What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Fear can motivate. Fear can paralyze. It can save your life. Unfortunately, it can also control your life.

“…let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” –Franklin Delano Roosevelt (first inauguration address, 1933)

Fear can motivate. Fear can paralyze. It can save your life. Unfortunately, it can also control your life.

Here’s a list of fears to consider:

  • Failure
  • Embarrassment
  • Public Speaking
  • Death (I’m pretty sure a lot of people fear the first three more than death)
  • Not Being Accepted
  • Commitment
  • Flying
  • Disappointment
  • Success
  • Fame
  • Responsibility
  • the Unknown
  • the Dark
  • New Experiences
  • Being Blamed
  • Heights
  • Snakes
  • Spiders
  • Sharks
  • Geese
  • Open Spaces
  • Anywhere but Home
  • Confined Spaces

I know people who have each of these fears. I have some of them, and I’m sure you have some as well.

Fear is generated in our Lizard Brain . That primitive part of our brain that keeps us alive while we’re thinking about other stuff. Our Lizard Brain means well, and only has our best interest in mind. It’s the center of our survival instinct. It will do anything it can to help us avoid the things we fear. Unfortunately, it’s part of our brain that we barely control.

One way to gain control of our fear is to discover, and admit, that it exists. That, and admitting our fears impact the things we choose to do (or not do). It may help to discuss your fears with someone you trust, or to contemplate them on your own. Either way, understanding your fears is the first step toward controlling them.

Consider a ten-year-old, standing in right field. He knows that he’s in that position because he’s the worst player on the team. Fly balls rarely make it to right field in little league games, so he’s safe out there. What happens when the ball flies into right field? What’s the first thing on that ten-year-old’s mind? Probably something like, “Please don’t let me screw this up and drop the ball.” His first thought comes from a place of fear. Did he catch the ball? Did he make the right play once he had the ball? Maybe, but doubtful.

Imagine the same player who knows he’s in right field because he’s the only player who can make the throw all the way to third base. He has a gun for an arm, and he may be the best player on the team. What’s he thinking when the ball flies into right field? “I can’t wait to get that ball so I can make the play.   We are going to stop this rally and win the game!” Fear isn’t part of the equation. Did he catch the ball? Did he make the right play? Probably.

Fear creates completely different experiences for these ten-year-olds. The secret is that this applies at all ages, in nearly everything we do.

How many of your goals are “off limits” because you’re afraid? How many potential goals are eliminated by fear (your Lizard Brain), before you even know about them?

How often is fear your first response? How often do you talk yourself out of something that’s outside your comfort zone? It’s easy to do…avoiding fear is a powerful motivation.

Start small. Choose one thing that scares you and go after it. Embrace the negative energy of fear and turn retreat into advance. Each time you do this, your list of fears will shrink.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Do it today!



Two Words

Here are two powerful words you can use every day…

How many times have you heard (or said) something like:

“I used to run until I hurt my knee”

“I remember how fun it was to cook with my kids”

“I like gardening, but I just don’t have time”

“I wish I had the energy to workout”

“I used to practice piano at least an hour a day”

“I loved traveling before the kids were born”

“I had to start working fulltime, so I didn’t have time to finish my degree”

“I’ve always wanted to learn how to play guitar”

“I wish I knew how to draw”
We all have things we used to do, things we wish we could do, or could have done. The question is what’s stopping us from doing these things? What’s stopping us from trying something new?

For the things we used to do, but don’t anymore, here are two powerful words:

Begin again.

For things we wish we could do, there’s an even more powerful version:


The easiest failure is failing to begin.

Our greatest success can only happen when we choose to begin.

Or, begin again.



Just Another PICNIC

I learned a new acronym recently: PICNIC

I learned a new acronym recently:

                PICNIC–Problem in chair, not in computer.

“Way” back in the early 90’s when one of my jobs was desktop support, I referred to the same phenomena as a “nut on the keyboard” problem.  At least 80% of the “computer problems” were actually human problems.

