Day 20: Fear as a Signal
In this 30-days to Mastering Your Fears Series, The Skool of Life and The Fear Project are collaborating to blow the doors off our most primal emotion. Today my substitute teacher Clay Hebert from DailySense
I grew up in a small town in west central Wisconsin, where one of the popular winter pastimes is ice-fishing.
(For the uninitiated, ice-fishing is trying to catch fish through a hole in a frozen lake, not fishing for ice itself. It’s a poorly named hobby.)
One of the tools used in ice-fishing is a perfect metaphor for learning to see fear as a signal, but first…a quick lesson.
Once you’ve drilled a the hole in the ice, there are two ways to ice-fish.
1. Jig Fishing
Stand silently over the hole on a frozen lake in sub-zero temperatures. Drop a baited hook to the bottom of the lake. Jig it up and down for hours, fighting hypothermia, while your muttered curses vaporize silently into the air. If you do happen to catch a fish, you get to take your gloves off and get your hands wet, after which they will immediately freeze. Decide whether or not to keep the fish. Drop the bait back down the hole. Bite your glove cuff and tug them over your now-frozen hands.
Repeat until your soul is frozen.
This was (and is) my father’s preferred method of ice-fishing.
Luckily, we only stay out for about five hours, whether the fish are biting or not.
2. Tip-Up Fishing
Buy a few tip ups (image above). Set them up and rig them with live bait. Retreat to the warmth of your ice shack or cabin to play cards, eat and drink.
When you see the red flag “tip-up”, you have a fish.
Fear as a signal
What does all this have to do with fear?
It’s all about the flag on the tip-up.
Instead of being crushed by fear, we need to learn to see fear as a clear and positive signal, just like the red flag on the tip-up.
A signal that the project is worth tackling.
A signal that the trip is worth taking.
A signal that the conversation is worth having. Now, not tomorrow.
The No-Fear Zone
Most of us live in the no-fear zone most of the time. We intentionally seek out the familiar and the comfortable.
Think of all the things that you do everyday that don’t cause fear.
Making coffee. Doing laundry. Watching Breaking Bad.
Some of these are necessary tasks (especially the coffee) but they’re not remarkable projects and certainly aren’t going to lead to you making your “dent in the universe.”
But where fear exists…finishing your book and sending it to a publisher, finally booking that trip to Africa or making that big, important sale, it’s almost always a clear signal that it’s something worth doing.
Condition yourself to recognize fear as a positive and definite signal (as clear as the red flag on the tip-up) instead of a negative emotion and it will become the single best way to identify the projects worth doing for the rest of your life.
After a decade at Accenture, Clay Hebert left corporate America and got his MBA from Seth Godin. Clay is the creator of Kickstarter Hacks and the founder of Spindows.com, the world’s first enterprise discovery platform. You can read more about Spindows here and find Clay on Twitter at @clayhebert.