The Importance of Fear

As we experiment with creating content and try to find what works, I’m going to follow a rough schedule with this blog. In keeping with our theme of getting ahead in the real world, every Monday I will write a post on the broad topic of self-improvement. As always, if there’s anything you would like to see more of or less of, let us know!

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There aren’t a lot of things I could think to do to myself that would be more unpleasant than publicly launching a video series. Observant readers will have noticed, however, that I am in the middle of doing that very thing. Am I a masochist? Maybe, in some sense. It’s not that I enjoy the terror and humiliation that I’m subjecting myself to every time I sit down in front of a camera. It’s more that I enjoy how every time I force myself to sit down in front of a camera, I feel the terror and humiliation just a little bit less.

I’m often surprised by the way people who know me see me. I recently dropped everything – leaving university and quitting my job – to move to Mexico with essentially zero notice or preparation. The exact story of how that happened will doubtless be the subject of another post, but suffice it to say that many people in my life were surprised by my fearlessness. This was not entirely a positive sentiment: while a few close friends were impressed by my fearlessness in pursuing my dreams, the opinion of the overwhelming majority was that I was simply too stupid or ignorant to be properly afraid.

The truth was, I was terrified, and totally unprepared. I went through with it anyway, because every time I was overwhelmed by doubt I asked myself one question: would the person I wanted to be back out?

I’m not going to lie, the transition was hard, and still is. Two months later, I’ve adjusted somewhat to my new home, but I still struggle constantly with sickness, money (or lack thereof), the language, and the customs and culture of Mexico. That said, I’m also having the most fun I’ve ever had in my life, and experiencing things every day that I never would have dreamed of half a year ago.

I was afraid of taking the plunge for good reason, and it’s the same reason I had to jump into it without taking the time to properly prepare. I was afraid because I knew I wasn’t capable of doing what I wanted to do. If I had taken an extra month or so to prepare, I would have had to face that fact every day, and chances are I would have eventually accepted that the task was impossible and given up.

That would have been a mistake. Because it’s true that the person I was two months ago was not capable of doing what I did, but by doing it I transformed myself into someone else. That’s the secret that so many people miss: the only way to become the person you want to be is by doing things that the person you are now can’t do. It’s hard, and painful, and scary, but if you truly want to be better, you’ll find a way through.

And so now I’m doing it all over again. I don’t know the first thing about video production, and I’m painfully awkward on camera. Every time I upload a video, I honestly feel as if I’m doing a disservice to the world. But I can’t quit, because the person I want to be knows how to make videos, and I’m not going to become that person by NOT making videos.

This, like many things, is an idea I picked up from the stories I experienced in books and video games growing up. We don’t read stories about people who only ever do things they are certain they are capable of. We read stories about heroes who confront impossible odds, plunging head-first into danger, even though they are afraid and unprepared and almost destined to fail.

So I hope you’ll bear with me as I stumble my way through this new challenge, making mistakes and publicly embarrassing myself on the internet. And I hope you’ll take the time to look at your own life and ask yourself: what am I not doing because I’m afraid? If I went ahead and did it anyway, how would my life improve? What kind of person would I become?

If anything comes to mind, let me know in the comments! If we’re going to set out on this terrifying, humiliating journey of self-improvement, at the very least we can do it together.

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