Updated: Oct 23
Believe me, when I tell you, I was a shy, fearful child. I can remember running away in fear from the t.v. during a scene of Sesame Street where the characters were practicing counting by noisily popping balloons. And this was BEFORE surround sound, Like. Way. Before. I’ve always been fearful of loud noises, confrontations, trying new things, speaking up, you name it.
As I got older though some of the fears gradually disappeared. I slowly gained more confidence. But it didn’t come from facing my fears ( I was too scared to do that) or intentionally learning more about myself...that came a lot later. When I look back and realize all the things I could have accomplished that my fear kept me from doing, today it gives me more resolve to push on despite the fears.
I’m specifically talking about my karate journey. I began training in 1996. I wish I could say I did it to ensure my safety and increase my confidence. But alas, I was mainly looking for something different from what all the twenty-somethings were doing at that time: drinking cheap beer in cringy bars.
I met my husband four years later at a karate tournament and the rest is history. He has always had a small group of fellow enthusiasts to train with and that was cool, for a while. But as our daughters got older and we got wiser we began to think about turning our love of Karate into a business and opening up a legit school.
It took me FOR-ever to take ownership of what I could contribute as an authentic practitioner with 20 or so years of experience in a mostly male-dominated sport. My fears held me back from jumping on board with starting a school. The continuous onslaught of the “what if’s” was exhausting. What if I'm not good enough to teach? What if no one shows up? What if people don’t like me and my teaching style? What if I pull a muscle- who will take care of my babies? What if my family thinks it’s a bad idea? What if there is a global pandemic? (seriously, in a million years I wouldn't have thought that) … and on. And on.
So what to do in the face of YOUR fears?
1. Call out your pain point and glean your motivation from it.
Recognize and give a name to your pain point. Do you hate your commute to work? Do you struggle with something personal that could be better? Feeling stress from your mounting debt? So much in the world was created from people's pain points. Bill Gates wanted every household to have a personal computer so they can be more efficient and productive. Dave Ramsey began FPU because he learned so much from his painful experience of going bankrupt. One of my pain points was that our daughters were needing a place to be physically challenged in an environment that felt safe to them. The times they did play soccer or dance, the coaching was subpar and the teachers lacked enthusiasm and commitment. We wanted more for our kids and all the other kids in our community. A place where they can be part of a tribe while learning self-defense from positive adult role models. This is the driving force behind why we built a martial arts school from the ground up. All of our decisions come from our mission to provide authentic martial arts instruction to people who want to be safe and who are curious about how much they can achieve.
2. Build some momentum
If you wait to create the perfect plan, you will never start! Take comfort from the fact that there is no perfect plan. Take a step and then another and use that momentum to keep moving forward. We needed to upgrade our website and actually make it a nice place for people to visit and learn more about us. Once we created the website, we felt less intimidated about creating a YouTube channel. Editing videos and creating websites is definitely not in my wheelhouse, but once we got over the pain of figuring things out one step at a time, our momentum made future technological endeavors much easier.
3. Stop making excuses. Just stop.
I believe excuse-making is the number one thing that holds people back. And we make excuses because we are afraid. We don’t want to fail and be bad at the thing. There are more reasons and ways that you CAN do something than reasons that you can't. No energy? Try drinking 60 ounces of water every day. Low student attendance at your school? (I feel you there)- create a focused marketing plan. Just last night we were brainstorming ideas for creating some digital content we were plagued by doubts about what we could offer to the world. Our excuse was, there are so many great owners of large martial art schools that are doing it better than us, are we really in a position to teach? Full stop. Our mantra is 100% - Zero. 100% effort and zero excuses. Easy to say but hard to do- it just takes practice and if it is important enough to you, in other words, if your pain point is bothersome enough, you will find a path forward.
4. Change your mindset around failure
Since what most of us fear is failure let’s think about changing how we feel about failure. In of his homilies, Father Mike Schmitz suggested thinking of failure as feedback. I always try to remind myself of that when I am trying something new. If the thing didn't work out as I expected, tweak the so-called dial and try it a different way. The beginning of everything will be hard and totally sucky. Just accept that fact right now. If we look at Michael Jordan and how talented he is at basketball, we think, wow I could never be as good as him so I’m not going to try. But we don’t ever see footage of Michael Jordan as a youth learning how to dribble, pass and shoot. Which brings me to the last point…
“All comparing stops today.”
5. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle or end
Comparison is the evil kin to fear. The comparison game is a losing one. So often we compare ourselves to people that have completely different backgrounds, resources, families, and opportunities than us. If my husband and I compare ourselves to all the amazing martial artists and teachers in the world, we would never move forward. We all do it though, and it can actually make us scared to try because we are comparing ourselves to someone's end. Like my Michael Jordan example, we have all seen MJ’s highlight reels for years now but it isn’t very often we hear about his struggles when he was first learning the game. Just begin your thing one step at a time. Get some momentum going as I mentioned earlier and then whatever it is you are trying to accomplish will get easier and easier. And keep in mind you are running YOUR race, living YOUR life, raising YOUR family, so be the best you can be doing YOUR thing. All comparing stops today.
As you go through this process it is really helpful to learn about yourself as much as possible. I know, it sounds weird, how do I learn about myself? If you learn about your personality type and the intricacies of introverted or extrovertedness, you can make intentional decisions that can place yourself in an optimal environment where you can feel the most at home or in your sweet spot. In Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, she explains this idea of making decisions based on our tendencies toward stimulus sensitivities. So the likelihood of choosing the right job, spouse, and home increases when you have done inner personal work.
These are all small things that you can do to chip away at some of those life inhibiting fears. Once you do that you will feel a little more freedom to move around in your skin. New experiences will open up that are scary but you will be more equipped to handle them. Eleanor Roosevelt, a shy, compassionate activist, said “Do the one thing every day that scares you.” It will take time but when you use your fear to your advantage, it can absolutely transform you into the person you want to be.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this article. Leave a comment and let me know of a time you embraced your fear and used it to your advantage.