Fear is an emotion triggered by the real or perceived threat of danger.
Subject to more judgement than other universal emotions such as happiness, anger, disgust, and surprise, it is perhaps the most relatable.
Fear exists to ensure we avoid harm, which makes it incredibly helpful when we need it most.
This penchant to protect can also impede progress, trapping us between doing what feels comfortable and safe, and powering forward to new discoveries and opportunities.
While overcoming fear is a personal undertaking, facing your fear is an inescapable first step to easing the trepidation of our quite uncertain future.
Walking Among the Reservoir Dogs
Opening your own advisory and consulting firm during a global pandemic is not for the faint of heart.
Patiently waiting for society to exhale and gather for the sake of growth and development has proven a constant source of anxiety and concern.
Two weeks ago, I woke up in a particularly severe dip.
Sensing little would be accomplished from such a foul mood, I decided to take a walk along the Ferndale Loop. That’s the unofficial title for the way 3rd Avenue winds into the wooded countryside around our home.
For the first mile or so, my thoughts were dark and negative. Somewhere among the blue skies and fresh morning air, optimism began to resurface.
I decided to extend my walk across the top end of the Loop, expanding my now positive mood and adding perhaps another mile to the overall distance.
Nearing the homestretch, I noticed movement about 200 yards ahead of me. It was difficult to focus through the dappled rays of the morning sun. Then I realized it was every walker’s nightmare:
Four stray dogs on the loose.
Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back
I’m an animal lover but going mano y mano with a pack of strange dogs isn’t my idea of a fun, relaxing morning. I stopped to consider my options.
It wouldn’t be the first time I adjusted course to avoid an uncomfortable encounter with nature. In fact, the only thing preventing an about-face was that I had already extended my walk. Retracing my steps now would more than double my intended distance.
Taking two steps forward, I was determined to power through the challenge. Taking two steps back, I decided to avoid confrontation and play it safe. Then two steps forward, then another two steps back.
It was a classic crossroads.
After a few minutes, I decided to go for it. Picking up a broken branch from along the road, I began walking toward the dogs.
Closing the distance by half, I noticed they were large dogs that had aligned evenly across the road. It felt like a showdown. I was expecting to hear a hawk’s cry and whistling from a Clint Eastwood movie.
Then they saw me. All four were in fine voice, barking and growling as they ran toward me at top speed. I could see their white teeth in a vicious display of intimidation.
Taking a deep breath, I whispered to myself, “It’s on.”
I had absolutely no idea what I would do if attacked. There were four of them versus me and one big stick.
They split when they reached me, two flanking each side. I felt relieved as they seemed more committed to barking than biting.
I kept moving forward as the dogs continued to sound off. Suddenly, a truck I had never seen before appeared around the curve, stopping a few yards behind me to let the dogs jump into its bed.
It drove off as I continued toward home.
A few days later it was time for another walk.
I wasn’t concerned about previous events. Ferndale is a rural setting where you’re more likely to encounter indigenous wildlife than stray dogs or cats.
About a half mile into my journey, it happened again: more stray dogs on the loose.
Only this time it was three adorable little chihuahuas. They took one look at me and ran down a side road back toward their home.
For the second time in less than five days, a similar obstacle had crossed my path. The cognitive relevance was immediate:
If those dogs represented my fears, I had reduced their influence by facing them head on.
Applying Subconscious Wisdom
Two months ago, the word Intrepid was prominent in a dream. We wrote it on our white board as a constant reminder to be “fearless and adventurous.”
Apparently, that wasn’t enough.
When the same encouragement manifested as a conscious experience, clarity was confirmed through three insights:
Don’t Let Fear Trap You in the Past
From a spiritual sense, those dogs were never meant to harm me. Instead, they represented the danger of letting fear trap you in the past.
Turning around and choosing the rational, safe route would have meant retracing steps I had already taken.
A similar perspective applies to following through on our new business. It would be the rationale, safe route to abandon the dream and return to the security of employment within a large organization.
But it would be returning to a life I had outgrown, easing my fears of an uncertain future by retracing a familiar path. Would I feel secure? Probably.
Would I feel happy and fulfilled? Probably not.
I want to live on the cusp of irrationality, to experience the potential of each new day, even if that means the occasional bout with nausea inducing anxiety and trepidation.
Recognize The Influence of Previous Experience
Fear affiliated with owning a restaurant earlier in my career continues to influence my judgement today. By rationalizing its presence, I am better prepared to overcome it as an obstacle.
I went into that endeavor blinded by enthusiasm, without any practical experience in food & beverage management.
TSHAMRELL is based on two decades of experience supporting the development of leaders and front-line employees across some of the world’s most recognized, iconic brands.
Every new venture will have uncertainty. Be certain to account for this and then direct your energy to where it will be most useful.
Recognition Will Reduce, Not Eliminate Fear
Fear as a universal emotion is protective and healthy. It made sense for me to pause for a moment, recognize the threat from four dogs, then determine my next course of action.
The presence of the chihuahuas reminded me that the influence of fear had been reduced to a manageable state, not eliminated entirely.
Which I’m good with.
This awareness grounds me in the moment, while allowing optimism and hope to flourish as guides along the journey.
Fear doesn’t stop me, only makes me stronger.
Nothing to Fear
“Nothing to fear but fear itself” . . . maybe FDR was on to something.
My ultimate fear is that in its quest for normalcy, society will turn away from a divine opportunity to create something magical out of fear for the unknown.
Take a step forward. We have the chance to totally rewrite the transcripts of time, to apply learnings from the last 18 months of misery and make the world a far more fulfilling and joyous place.
Our fears will never completely go away. But we will thrive if we learn to face them.
Thank you for spending your Tuesday with Tall Tim Talks!