How to Overcome Any Fear Without Having to Jump Off a Cliff
As I wind down after winding myself up over the election, please enjoy this excellent guest post from Rob Kornblum on how to overcome any fear.
Admit it, you have felt it too. Standing at the edge of a precipice, looking down, afraid to jump. You’re stuck. Your fear is so strong, you can’t force yourself to move.
You think to yourself “I just can’t do it” and your fears become your reality. They grip you tightly, like a python, squeezing the dreams right out of you.
I have been there.
This past summer, I took a trip with my family to a quarry in Vermont with sheer rock walls and a deep swimming area at the bottom.
People were jumping off the cliffs into the water and seemed to be having a great time.
The lowest jump, where we set our towels and lunch, was about three feet. The walls got progressively higher as you went from one end to the other, ending in a seemingly death-defying 35-foot drop from the top of the cliff to the water’s surface.
Jumping off a cliff is no easy thing. Overcoming any fear is like that. After a bunch of failed attempts, I did eventually conquer that 35-foot jump. Many of the steps I took to jump can help you overcome your fears.
Build Up To Overcoming Your Fear
I decided to try it out, jumping from about ten feet into the cool water. It took a little fortitude, because the edge of the cliff face was wet and muddy.
It would be easy to slip and tumble down. But it didn’t take much courage to jump from ten feet.
What are the beginner steps you could take?
If you’re thinking about writing a book, could you start writing every day to get in the practice? You could start a blog. You could join a writing group.
If you want to start a company, you can research your idea. You can talk to a few other founders. You can talk to a few prospective customers.
Movement creates momentum, and eventually you realize you’re doing it.
Watch Someone Else Do It
Along with my kids, I decided to work my way up to the bigger jumps.
We got to an area where there were quite a few people jumping. It was about twenty-five feet above the water. It was too high.
Were there submerged rocks down there under the surface?
Would I belly flop and hurt myself?
But as I stood there, I saw lots of other people jumping. Most were teens, but some were younger kids and some were adults.
To do anything new and scary, we need examples. We need to see other people jump. It creates a powerful, reflexive feeling inside us of, “Oh, I can do that too.”
Why is it so powerful? What are the emotions behind it?
Psychologists call it conformity (or the bandwagon effect).
Marketers call this “social proof” and we see examples of it in all forms of life.
Think about it. You look into a restaurant. If it is empty, you wonder if the food is any good but if it is full, you assume the place is excellent.
Social proof dominates the Internet.
Endorsements, testimonials and reviews have all been shown to increase conversions and sales because they help convince people.
How can social proof help you?
Whether it’s writing the book you have been “thinking about,” or starting a company, or quitting your stifling job, you can find examples of friends or colleagues who have done it.
What amazing things could you accomplish if you had examples to lead your way?
Find A Mentor
As I was “building the courage” to jump, I noticed a guy about my age. He was a confident jumper and was doing different kinds of flips off the edge.
In addition to jumping himself, he also took it upon himself to talk other people into jumping.
He would strike up a conversation, asking where you were from and how long you were going to be there. He then asked, “If you go back without doing this, are you going to be bummed out?”
Regret is an incredibly powerful emotion.
The power of mentors is that they have done it before. They are our guides. We trust them. They have a way of explaining things that help us break through our obstacles.
If not now, when? What are you waiting for?
Author and speaker Les Brown reminds us,
“The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared…”*
I have used mentors in much the same way when I set out to start a company or to write a book. Finding someone who can tell you his or her way can help you find the fortitude within yourself.
*Tim’s Note: That sounds awfully close to a Norman Vincent Peele quote from 50 plus years earlier to me, but it’s still spot on.
Develop A Plan
The older jumper’s real power wasn’t actually in planting regret. His real power was to help those who were getting close to jumping but still hesitating. I called the old dude ‘the whisperer.’
The whisperer came up beside me, speaking in a low, calm, confident voice, and explained his technique. His technique was to avoid looking down.
He walked up near the edge so he knew exactly where it was. He then picked out someone on the opposite bank and kept his eyes locked on that person.
With his eyes fixed, he pushed off and jumped.
It is one thing to see others do it, but it is more powerful to have a plan for overcoming your fears and accomplishing your goals.
What if you had a whisperer who guided you and gave you a plan?
Doing amazing things won’t just happen. You need a plan and your own whisperer can help you get one.
Perhaps you can find someone to help you develop your path, a coach who can help you step-by-step, or an accountability group to help keep you on track.
Don’t Look Down
When you’re at the top of the cliff, looking down stokes your fear.
You have already assessed how high it is. You know your plan. What good is it to look down?
Your fear of the downside is genuine, but probably over-active. Millions of years of evolution have programmed humans to focus on the downside of any situation, because scary situations used to result in death. It’s called fight or flight.
In our modern world, though, your imagination about the downside rarely comes true. Think about it- if you publish your book, and people don’t like it, you now have experience to make your next book better.
If your company goes bust, you are not likely to lose your house. You’ll get a new job and survive.
And, you have learned how to bring a product to market, how to hire people, how to find and service customers and so much more that you can apply to your next company.
Time To Jump
You know that deep desire you have always wanted to achieve.
Writing a book? Starting a business? Getting healthy?
Even with a social proof, and a mentor, and a plan, you still have to jump. Ultimately, it is up to you.
What are you afraid of?
What are your examples?
Who’s your whisperer?
No one can make you jump. That is your decision alone.
The whisperer helped me. I followed the plan. I jumped.
Find your examples. Get a mentor. Make a plan.
Now it’s your turn.
P.S. The guy doing a flip over my head in the picture above right was not planned.
Rob Kornblum helps entrepreneurs overcome their fears to start and grow successful businesses. He is a veteran entrepreneur, executive, and recovering venture capitalist. Rob is the author of the best-selling book, Never Too Late to Startup. Get a FREE copy of his guide, 4 Simple Steps to Your Best Business Idea.