How To Beat Fear

overcoming fearI’m holding a plastic tube that contains an auto-injector of 0.15 mg of epinephrine that I’m about to jab into the leg of my 5 year old.  At the crossroads of action, and letting fear turn into panic, which way will I turn? Which way would you turn?

First, let me say right off, that my daughter is fine.  She has severe food allergies, and always has an EpiPen with her for an adult to use if needed. Soon she will be old enough to have to do it herself. But for now, she relies on other people to not panic, and act in the face of fear when they have to.

We’ve never had to use the EpiPen before. My wife, on the phone with a 911 operator, asks “Do you want me to do it? Do you know what you’re doing?!” I have this.  But do I? It’s pretty amazing how many questions and thoughts the human brain can process in a moment. An instant.

I’ve practiced this moment. We have the practice injector, and I’ve gone through the motions of popping off the cap, and jamming it into my leg. In this moment it occurs to me that I don’t remember practicing on my daughter.  That was a miss. She’s a small kid and I’m a grown man hopped up on adrenaline. I need to jab it hard enough to do it’s thing, but in this moment it feels like I can put it through a concrete wall. I know this is going to hurt her.

Those EpiPens are amazing devices. I jabbed it into her leg, she screamed, and within seconds, she was fine. She was crying, and breathing well, and distraught, and healthy. She was fine.  A few minutes later the Fire Trucks arrived, and minutes after that, the paramedics.  One of the paramedics said something I can’t get out of my head. “You used the EpiPen?  Good for you. You’re the first parent I’ve come across that actually used it.”

What?! She’d been on many calls for allergic reactions, and in all the other cases, she had to administer the EpiPen.  All the other parents waited for help to arrive. I completely understand this. Most people don’t act in the face of fear. They just don’t.  They stand around looking at each other, waiting for the other to act.

Which way will you turn?

You can train yourself to overcome fear. All fear. You can. You have to. I promise you that in this life, you will find yourself at the crossroads of action, and letting fear turn into panic. Which way will you turn?

It doesn’t have to be life or death. Will you confront your co-worker on that thing? Will you take that public speaking opportunity? Will you go on that ride with your excited child? Or will you let fear rob you?

I grew up afraid of my own shadow. I was bullied, had no confidence, the whole thing. There is no single event I can point to where I decided to never again let fear win, but somewhere in my adulthood, I made that conscience decision.

Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to act when you’re afraid.

That quote has been said in many ways by a lot of people, but I think Nelson Mandela sums it up nicely-  “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

I teach this to my children. Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to act when you’re afraid.

How To Never Lose To Fear

You don’t just wake up one day with the ability to overcome fear. You do it in steps.  First you have to start to be aware of when you’re feeling fear, and when it’s stopping you from doing something you want to do. I think being afraid is different than being scared, like being hurt is different than being injured. Being scared is a natural biological reaction. Being afraid is a decision that scared is how you will stay.

You wouldn’t want your body to stop being scared when you’re presented with a dangerous situation. It’s good to be be scared at the edge of a cliff. Scared is a warning of danger. That’s a good thing. Overcoming fear starts with doing things when you are scared.

I made a decision to never let fear keep me from doing something I wanted to do. I started by seeking out scary things and doing them. I jumped out of a plane, I bungee jumped, I took public speaking opportunities.  Whenever I was afraid of something I tried to just do that thing.

You have to train yourself to overcome fear. Take baby steps at first. Kill a spider, confront an uncomfortable situation, start a conversation with a stranger.

Some friends of mine have started to talk about fitness and weight struggles in a very public way. Amber even started a blog about it. If you don’t think it’s scary for a woman to talk about being overweight in today’s world, you’re crazy.

You don’t have to be afraid. You can LEARN to face your fear.  Almost every story about someone making a heroic act, starts with , “My training just kicked in.”

My work with The Mikey Network has exposed me to many stories of people overcoming fear and taking action to save a life with a defibrillator. There are lots of these life saving stories including  the dad who saved his 2 year old’s lifethe High School teacher who saved a student’s life, the GO Transit employee who saved a passenger’s life. Heroes.

Julien Smith wrote a great book, The Flinch, about this very thing.  Get it. He actually made it free, so you have no excuses.

Start taking steps to put yourself in scary situations. Learn to overcome your fear. I promise you that in this life, you will find yourself at the crossroads of taking action, and letting fear turn into panic. Which way will you turn? 

 

  • http://www.MyLegalJoe.com/ Joe O’Keefe

    Ian –

    Great post. Caught my attention immediately. My 9 year old and 16 month old daughters both have severe food allergies and epi pens. First, thanks for the reminder to practice with the demo pen. Glad your daughter is ok. That’s scary stuff.

    Second, thanks for the advice re overcoming fear. Good stuff to put to use in major decisions and everyday ones. I needed that reminder.

    • http://iangordon.me Ian Gordon

      Hi Joe. I really recommend practicing on your kids. It helps you, and helps make it less scary for them too. We all need a reminder now and then. No fear!

  • Andrew Melamed

    Very enjoyable post. I just read it after you suggested it in your email. I struggle with the inactivity portions of fear. Yes sharing that with the world is a fear too. So consider this my first baby step. I have a real estate business that I am new to. I just formed the LLC two days ago and now i feel like I can do anything. Its just the doing in the face of the unknown. I had a professor in college, she taught biological psychology. In one class she made a statement about the most important human skill. It has stuck with me for the last 3 years. The most important human skill for survival in today’s world is the ability to tolerate ambiguity. It is so important because I find that the things I am most afraid of are the unknown.

    Thanks for your support

    • http://iangordon.me Ian Gordon

      “The most important human skill for survival in today’s world is the ability to tolerate ambiguity.” I like that! Thanks for taking this “baby step” :)

  • Joon

    Thank you Ian, always..

    • http://iangordon.me Ian Gordon

      Glad you’re here Joon.

  • Jerry

    Nice one Ian.

    • http://iangordon.me Ian Gordon

      Thank you Jerry