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Fear and the Art of Redirection

Learn to Conquer Redirect Your Fears for the Biggest Breakthroughs

Were you awkward in eighth grade?

I certainly was. It’s no surprise to anyone that knows me that being a dork was my everyday experience.

On my face hung big thick-framed nerdy glasses, which were not in style.

And I was skinny. Six feet tall, yet only a hundred and forty pounds soaking wet.

Because I was tall, I played basketball – but I wasn’t very good. Coach called me, “the smart player” which I knew wasn’t a compliment.

Fashion sense? I had no idea what that even meant.

I was a teacher’s pet – I always had the answers the teachers were looking for. I could hear the eye rolls from my classmates every day – but I wasn’t deterred.

Being a teacher’s pet, I was nominated by a teacher for an Outstanding Student award hosted by the local Optimist International Club. And I won!

At first, this was pretty great. I got an award that included a very small savings bond that was to go toward my college expenses.

But then the worst happened…

…they said that I had to give a speech to get the award. And not just in front of my peers – in front of adults too.

At that point I didn’t want the award – fear took over my nerdy brain.

“What if I fail? What if I forget what to say? What if I make a fool out of myself?”
All these crazy worst-case scenario thoughts went through my head.

I wanted them to pick someone else as the winner.

As the date for the speech got closer and closer, the fear ratcheted up more and more. I knew that I’d be disappointing my parents and my teachers if I didn’t follow through with the speech. But I hated it more the closer the event approached.

Turns out, I didn’t crash and burn – but I didn’t do great either. I was nervous: I talked very quietly and too fast, and I wanted it to be over quickly.

Several years later, as a part of a Toastmasters group, I took on the fear of public speaking head-on.

One of the most important things I learned in Toastmasters was to understand what nervousness felt like. And to take that nervousness and redirect it into something positive. The key was NOT to eliminate nerves but to recognize them and channel them into something positive.

That little lesson jumped into my vision again as I read through Marie Forelo’s brilliant book, “Everything is Figureoutable.” In the chapter, “How to Deal With the Fear of Anything,” she writes, “Fear is not the enemy. Waiting to stop feeling afraid is.”

She goes on to give examples of experts that still get a healthy dose of fear before they perform.

But it’s not just fear of speaking – it is fear of all kinds. I’ve had several people tell me things like, “Oh I could never go into business for myself – that’s frightening!” The truth is it is scary- so many things could go wrong. But if we fail to act because we’re scared, you’ll never achieve your biggest goals.

What are you afraid of?

What are you telling yourself that you could never do?

A healthy dose of fear might just be telling you exactly what you should be doing next.