My name is Daniel Scharch and I'm afraid. Like everyone else, I'm afraid on a regular basis, whether I recognize it or not. It's an epidemic of our imaginations. We can and will make it worse than it really is.
To battle this idea we summon the sentiments of greater minds before us. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Gandhi said, "The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear." Yoda, of course, said, "Fear is the path to the Dark Side." And one of my favorites is from Dale Carnegie: "Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy."
OK, so we don't want our lives to be limited by fear, according to a President, an Indian icon of peace, a small, green hippie, and one bad-ass American author. Fair enough. But what can they say about the concept of fight or flight? Fear is hard-wired into our system, like other creatures, to determine danger and protect ourselves and others. We decide and react in an instant. You can see it in the home videos where people pop out, wearing masks and either get clocked by their victims or send them running, screaming, and jumping.
What we fear, in any circumstance, is the unknown. We choose fight or flight in an instant because we've evolved to prepare for danger. Just because we're at the top of the food chain doesn't mean our senses don't have to be piqued for predators. Today we have cancer and high-fructose corn syrup and Trojan viruses. Yesterday we had to fight off wild beasts. The unknown was when we would get jacked by a monster and die.
Today, the unknown seems to be still very rooted in death. We ask ourselves why we're here and where do we go when our time is up. We fear we'll regret our life decisions. We fear the kind of person we'd become if we stepped outside of the comfortable box. The unknown becomes a question of right and wrong. We wonder if we should take the risk to fight the beast or flee to safety. The problem remains that all progress relies on the people who dare to stare fear down and change the world. The rest of us remain afraid.
We can stop this. Hijack the fight or flight response with some better initial reactions. We can't necessarily turn off our impulses but we can be more conscious of them. Let's morph fear of the unknown into embracing the known. Study it. Play with it. Maybe Google it first if it's a snake. Think Jim Carrey in The Yes Man, or the What Would Lance Armstrong Do bracelets. Ask yourself honestly how you'd handle this fear with a snap judgment. What is the worst that can happen? Usually it's not so bad. What's the best that can happen? We forget but the benefits are usually amazingly progressive and memorable.
Why not ask out that hottie at the bakery? Because you might be rejected and embarrassed? And then what?
Why not try eating sushi you've never had before? Because you may not like it? And then what?
Why not invest in a small business? Because you might lose money? And then what?
Keep in mind that attacking most fears doesn't mean the end of the world, whatever the outcome. We get back on the horse and ride. Don't fear being wrong. Fear being frozen.
Build a better reaction. Find your North Star. Prepare yourself for meeting fear with more than just fight or flight. Question it. In the end, the way you answer to fear is going to determine how you design your life. You make the choices.
I'll end this newsletter with the sentiments of a journalist like no other. "I understand that fear is my friend, but not always. Never turn your back on fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed." - Hunter S. Thompson, Kingdom of Fear