I believe the one things that stands between you and pretty much everything you want is fear.
Being too afraid to start something because of the imaginary consequences we dream up for ourselves.
We all get held back by fear from the big things we want, retiring early, becoming a freelancer, starting a business.
But sometimes it’s much smaller than that.
I’ve recently moved from renting a flat to renting a house and so I’ve got a garden for the first time ever. My Father-in-law lives nearby and loves his garden so has been a great source of advice, he recently brought round some poles and twine to tie up the lavender plant that had grown across the path.
I put them inside the back door next to the recycling bag and then the excuse train started. “Ah it’s covered in bees, I can’t do it just now.” “Nah, rains on, I’ll leave it till tomorrow.”.
And so the poles and twine sat by the door for days while I procrastinated away from trying it because I didn’t know how and thought I’d do it wrong. Where did the poles go? How low did you put the string? What if I kill the plant somehow?
Then a realisation occurred…
If I do it wrong, I’ll just do it again.
There are no consequences if I do it wrong, I doubt I’d kill the plant, and I’ll never learn how to tie back a plant if I don’t just try. Besides I’m the only one who thinks I’m stupid for not knowing how.
So I did it, and I did it wrong… Then I did it again and it’s off the path(mostly), it looks messy but it’s fine, it’ll do, I have achieved what I wanted.
But I think everyone has had a similar experience, too afraid to sell something you own so you put it away in a cupboard even though you don’t need it. Not making your favourite meal in case you do it wrong. Not applying for a job because you assume you won’t get it.
It seems silly even writing because it is silly, it’s silly that I was too afraid to tie up a plant, but it happens.
And it’s that same fear that holds us back from all the big things we want, saving up for a house, or retirement, or asking for a promotion, starting your blog, trying to charge for your hobby. Starting the business you always wanted to.
Why Are We Afraid
Seth Godin calls it the lizard brain, the ancient part of the brain that’s still in survival mode, the part that says back off, go slow, don’t try too hard, because it needs to protect you from failure. If you’re running away from dinosaurs and try that red berry it could kill you, so always be careful.
But in modern times we don’t really need that, we have all the capabilities and plenty of information to tell us when something is dangerous or threatening, and it’s not starting a blog.
But more than that all through your childhood you slowly learned that doing things differently was bad because when you’re different you get laughed at. So you learn to fit in.
And like I said about people being crabs trying to pull everyone down to their level we learn to fit in, to be normal not to raise your head too high and to stay put.
So we sit down at night and put on the television because it’s easy. Because you can’t fail at watching TV and it’s what everyone else is doing so you get to fit in.
But for most people that doesn’t lead to happiness. We sit and dream of the things we wish we could do, we wish we had done and the fear continues to hold us in place.
So What Can We Do
It’s not all hopeless we can learn to overcome this fear and there is one mantra to live by that will help you more than anything.
Try Hard, Fail Often.
The only way to accept it and become OK with failing is by doing it often and regularly. Doing new things with full effort an accepting it’s ok at least you tried
Failing with friends helps too because you learn that people don’t actually laugh when you fail.
Only you are your harshest critic.
For a while when my business was just taking off I had great pleasure in my head of being able to say “Fuck you I told you I could do it!” to all the people who thought I couldn’t. But the only person who ever told me I couldn’t do it was me. And boy did I show me!
Where to start?
The kitchen is a great place to try hard and fail hard, cooking something you never have before. Something you’ve put off because you thought it was too difficult. Cooking a 3-course meal just to see if you can, if you manage you get to immediately enjoy the fruits of your labour and if you fail ah who cares you can just order take out.
If you like gaming try play a game you thought was intimidating, put it on a higher difficulty.
Read a book you thought you could never finish.
Learn to juggle, do a sudoku, just challenge yourself and something great starts to happen.
You try hard and you don’t fail.
You try something you thought impossible and you succeed. Then the momentum starts to build and you become more adventurous and you can use the momentum to start things you never thought possible.
Or maybe you try something impossible and you do fail. But you came a lot closer than you expected, and realise that no one laughed, no one judged.
People are busy, they don’t have time to stop and laugh at you, you just gotta keep on keeping on.
I can’t set your own challenges for you, only you know your interests but here are some of mine I’m currently working on. I also like setting a mixture of goals that are big and small, I even like to set one super long-term herculean goal just to see what happens.
- Make sushi at home today (tune into Twitter to see how it goes)
- To read 52 books this year (I’m 9 behind currently on 22)
- To earn £10,000 this January with my websites (Last January was about halfway)
- To finish a 100-mile race (currently, my best is 1.3 miles, this is the herculean goal, I’m thinking 5-10 years before I manage)
I also have a £10 bet with a couple of friends on a similar online journey to see who can become a millionaire first.
I might fail and that’s ok, I’ll get a hell of a lot from trying no matter how much I manage, and you know what? I might be enjoying a homemade sushi feast the night before my 100-mile race 5 years from now.
So what are you going to fail at?