Everyone experiences fear, but not many people like to talk about it.
I’ve come to believe that instead of shying away, we ought to face challenges head on instead.
Most people (myself included) are addicted to a false sense of certainty – knowing that you have a job and a “stable” pay check coming in every month.
Indeed, having a shelter and food guaranteed for a period of time, is a comforting thought, and a feeling that most people are accustomed to and often not even consider.
Only until something unexpected happens … like losing your job or the economy crashing.
If we take a moment to really think about it, what we will end up is the realisation, that society has fabricated this term “certainty”. In reality it does NOT exist anywhere, because in nature there is no certainty.
Indeed thinking that something is “certaint” is like leaning on a wall which is about to fall over.
Tony Robbins says: “The quality of your life is in direct proportion with the level of uncertainty you are willing to live with.”
I am a firm believer in that. I think it is very important for us, as men, to learn to live comfortably with uncertainty and fear.
In my attempt to be as open and authentic as possible, I will share with you a personal story – one about fear and uncertainty.
A story about my biggest fear, something which has literally haunted me for years.
Below is a story of my personal journey and my thoughts on fear and how I learned to cope with it.
So lets dive in.
It’s July 2016. My head is racing with questions like “How would l make ends meet? Will I have something to eat at the end of the month? How will I pay this month’s rent if I am not employed?
Those were the sort of questions I kept asking myself, to the point where the very thought would literally paralyze me.
As someone, who doesn’t like being afraid, this situation made me really frustrated.
The “D” stands for Direct Debit. In other words I already owed that amount to the bank.
The fact that next month’s rent (£2100) was fast approaching, didn’t help at all! My landlord called me to say that the rent had to go up by an extra £100 from next month, due to recent government changes, and that he was taking some of the load from my back.
Im thinking in my head “uhum … alright, wait till I pay this month’s rent first dude…”
Thoughts like, what am I going to eat or where am I going to stay kept speeding in my head, faster than Usain Bolt did at this year’s Olympics.
To top that up, the very next day after I took this picture, I lost 9000 HUF (the equivalent of about £25) which for someone who is really strapped for cash, really stings!
After spending a few weeks, stressing about the my depleted funds, my friend Martin picked up on my mood, and as every good friend would do, we sat down to talk about it.
After I explained the situation and told him how I felt, we reached the conclusion, that I am faced with a rare opportunity to lean in into my biggest fear and learn how to deal with it in a healthy way.
Below, I have outlined some practical steps which I took, to tackle the way I saw the situation.
I got inspired by reading ” The obstacle is the way” by Ryan Holiday and “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius.
My favourite quote from Marcus Aurelius is “Nothing happens to anyone, that he is not fitted by nature to bear”
The quote certainly gave me something to ponder on.
I think, most people, see philosophy as preaching or lecturing dry material in a classroom. This can’t be further from the truth. Stoicism, in my opinion, is the most practical philosophy of all. Men and women have used these timeless principles, throughout history, to deal with problems and challenges on the battlefield and in life.
Stoics argue that we should only rely on what we can control – ourselves, our thoughts and judgement rather than external events.
So that got me thinking, “Ok I am broke” … but this is subjective. I am broke, compared to who?
I thought ” who else has been in a similar situation” before and came out of it. I remembered reading books and articles about famous entrepreneurs who were REALLY in the deep waters.
- Elon Musk – In my opinion the greatest entrepreneur ever. His companies Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity were at the verge of bankruptcy back in 2008. He was fighting the battle of his life – after successfully exiting his first two companies, Zip2 and PayPal, he put his entire fortune on the line (roughly $180 million) into his companies because that was the right thing to do. He even had to borrow money from friends just to pay rent.
- Donal Trump – At one point he was a whopping $900 million in debt, nearly went bankrupt, but he managed to get back on track. Not the most like-able person I have to admit, Im personally not a fan, but I have to give credit where it’s due.
- John Paul DeJoria – At age 22 he was homeless … not once but twice! He started his company (Paul Mitchell Products) with $700 from his car … all whilst he had a 2 year old son!
How about people in Africa – the level of poverty and starvation there is beyond anything that I can possibly imagine … the scary part is, that’s the predominant reality for millions of people.
It got me thinking, what my life would look like through the perspective of a starving boy. My life would probably compare to that of a millionnaire if I was to ask the kid.
When I think of the harsh reality people are faced with everyday and then compared that to my situation, all of that made me feel a bit silly.
What is the best and worst case scenario that can happen?
Whilst I was considering my options, I decided to put down everything on paper.
That helped tremendously, because I saw what I was really afraid of … being short of £3k isn’t that bad. Yes, it might lead to a bit of a conflict with the landlord, in which case he can keep the deposit I already put down.
It might also mean I lose some of the stuff I have left back in London, but it’s not the end of the world.
This made me recall a scene from the movie Fight Club? Tyler Durden, the character played by Brad Pit is having a conversation with Ed Norton’s character “The things you own, end up owning you” … so no big deal!
When faced with a challenge like this, it is always good to call upon your closest friends and reach out for advice. The knowledge, ideas and experiences they shared with me, allowed me to take a bird’s eye view of my current circumstances.
A close friend of mine, Sunil, told me something which was very relevant and well timed.
He said “This chaos signifies progress. All of what is happening to you right now, is normal, it means you aren’t stuck in a mundane existence, you are pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone for something you deeply care for and believe in”.
Understanding that this feeling is something you have to come to terms with as a man, and especially if you are an entrepreneur, is of paramount importance.
As tried and corny as it may sound, expressing gratitude, in moments like this can be priceless.
I have shared a practical exercise about gratefulness, which brought tears into my eyes.
Here is how it works. You list 5 lessons which you have learned from this event. In my case, those were:
- Better planning of my funds
- Complete and utter self reliance
- Have more sense of urgency
- The ability to approach and adequately deal with fear
- Don’t hold it in, share it with friends
I then went on to list all the reasons why I am grateful for the current situation.
It is important to keep going until you come up with more reasons to be grateful. Initially you will most likely write down 7-8 reasons that are at the forefront of your mind. After that is when the real digging starts, and where the valuable gems are hidden. Otherwise you get stuck in your left logical brain, which will cheat you out of this transformative exercise.
After you really feel the feeling of gratitude, ask yourself this question:
If I had the ability to go back and change this event, as if it didn’t happen, knowing what I know now, the lessons I have learned and how grateful I am for the way that it happened. Would I do it?”
If the answer is NO, then you are definitely on the right track.
Does all of this mean I am not afraid anymore, of course not … I’d have to round-kick myself in the face, if I said otherwise!
What I have realised though, is that fear can be a powerful messenger. Only when you begin to see it that way, you can then open up and receive the hidden gift that is wrapped within.
If there is one lesson I have learned so far, on this flying rock through space, is that suppressing something and not facing it, will only come back to haunt you.
I know it is scary to face something you dread. That is ok.
The reality is, that depending on how much you push your comfort zone, you will inevitably face fear.
Admittedly, it will be unpleasant at times, it won’t be easy, but ultimately you will be ok, you will survive.
Instead of running away from it, we ought to do the exact opposite – lean into fear, because ultimately this is where our liberation lies.
Fear is the ultimate survival mechanism. It will always be there to protect us. It is not about erasing fear, but instead learning and training ourselves to recognise it as an opportunity for growth and building character, rather than a hindrance.
Huge thanks to my brothers for the inspiration and support – Martin, Sunil, Miro, Ivo and Alberto!
Oh … and one more thing:
What are you running away from right now? What opportunity are you missing on just because you aren’t willing to face up to it?
Always here to help.