How to Manage Your Fear

As the phone rang yesterday, I was hoping they were calling to cancel.  I had my reasons:  wasn’t ready yet, a serious list of projects to catch up on, and didn’t want to spend 2 hours traveling.

My appointment was to be with the Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) at Columbia University, and the call was to confirm it.

In reality I was afraid I was going to let my team down as Columbia was interested in our new company’s technology and curriculum.

And I didn’t want to mess up the meeting.

Fear = response to a present danger, or a “no” to what seems unabsorbable.  It is a subjective belief you have towards what seems to be a threat to your well-being.

There are two forms of fear:

  1. Appropriate— leads to a flight or fight response to deal with a danger that must be dealt with.
  2. Neurotic— leads to a flight or fight response that is never managed.  Usually used to “fit” into society or is a self-limiting personal block.

Fear stops us everywhere in our lives.  Mostly the neurotic form.

Neurotic fear is upheld using rationalizations, which justify its existence.  It is not a reality, just a perception or opinion of the facts in front of you.

“I cannot go outside because it is raining and I’ll get sick.”  “I cannot start my business because I may not make enough money.”

The list goes on.

Ironically, these rationalizations end up keeping the fear in place, instead of protecting us.  The fear becomes self-perpetuating.

Left unheeded, you never quite get to do what you really want in life.

Yet fear, when managed well, is a valuable tool.  In fact, with our training entrepreneurs to be UnReasonable, we deal with fear all the time.

To achieve unreasonable goals has two important components:

  • Excitement—achieving that incredible goal you have always wanted, but didn’t think you could accomplish
  • Fear— achieving that incredible goal you have always wanted, but didn’t think you could accomplish

(NOTE:  the definitions of both are the same!)


Three Steps to Manage Your Fear

In his book, How to be an Adult, psychotherapist Dr. David Richo explains three steps to breaking out of neurotic fear:

  1. Admit—out loud to yourself, the people involved, and/or anyone you trust.  This breaks through the rationalization of your fear.
  2. Allow—the fear to permeate your feelings.  By being OK with it, it usually runs its course quickly.
  3. Act—“acting because of fear is cowardice, acting with fear is the courage that survives it.” Dr. David Richo.


As the phone rang one last time yesterday, I recognized my fear.  As I answered, I took a deep breath and told my inner voice, “Thank you for sharing, and excuse me but I have a meeting to get to.”

And because of that meeting, Columbia wants to work with us.  After we spelled out our next steps, we said to each other, “I’m glad we made this meeting happen!”


Action Steps for the Week

What UnReasonable goal have you really wanted to make happen?  You know, that goal you might have been avoiding for so long and using a long list of rationalizations, that you now actually believe them?

Well, what has been holding you back from really going after it?  Most likely it is those rationalizations.

In which case, ask yourself, “What am I committed to?”  Success of the goal, or more of the same?

Then act on the answer you come up with.