Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

Make Fear Your Ally

In June 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, I resigned from my job of 13 years. I know what you are thinking, and in hindsight, I agree. Probably not the most brilliant move given the state of things; hear me out though.

Aside from some other personal life struggles at the time, I had fallen out of love with my job. I worked at Costco, a great organization by anyone’s standards, but I found myself leaving daily unfulfilled. As a leader, it was a rewarding experience to teach the next generation of leadership and show them how to carry on Costco’s culture, but if there is such a thing as a calling, I couldn’t hear it at Costco. I had always felt I was capable of more. In the months leading up to my departure, I found myself reflecting more and more on what I wanted out of life. I wasn’t sure what; I just knew that I needed to do something drastic, so I did. I resigned and set off on a journey reshaping my life and my view of the world. I am still on that journey even now as I am writing this little piece of inspiration, but I wanted to take a moment to share a morsel of understanding that I have discovered along my journey. What I want to discuss with you today is fear and how I have been managing it.

The Journey

As part of my journey, I have been taking regular classes online through the Interaction Design Foundation or IxDF. I started taking a class on UX design freelancing and how to best approach transitioning career fields. If you’re reading this, you likely have found yourself also transitioning or might have already taken the first step. Either way, congratulations! If you’re thinking about taking a risk and pivoting careers or have a business idea, but you are waiting for the right time, stop. There is never a “right” time to start. Just start. Start doing something to move in the direction you want to go; read a book, take an online class, look up a youtube tutorial, get on LinkedIn and start networking. Like Shia LeBeouf says: “JUST DO IT!”

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

At any rate, the freelance class at IxDF presented me with an exciting opportunity to manage my fears. One of the biggest challenges people face when deciding to pivot careers is: overcoming their fear. I will share with you a tool that you can use to manage your fears. I think it is essential that you understand the goal here; you cannot eliminate fear. Nor is that a goal for which you should strive. We need fear to help motivate us to meet our goals. You cannot have a shadow without light. It is the same principle with fear; it is essential. But understanding your fear and making it an ally can be incredibly empowering. I will share the seven-step exercise with you and how I used it to start managing my fears and use them as motivations.

Understanding Your Fear

  1. Define your fears and state the worst possible outcomes.
  2. What would you do to recover from that outcome?
  3. What are the best possible outcomes of that same fear?
  4. What would you do if you got fired with nothing today?
  5. What is it that you fear most? Can you tackle it today? Tackle it.
  6. What is the impact of not taking action on you in terms of finance? Emotions? Physicality? Spirituality?
  7. What’s holding you back now?

If you have read The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris, then this will look familiar as it is his 7-point plan. I am here to tell you that it worked for me and is helping me understand my fears and I will continue to use it to manage new fears in my life as I encounter them. Over the next day, I spent time working through each one of the steps and sporadically adding to it as the day went on.

One of the fears that I would like to share is:

I am afraid to put myself out in the world. I am afraid to share my thoughts in a written format, for public review. Or I am afraid to post my design work on social media because I fear the potential ridicule. I fear feeling exposed. I fear vulnerability.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

So, here I am, facing my fears in the flesh. I wrote and posted this article. I put it out there for all to read, love it or hate it. Let’s go through this.

  1. So we defined my fear. What is the worst thing that could happen to me? I could be ridiculed, I could be made fun of. Someone might leave mean comments on this article just cause, you know, that's how the internet works. People can now formulate an opinion about me and my work and share that with others. That is, without a doubt, extremely intimidating.
  2. What does recovery look like in this situation? Depending on the comments received, I might reach out to some of those people and ask them for more structured feedback. Look for opportunities to turn those negative statements into constructive ones and reach out. Hell, you can just tune it out altogether if you so desire. I prefer to try and gain insights now if I can.
  3. Now, what happens if we go the other direction? The positive outcomes of this would be people praising me for my courage to post or actually being constructive in the first place, instead of being malicious like I fear they would be.
  4. This question was a bit tricky for me since I actually did just up and quit, but I looked at my current situation and thought, “what would I do now if I wasn’t working on my freelance design?” Well, I didn’t burn the bridge at Costco, so I could always return if I wanted (I never will). I also have tons of experience in leadership and human resources, so those are options to me as well. The point here is to think about what you would do if you actually hit rock bottom. It's not as scary as I thought it would be. You have more options available to you than you think you might.
  5. Out of all the fears that I addressed, being vulnerable for the world to see is in my top ten. It is not what I fear the most, but it is a fear that I can tackle today, so I did.
  6. The impact financially for me would be that my resources are finite, and eventually, I will need to find steady work. Emotionally speaking, I was in a very dark place mentally before I started this journey. Facing your fears is the goal. What I learned was the emotional importance of what happens when you don’t meet your fears. Eventually, those fears begin to manifest physically. In the past, I have even made myself sick because of it.
  7. So what’s holding me back? Well, as I spent the afternoon going through all of my current fears and how to overcome them, by the time I got to this question, I found myself laughing aloud. The answer was: nothing. Nothing was holding me back. Just the fears and the imaginary restraints I placed on myself because of them.

I was shocked. Just by laying out all of the fears in front of me, addressing them, and having an answer for the worst possible outcomes, I had learned to understand my fear. As people, we are more afraid of the thing what we don’t understand. Fear is no different. Fear is an emotion, just like love. Being afraid doesn’t have to be inherently tied to the emotion of fear. I understand my fears now. They are still my fears, but because I know them, I am no longer afraid.

I hope that by reading this, you draw on some level of inspiration to face your own fears. You are not alone. We are not alone. Everyone has their own challenges they face, and with those, the accompanying fears. Start by talking to people, and you might be surprised just how much you are both feeling the same way.

In closing, I would like to leave you with this: The Club in Club Sandwich is an acronym, CLUB, for Chicken Lettuce Under Bacon… I know, right? You’re welcome.

Til next time,

Cheers!

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