Why We Will Never Get Over Fear
“I think fearless is having fears but jumping anyway.”
– Taylor Swift
“Courage is getting up on that horse even when you are scared witless.”
– John Wayne
In 1990, I did the unthinkable by becoming a member of the human potential industry. Thirty years later, I have reached a few conclusions. While we contribute a great deal, the most corrupt practice in the self-help, human potential, motivational, and metaphysical industries is the sale of fearlessness. The only fearless people I’ve met have toe tags.
As a marketing strategy attached to flexible morals, the sale of fearlessness is brilliant. The entire fear mechanism is part of our biology, so it is not going to go anywhere soon. When triggered, there is often discomfort. When we sell the notion that fear can be mitigated and if you didn’t get “the cure” you can enroll in the next seminar, Advanced Terror 202.
America is going through a long list of challenges right now. But, the one that has caused the most significant turmoil of all is the one we don’t talk about:
When we were touting a 3.8% unemployment rate, about half of our country’s workers characterized themselves as underemployed. But, instead of showing the way forward and giving our citizens guidance, both of our dominant parties make promises to bring back jobs.
Oh, Cher, “If I could turn back time.” One of our boldest superstars who has been dealing with crippling stage fright her entire life. All of her assistants have signed a contract requiring they drag Cher to the stage door, even when she threatens their well-being.
We live at a time when political leaders make promises, and human potential leaders put down fear.
By the way folks, I am not suggesting to torch my profession but to have a thoroughly objective and informed view of our strengths and weaknesses.
There are hundreds of human development leaders devoting their lives to helping others. At one end of the spectrum, we find precision with the mission, the delivery system, and a devotion to ethics in a world that doesn’t require them. At the other end of the spectrum, let’s sell people something they cannot live without.
Here are two examples.
Napoleon Hill, the world’s first commercially successful human potential leader, was a con man. He had a long history of visiting one American city after another to offer investment opportunities that did not exist. Time and time again, he had to pack up his belongings and flee just as law enforcement was about to arrest him.
Hill’s commercial turning point was his book, Think and Grow Rich, which became a bestseller for years. Napoleon based his book on his interviews with one of the world’s richest and most celebrated men, Andrew Carnegie. During these interviews, Mr. Carnegie gave the world his secrets for success. The thing is, Mr. Hill never met Mr. Carnegie. And yet, that book spawned the motivational and human potential industry.
Years later, a young man named Jack Rosenberg was commuting into San Francisco, where he worked as a used car salesman. He had been unhappy with his life for quite some time. Consequently, he enrolled in Scientology and was in the midst of their costly auditing process. As he pulled onto the Golden Gate Bridge, he began to “get it.” By the time he reached the other side, he had made a life-changing series of decisions.
He changed his name to Werner Erhard, abandoned his family, took the Scientology auditing curriculum, and repackaged it into a group program named EST. The man built an industry centered on fearless living.
Today, he lives in Switzerland, which is the one country that outlaws Scientology. It appears the man is afraid of something.
Full living these days requires full courage. It is the state where the action is always more important than fear.
Courage is a decision. With courage, we go for it whether we are trembling or smiling, cursing or speaking with love, whether tears are flowing down our faces (utterly my thing), or sweat is ruining our make-up (not my thing).
My thinking about fear began to change after meeting Robert Maurer. He is a highly respected behavioral scientist at UCLA Medical School. Bob has devoted much of his professional life to studying the behaviors common to succeeding in every vital area in their lives. His fans run the gamut from physicians to college students to the creative community including a stint with Stella Adler.
One of the four behaviors Bob identified is that,
“Successful people are used to the experience of fear and when frightened, reach out for comfort or education.”
In other words, successful people don’t run around with the notion that being afraid is shameful. They do not construct their lives to avoid fear. Just as importantly, when they get frightened they get comfort from the right people and if the fear comes from a persistent problem, they find someone to teach them a solution.
Why comfort? Most of our children have not had this vital behavior purged from our system. When they get frightened, they come running to us for comfort. We pick them up and hold them. The alarm mechanism shuts down, and they move on with their lives. Like it or not, these forms of comfort are the only two healthy ones we can find.
Other attempts to find comfort while frightened include eating a layer cake, watching too much Television (the average is 3 hours and 58 minutes per day), becoming mean spirited, taking drugs (our country consumes about 80% of the legal and illegal drugs in the world), hide, move, stop what we are doing, lie, and more. But, the one statistic that gets me the most is that America’s average screen time with computers, smartphones, tablets, and TVs is 10 hours and 39 minutes.
On a biological level, we never outgrow the need to be comforted, and screwing around with our biology has pushed us to pay a terrible price. It is usually referred to as mediocrity. We sit in the shadows hoping things will change when the answer is to change our mindset.
Without fear, I wouldn’t get far driving on the streets of Los Angeles. Cars come up behind us at the speed of sound with a driver behind the wheel yelling, “move it lard-ass.” We have 80-pound women in 6,000 -pound sport utility trucks with the left hand on the wheel and the righthand texting. We periodically take bets that someone is or isn’t behind the wheel.
We live in a time where work is undergoing restructuring so significant that it makes the Industrial Revolution look like a cookie bake. Far too many people are getting swallowed up because they don’t know how to change. They are missing some excellent news.
Rapidly advancing technology gives us the freedom to do what we want, live where we want, embrace work that matters, and apply meaning to how we make a living.
We have the phenomenon of active learning, of having access to so much information that we now have millionaire children and teenagers. The era of exploitive business is being elbowed aside by the social entrepreneur movement. It is a community devoted to making billions by curing disease, cleaning up the environment, improving education, and solving millions of other problems.
To summarize the point.
If, for one moment, you believe you need to deal with your fear before taking action, find a purpose that is so compelling that you take action now.