Abraham Lincoln worried constantly. Steve Jobs was paranoid, sometime even delusional. Jackson Pollack suffered intense anxiety.
We often think the most accomplished people are fearless; possessing the courage of a Greek God. Therefore, since you and I are afraid from time to time, we must be inferior beings, destined to a shallow and mediocre existence.
The truth is we all experience fear. Sometimes it’s the fear of failure, other times it is the fear of abandonment. Daily fears range from feeling foolish while sharing a whacky idea with your boss to spilling ketchup on your tie and appearing unprofessional.
Fear of all shapes and sizes is a natural part of the human experience, and even those that appear to have boundless bravery still experience those very same emotions.
As an entrepreneur myself, I’ve spent 25 years taking risks in a journey that is anything but smooth sailing. Sometimes I’ll enjoy a win and feel like I’m Jay Z. More frequently, though, I stumble and am scared to death that I won’t be able to recover.
Over the years, I taught myself to flip the fear. Instead of trying to eliminate fear (which can’t be done), I use it to fuel progress. When facing a near-term obstacle that feels scary and overwhelming, I zoom way out and think about what I’m truly afraid of. I think about the regret I’ll feel 20 years from now if I don’t take the necessary risks to reach my full potential. I think about letting my family down, or not setting a good example for my kids. I connect with the disappointment I’d feel if I never rose to help my community or challenge myself to leave a positive impact. In other words, I force myself to focus on the long-term results of succumbing to my near-term fear.
As a result of this flipping approach, I use fear to conquer fear. When I think about how scared I am of the big misses, it provides the courage and fortitude to tackle daily risks. To me, it isn’t about eliminating fear. It’s about harnessing it and using fear as a powerful motivating force.
In your case, don’t put the pressure on yourself to be fearless. Instead, connect with your biggest fears and use them to fuel your performance. To push yourself to achieve more. To drive your desired outcomes.
Andy Grove, the founder of Intel, often said, “Only the paranoid survive.” Use your natural human instincts to your advantage instead of letting them get in your way. Leverage what scares you. Flip the fear.