It’s the same thing with Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer.  Most “dog” problems are human problems waiting to be solved.  Cesar spends most of his time “whispering” to dog owners.  Cesar can’t call his show The Human Whisperer, even if that’s an accurate description of the service he provides.  To do so would alienate the audience that he’s trying to help.

The challenge with humans is that most of us would rather not admit that we are the problem.  It’s so much easier to blame the computer, the dog, the airline, the car, traffic, evil Republicans, evil Democrats, government, the economy, our manager, our parents, our kids, society, the system.  The list of excuses is infinite.

The good news is that the solution to most of these “problems” is in the chair.

We Are All Mountain Climbers

Until you face a climb yourself, you can never fully understand what it takes.

AlanAroras--Mt Everest 2013

There it is…Mount Everest from the air.  Each year, about 150-200  climbers attempt to reach its summit, 29,029 feet above sea level.  There are thousands of other mountain peaks in the world, but Everest is the highest, and most challenging.  Of course, from this angle it looks pretty tame.

That’s the thing about mountains.  Perspective is everything.  Until you face a climb yourself, you can never fully understand what it takes.  Watching others make the climb, or hearing their stories about what it was like, are no substitute for taking on the climb for yourself.

Look around you.  If you look closely, you’ll see that each of us are climbing a mountain.  Some mountains are short and easy, while others are as high or higher than our friend, Mr. Everest.

This is the point where I could wax on poetically about striving for the highest peaks in life, chasing ever higher summits, new vistas, and new challenges.  Yes, do all of that.  Don’t let anyone stop you…especially yourself.

No, I’m not going to talk about the standard, inspirational mountain stuff.  Instead, I’m going to talk about weight.

When embarking on a climb, is it better to carry twenty pounds, fifty pounds, or one-hundred pounds of gear on your back?  Obviously, all things being equal, less weight is better.  Gravity is not your friend.

How much weight are you carrying on your climb?  Only the essentials?  Anything extra?  Are you carrying baggage that won’t be used?  Why?  Carrying all that extra baggage isn’t helping you reach your summit.

What about your fellow climbers, especially those closest to you?  How much extra baggage are they carrying?  How much of it is yours?

The best strategy for extra baggage (and its unnecessary weight) is to avoid packing it in the first place.



Photo Credit:  Alan Arora, who owes me some details on how he was able to be in the cockpit jump seat of an Airbus A319 at the perfect time to capture such a beautiful shot of Mount Everest.



“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations–explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon–if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.”  –John F. Kennedy, in his speech to a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961

When President Kennedy gave this speech to Congress, he was challenging an entire nation to aim for the moon, literally.  Many of us have seen or heard the first sentence in the quote above, but it’s the rest of the quote that has my attention today.

In 1961, the technology to get to the moon didn’t exist.  Kennedy acknowledges this fact by mentioning just some of the new technologies that will need to be developed (alternative liquid and solid fuel boosters much larger than any now being developed, appropriate lunar space craft).  He also makes it clear that not one man will be going to the moon, but an entire nation.

To meet the ambitious goal of getting safely to the moon and back before 1970, NASA engineers and planners compiled detailed lists and timetables for inventing new technology, new methods, and new systems to make the moonshot possible.  They didn’t know exactly how the inventions would come about, but they had the audacity and foresight to plan for them, and to put them on a schedule.  Thousands of people visualized a new future and went about making it a reality.

As they say, the rest is history.  On June 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface, and he and his two Apollo 11 crewmates returned safely to Earth four days later.

Moonshots are big.  They aren’t incremental goals like losing 20 pounds by next Christmas, completing the next project your boss thinks is important, or aiming for your business to perform a little better than last year.

Moonshots are impossible to fathom without imagination, a willingness to challenge the status quo, and a keen awareness that fear is there only to sharpen your senses.  Moonshots create new definitions of what’s possible.  They can turn a good company into a great one.

Here’s one more thing to remember about moonshots.  If you aim for the moon and don’t quite get there, guess where you are.  You’re in a pretty high orbit, and a long way from where you started.

Find your moonshot and enjoy the ride.

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