Fear as Fuel in Times of Uncertainty

2011-08-24-a-Alchemist-Final-Layout-WEB-ONLY-300x240 I'd like to think I'm a brave person. To an observer, I look quite collected and confident.

Do I have butterflies in my belly? Often. The size of Monarchs.

Since a very tender age, every time I spoke in public, I thought my head was going to explode. Everyone surely would see how foolish my ideas were.

I had the first opportunity to embarrass myself in front of a couple hundred adults at the tender age of six.

It was a school reunion, at my school. I was there with mother, and they were at the point in the meeting where they started discussing my textbook.

Except for they were getting it wrong. I couldn't believe it — everyone was talking about something they simply had not read.

I kept elbowing my mother and whispering she should do something. My future learning depended on it. Know what she did? She told me if it bothered me so much, I should say something. I looked around at all those faces, surely I could not reach up to the podium?

All of a sudden I was caught between two fears — if I didn't talk, they would pick that horrible book; if I talked, they would laugh at me, and still pick the book. Right then and there, I had a choice. Thinking about it, as I started walking toward the podium, the option was only one.

To a shy kid, the prospect of standing in front of a room full of adults and speak on a mike was a very scary proposition. What was I thinking? I stepped up to the podium — well, behind it, it was quite high for me. Someone pushed a crate toward me, I climbed on it.

Heavens, you'd probably not do that today, a crate for a child to step on. It didn't look safe.

I didn't look at the mike, I looked at my mother. She waited for me to start. In fact, everyone was now looking at me. Here's what I said:

You're talking about my book. Has anyone in this room read it?

My heart was beating out of my chest.

The looks came back as blank stares, some people averted their eyes. Ha! They had not read it. The room was quieter, except for the sound of my heartbeat, of course. I proceeded to explain (quickly) my suggested next steps.

Taking my time while stepping off the crate and walking back to my seat, all I could think about was that maybe what I just did helped. Maybe, someone would read the book, and they would reconsider using it. Mother looked happy, I think she was proud of me.

I never forgot that moment. Never forgot the way I felt after taking those steps, letting my discomfort drive my resolve.


That was the first time I thought it was possible.

My dream of living and working in the US. I could make it happen. I could get up, put a foot in front of the other, and do what needed to be done. And so I did. I came alone, many years later, saving for two summers, nothing to my name, except a suitcase.

By learning to use fear as my fuel, I accomplished quite a few feats over the course of my life.

My biggest achievement is yet to come, though. So I hang on tight to that resolve I discovered when I was six. To that feeling that somehow, I will find a way to do what needs to be done, overcoming my fears.

As a gifted writer once said, I've given my life to become who I am. I don't play to win, I play to stay in the game — to be my best self possible. It can be a challenge, believe me, ego wants its cut. Every time I speak, I see that little girl wanting to explore the question.

How do I do it? I ride the butterflies.

Once an activity becomes comfortable, I change it around. Looking like I have it made in a certain environment? Time to accept new challenges and challenge my own assumptions. Is that run an easy routine? Time to start sprinting uphill at mile 5.


I hope you will take up Jonathan's challenge and write your story. This week marks an important milestone for him: The publishing of his new book. He's chosen to share this occasion with us, with you. He's putting that crate under the podium, so we can step up to it. He's doing it for you, for all of us.

The world needs more makers, not just doers. I know you have it in you. Use fear as your fuel. There has never been a better time to start than today.


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0 responses to “Fear as Fuel in Times of Uncertainty”

  1. Whenever I feel that frigid uneasiness creeping up my spine, I consider myself fortunate to remember the saying, “Do what you fear most and you control fear.” Not that it’s always sufficient charge to step up, but it’s good to think about. Sometimes, all it takes is a little shot in the arm.

  2. Interesting challenge, I’m really gonna have to think of times when I’ve done the butterfly ride, which for me mean resisting complacency and finding value in the uncomfortable. I’ve had my share of speaking to do – in school, for work – and it always makes me nervous because I’m just not comfortable having all eyes on me. My defense reaction, crack a joke and hope someone laughs. BTW just wanted to mention, I like the new picture, blog header. FWIW.

  3. I’ve been there. Sometimes I wish I had a six year old in me, because after 35 years, I’ve got a lot of noise in my head!
    If we’re not growing, then we’re perfect. I need to get into more uncomfortable situations. Thanks.

  4. thank you for the note on the banner, Davina.
    I noticed, when I speak, that people actually think mostly about themselves watching me – the conversation in their heads. It takes a degree of connecting and intimacy for those eyes to actually see “me”.

  5. the book was an elementary school textbook, you know, those with all kinds of subjects in them. They decided to keep it – probably had to do with a deal with the publisher already made. Which is how I started my habit of exploring the subject matter on *other* books, many others, in fact. it was the beginning of my love affair with research and seeking differing points of view. So, in the end, it was a step that liberated me from just learning for the test. Very worthwhile.

  6. I didn’t know that Jonathan was doing anything like this! Thanks for the alert, Valeria. Even if I don’t have time to submit something today, I’m going to write something anyway. And as far as his book goes…I’ll be first in line to snag a copy! 🙂
    Your posts are a constant source of inspiration for me as well. I don’t know how you do it, but the titles of your posts each day seem to exactly match what I need to feel/read/hear at that moment. So thank you! From this point forward, my fear will be used as fuel instead of as a barrier.

  7. You guys have an interesting blog there, too. I’m glad to see you’re tackling a variety of topics.
    The book launch is actually today. It’s been a good learning experience to see how Jonathan has chosen to talk about the book. And it’s been fun to participate. He’s a friend, so that makes it easier.
    Thank you for the kind words. After 1,620 posts here and a couple hundred more in other places, I’m glad I still find useful topics for people.

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