Fear Build Walls — and is a Career Success Killer

Recently, I picked up a copy of Entrepreneur Magazine when I was in the airline club. The cover story was called “Face Down Your Fears.” Amy Cooper, Entrepreneur Editor in Chief had this to say in her column.

“It all boils down to this. When fear shows up and threatens your curiosity and enlightenment, look it square in the eye, acknowledge it, own it and move on. Don’t let fear hold you back from greatness.   The greatest thing to fear about fear is the inaction that often accompanies it.”

I agree. I have been telling my career mentoring clients for some time that “procrastination is the physical manifestation of fear.” I suggest that whenever they find themselves procrastinating to ask a simple question. “What am I afraid of here?” Once you have the answer to that question you can look your fear in the eye, acknowledge it, own it and do something about it.

Fear build walls. It’s easy to fear something that is new or different to you; something out of your realm of experience. An easy – but unproductive — way to deal with that fear is to wall it off. Don’t interact with strangers because you might get hurt.

On the other hand, if you are open to new and different people and things, you won’t build those walls – and your world will become richer. I embrace new and different people, places and things. And you know what? My life is better for it. When I go someplace new, I always eat the local food. I’ve had some stuff I didn’t like very much, but I’ve also found new and interesting dishes and flavors.

When I encounter a new technology, I do my best to learn all I can about it. I began blogging almost 10 years ago. Then I went one step further. I have released a series of career success videos. Blogging and video creating have helped my business. But more importantly, I’ve grown because I’ve learned something new. I must admit that I procrastinated on video. I finally asked myself that important question and I realized that I was afraid that I would do a poor job with video. Once I figured this out, I was freed to jump wholeheartedly into producing videos – to share my passion for helping others succeed, and to help build my success coaching business.

When I am in a conversation and find myself thinking, “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” I have trained myself to listen really hard – because those are the conversations where I am most likely to learn something. In other words, I embrace my fear of the unknown in the hopes that I will learn something. I don’t let my fear will me in.

A couple of years ago I saw a movie called “The Other Son.” It begins when two families, one Palestinian one Israeli, learn that their sons were switched at birth. An Israeli child was raised as a Palestinian, and a Palestinian child was raised was an Israeli. The mistake was discovered 20 years later when the boy raised as an Israeli attempts to enlist in the army. His blood type did not match that of his birth certificate.

The rest of the film explores how these two families work to overcome the walls – literal and figurative – that have led to so much mistrust and fear between Palestinians and Israelis. It’s a hopeful film that shows the power of breaking down the walls caused by fear and mistrust.

This brings me to the discussions (battles?) over gun control. The debate is as intense as ever. One side fears that it is too easy to get guns and that unstable people will obtain them and carry out more tragic shootings. The other side fears that restricting citizen’s rights to own guns will lead to a loss of freedom and maybe even a totalitarian state. The walls in this case are very high and thick. If we can break down some of these walls, we may be able to reach a consensus that would avert more tragedies and not trample on people’s rights. But to do so, both sides need to get past their fears and make a conscious effort to listen to one another.

This post is different from my usual posts on life and career success. But there is a success point here. Let me ask you a question. It’s a new year. What did you hope to accomplish last year that you didn’t? Did fear play a part in holding you back from getting it done? If so, what will you do about it in 2015? I suggest you follow my four tips for dealing with fear. 1) Identify what you fear. 2) Admit to what you fear. 3) Embrace your fear. 4) Look your fears in the eye and conquer them. You can do it. I know you can. Don’t let your fears wall you off from the life and career success you deserve.

Your career mentor,


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