in my twenties, I’m going to realize the grass isn’t greener on the other side. I’m going to say, “Well Drew, this is the real world and you better get used to it. Smile and do your job and someday you might have a nice retirement.” Actually, I’m terrified of this. My Dad told me I’m extraordinary and I plan to be.

Flipping fear on its head allows me to use it to my advantage. Fear of the average gets me up in the morning. It pushes me to separate myself from the gradual curve because I want nothing to do with the mean, median, OR mode. I want to be an outlier. I want to look at failure as lesson and, if I can, learn from other’s mistakes. God knows I’ve made enough on my own. I’m not saying that a wife, a dog, and 2 ½ kids is bad. If you’re happy where you’re at, that trumps all else. I’m talking about those of us that say, “I don’t really hate my job but I don’t like it either. I would do something else but everyone told me this is my only option or my only strength.” Are you LISTENING to yourself? Do you realize the path that you are sending yourself down? I heard once that Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. I listen to too many people start sentences with “I wish I would have…” and not enough “I’m so glad I did…” This fear is the reason I started blogging this New Year and Journaling on a daily basis as a measurement tool. It’s why I start everyday at the gym listening to Business podcasts instead of music. It’s how I realized the need for me personally to be involved with people who hold me accountable. The Progressive Group just hit the one-month mark with our meeting last night. One month of consistent behavior from strong friends holding each other accountable to their short AND long term goals. Life is too short for me to do anything different. There is no excuse for you to not be taking what you want out of everyday. Come on now- Carpe Diem is a pretty old concept.

There is one thing we are all poor in and that is TIME. Every person is given the same amount of hours in a day but tomorrow is not guaranteed. You need to take your fear of failing and turn it around. What if you don’t apply for that job? What if you never move away from home? In Napoleon Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich, he tells a story about Thomas Edison’s assistant. This man was determined to be Edison’s assistant. He was so determined that he woke up one morning, sold all his belongings, and road as a vagabond in boxcars down to Edison’s lab. When he arrived, he told Edison he was there to be his assistant. After several attempts to turn him away, Edison consented to his doing some sweeping and cleaning duties. The point is the man eventually became Edison’s primary assistant. What if you sold all you had and wholeheartedly risked it all to go and follow a dream? I ask because this doesn’t exist in our society. There is always a “fallback plan” and young people end up settling for what’s easy instead of determining to carve out the destiny they dreamed of. Quitters never win and winners never quit. Redefine determination and flip fear on its head. What happens if you don’t? The first thing to die will be passion, then hope, and then the dream itself which will be fleeting memory of ‘when you were young.’

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Momentum

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Each day is a new life to the wise man

I’m not a good decision maker in more ways than one. First, I hate being the one in the group deciding where to eat or what movie to see. This is because I’m a people-pleaser (to my own detriment) and am often afraid of upsetting..well…anyone. Second, because I’m a people pleaser, I am likely to go with the popular vote. As you probably know, this doesn’t always put in you in the best place. In fact, the title to a chapter in Timothy Ferriss’ The Four Hour WorkWeek is title “Everything Popular is Wrong.” It’s time to get with the minority.

Today I have a few thoughts about momentum. Is it ever hard for you to get moving? Do you ever feel stuck? Again, welcome to my life. In my first post, A new year, a new you, I mentioned my goal to create a mastermind group of like-minded individuals. We had our second meeting last night. We have named it The Progressive Group. The week before we set some initial goals and this was the opportunity to follow up. Guess what? Most of us didn’t accomplish even one, myself included.

Was the group a failure? Not at all. The group was created for just this purpose- to bring tangibility to our goals and accountability for our time. We reworked our goals more specifically. We realistically looked at our schedules and decided exactly when we could accomplish things within the upcoming week. We set new goals. We challenged each other to do more. We generated momentum.

Momentum is defined by Merriam-Webster as “strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events.” You need to get the ball rolling and you need to define what your motion or event will be to do that. Let me tell you what it will not be-RESEARCH or IDLE TALK. If you want to set a goal to travel to Europe it’s great to research ticket prices, tours, and places you want to see. Nothing wrong with that, but tell me: How much momentum does that create? You can complain about your job or where you live but until you do something about it, you’re the only one who’s really in the way. Find out what you want and take step one TODAY. Be specific in terms of a daily or weekly goal.

