Dancing with fear. As I’ve written about before, this is arguably one of the top attributes an entrepreneur or catalyst business person must master to continue pushing the envelope and making meaningful change in their career (and the world). Fear- like all other emotion – makes a wonderful slave but a horrible master. Only when we can control it (or at the very least – dance with it) does it become a powerful tool in our personal and professional development tool belt. Over the past month I’ve been leading our tribe through Seth Godin’s Kryptonite Course titled Go: How to Overcome Fear, Pick Yourself, & Start a Project that Matters.
8 Tactics & Strategies to Dance with Fear & Produce Art
In session #1, after an intense discussion about fear and the role it plays in producing art (read: meaningful work in our businesses and lives), we generated a list of tactics and strategies we’ve all used to dance with fear and produce our art. Here’s our short list and remember – success doesn’t come from tactics, it comes from mindset…
1. Prayer and contemplation.
Take some deep breaths. Think on God and increase your perspective of how sovereign and grand He is. This allows us to gain a healthy perspective of those things we are most afraid of. As my friend Tom Randall once told me – when our perspective of God increases, our problems tend to seem much smaller than they are. [More here: “10 steps to enlarge your understanding of you, God, and the world.”]
2. Social context.
The *right* people and healthy community are extremely powerful in helping push us towards success (or trouble). Weaving a net of relationships, connections, allies, and friends to support us and help us process through, and overcome obstacles and fears.
3. Proper preparation.
I’ve broken prep down into two areas:
- Passive learning – Books and other less-experience-based-learning allow you to move towards and through fear more boldly. I always played much more confidently and in control of the fears leading up to big games if I had a solid week of practice and preparation. Get some great books. Lead a Kryptonite course. Soak up some great knowledge.
- Active learning – Take a class. Take smaller, less scary risks. Practice the scary thing in other areas or in a safe spot before hitting the big stage. Build up to the big thing you’re most scared of by slowly pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in other areas of your life.
4. Investigation of idea or project.
(Closely related to passive learning, but our team thought it should be listed separately.) Do the homework and proper due diligence of the idea or project that seems scary. Proper investigation gives healthy perspective to obstacles and fears.
5. Positive mental attitude.
Ask yourself and think through “what are positive outcomes that will come from this?” Reframe your mindset to focus off performance and onto the process. Ask: “Will I love, and learn to depend on the Lord more coming out of this than going in?”
This one is pretty closely connected to social context but worth mentioning separately. Having a solid mentor (or two…or three) that can call you on your bull, point out your blind spots, and showing you who they’ve learned to dance through the same fears you are now experiencing is invaluable. [More on finding and cultivating a solid mentorship relationship here]
7. Reconnecting with your “Why.”
8. Redefining success (or letting go of expectations of success and failure).
Unhappiness is the difference between expectations and reality. Move your measurement of success or the metric by which you measure it, to more accurately reflect the process not just performance. I am a huge goal guy. I love metrics and measurables and trackable habits to measure my success. It is a constant struggle to hold loosely to what success (and failure) should look like. It’s great to have a direction and ambition and goal. Sometimes we need to practice the flexibility to audible, change course, or scrap our expectations of what that goal is or how to best get there.
Understanding the source of fear.
In order to rightly confront and dance with fear, we must better understand the source. Now I don’t want to over-spiritualize all of this, but let me get deep for a minute. There’s this pastor I know who talks about the devil in a way that really pings me: He said, in essence, that Satan is an ancient enemy. He is wise. He is crafty. He is patient, and he knows the human condition better than most of us. And the main tool he uses are lies. Call it the devil, the resistance, the lizard brain, the amygdala, or simply flawed human nature – fear is rooted deeper than the emotion itself. Fear comes from the false narratives (the lies) we believe about ourselves, our purpose, and the world around us. When I am rocking and rolling trying to be all-pro in my work, my marriage, and my relationships, it’s the subtle lies that produce fear. This fear can causes paralysis and complacency and passivity. Just a few examples of some lies I experience: Lie: You can’t sell most of your things to move to a developing country and do volunteer work – you should be carving out the largest lifestyle you can for yourself. Lie: Get the big house and fill it with all the shiny things – that’s really what will make you happy (and don’t forget the $15 gluten free crackers, and ‘spensive craft beer! Lie: Who do you think you are? You’re not good/smart/holy/pretty enough to teach others about [business, spirituality, development, etc.]. Just fly under the radar, don’t rock the boat, maintain the status-quo and don’t aim to do anything wild. Lie: You can’t unconditionally and vulnerably give all of yourself to your wife – that’s uncomfortable and opens you up to be hurt if she doesn’t reciprocate. Lie: Pursuing meaningful work will ruin you. You can’t have a job that fulfills and provides, AND serves the world. This is exactly where satan wants us. Instead of pursuing the good things that God has given us to do in our craft and in our relationships, he’d rather pacify us with fear and inaction. These lies sow seeds of fear that produce the rotten fruit of passivity and complacency and the life side effects that come from both. CS Lewis once told me, in a book, that the devil is overjoyed keeping us in the grey twilight of inaction, passivity, and sins of omission (not doing the things we ought). To the devil it’s easier having us not moving towards any of the good things God would have for us and our community, than if we were caught in some crazy rockstar-sinner lifestyle. Epic-moral-rockstar-sinning = too close to rock bottom and having to confront our own brokenness. Complacency and cultural status-quo maintaining = right where he wants us. In closing: Use the above tactics and pray that God would give you eyes to expose and bring these lies to light. And in bringing them to light we’d have fast fists to punch that fear in the nootchies…or at least fast feet to better dance with it. Remember, we were not created with a spirit of fear. But it doesn’t mean fear isn’t real. We must see that with Christ this fear is a toothless lion – scary, but harmless. It is only as powerful as the power we give it. Thus, go forth do-gooders and dreamers, seek the prosperity of the community, make an impact on the market…and the world.
What tactics or strategies have you used to dance with the fear that inevitably comes with doing hard things?
Live on Brave Ones. Dan —
Sources & Resources & Readings:
 I’ve gained massive value from this podcast interview on The Competitive Edge Podcast with Scott Britton.  “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:17 (ESV) Seth Godin’s Kryptonite Community College courses: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/krypton_community_college/