How to be afraid

When I started this blog, I was afraid. I didn’t use hashtags on my posts because I didn’t want to draw much attention to my writing. And for that reason, I didn’t comment on anybody else’s blog, or share anybody else’s work, either.

But every burst of progress that I’ve experienced came from a source of fear. I was afraid of networking, so I started reaching out to writers on Twitter. I was afraid of rejection, so I started asking some of those writers if they’d like to be a guest on my podcast.

And by acting on my fear, I’ve learned a lesson. Whatever it is you’re putting off because you’re afraid of doing it, do it.

You don’t need to do it all day. Your body and your mind can’t sustain that level of stress.

But for an hour a day? You can manage that. An hour a day to answer the questions: what am I most afraid of doing right now, and what do I need to do about that?

In Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig tells us that the top of the mountain defines the sides of the mountain. The top of the mountain is your goal. Your goal is what signals to you what’s worth your attention as you climb to the top of the mountain. Your goal is what gives value to the actions you’re afraid of taking.

The higher up the mountain we climb, the more we need to focus with each step. And that’s exhausting. So we ask, “well, I started this climb, and that was difficult enough. What more do you want from me?”

A lot more.

You might believe that who you were yesterday is 100 times braver than who you were a week ago. And you’re right. But who you’ll become after you do what’s scaring you today is 1,000 times braver than who you are now.

You aren’t the person who started this climb. You’re the person who keeps climbing.

So, for an hour, do what you’re afraid of doing. Send that cold email. Promote your work. Sit in front of the camera, and speak to us.

Then, take a break. Look over the side of the mountain. Celebrate. It might not feel like it, but something happened. For an hour, you became less afraid.

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