A turning point in my life was when I decided to study abroad in college. I wanted to go somewhere warm. I told my family and my friends and got responses like, “Good for you,” without much conviction or belief that I would actually do it. I needed momentum. I decided to go to the office at school. There, I was directed to the upcoming Study Abroad Fair at the union. I initially thought of a three-month interim trip but everyone I met told me to stay the semester so I could really see the country. I chose Australia because they spoke English and it was opposite seasons so it would be warm for the entire spring semester. That’s how long it took just to pinpoint WHAT I WANTED.

My momentum hit a brick wall when I found out how much it was going to cost between flights, traveling, tuition, and living expenses. After two months of trying, I felt defeated. I remember going back to my counselor desperately asking questions about funding options. She stopped me short and said, “Drew relax! We want you to go to Australia and will do anything we can to help you get there.” She gave me a list of scholarships to apply for and explained how to change my “need” requirements for Financial Aid. She gave me step one to get my momentum back. A week or two later, my Dad ran into someone whose daughter who had just gotten back from studying Australia. I called her to ask for any advice or tips and we arranged to grab coffee. She took me through almost a thousand pictures on her laptop over the course of two hours. Guess what happened? I MADE IT to Australia. That experience has given me the confidence to do anything.

Keep in mind; no one thought I was serious. I didn’t allow anyone to stop my momentum though. I gained more motion through conversations with people and my actions than any talk or research would have achieved. If you want to go to Europe, find and talk to someone who has been there. Call a travel agent. If you want to live somewhere else then find out who lives there or who has been there. Make a phone call. Take a trip. Gain some momentum. A few closing insights: 1. Life does not stop for you to make a decision but it will pass you by. 2. Change scares EVERYBODY. Real learning and real growth comes from getting out of your comfort zone. It’s being not afraid to fail. I heard one description of success as becoming “incrementally better at failing.” You’re going to fail anyways because you’re human. Why not stumble or fall while taking steps in the direction you WANT for your life? Start doing this today but be specific. Be realistic. Don’t set a goal you can’t accomplish. You will feel defeated before you even start. Now take a look around. Welcome to the minority. 🙂

You have an Unfair Advantage

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Mr. Ed has got swag

If you’re like me, your ADD applies to more than daily focus. It expands beyond the scope of shiny objects, strange sounds, and pennies on the ground. For example, you may be reading this because you’re wondering why this horse is wearing sunglasses. The answer is because I wanted him to…and he told me. Back to the point- a different type of ADD. If you’re like me, you see something you’re not good at and make it a priority to improve upon. You are a plethora of useless facts and figures. In other words, you are a, “Jack of all trades but master of none.” Nothing will hold back an ambitious individual more than this type of passion without real direction…in my opinion (Ben Franklin disclaimer)

Don’t fix your weaknesses. Discover your strengths and leverage them for success in your life. It makes a lot of sense right? I’m not talking about when you are a child and you’re better at playing football than reading. Not at all. I’m talking about that crossroads of education and career where you are told to choose a path. That path determines your focus. That focus determines your career and you live happily ever after. It’s a very uncomfortable place to be. Why?

If you’re like me, your mind creates every hypothetical outcome once you take a path. Your decision-making ability becomes a foggy cloud of ‘what if’ scenarios and hope begins to fade. Suddenly, a thought comes to you like a sliver of sunlight in the haze. You think, “I can do anything! Really, I have many options.” Here’s the problem- you move forward feeling confident but without direction. You are convinced in your mind that you are accomplishing something by simply realizing you can do anything. How ridiculous is that logic? The only reason I can even speak on this subject is because I’M GUILTY OF IT.

I saw my brother stay focused on his tennis and his school while I did what I felt like on a daily basis. Outcome? He played tennis all of college while maintaining a pre-med undergrad and is now at the top D.O. program in the country. On the other hand, I have two random degrees, have worked in five different industries, and can do the Rubiks cube in under 2 minutes. Focus matters. Direction matters. Measuring progress matters. Results matter.

You have an unfair advantage. You have something that nobody else does. You are unique. Don’t you dare say you don’t! The only person you are fooling is yourself. Every goal you set starts with the only thing you have control over- today. My challenge to you this week is to discover your “unfair advantage.” This post isn’t even about you. It’s about ME