“Living fearlessly is not the same thing as never being afraid. It's good to be afraid occasionally. Fear is a great teacher.”
Michael Ignatieff, O Magazine, April 2007
“Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”
Yoda, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Generally it’s not a good idea to be motivated by fear. First, fear as a motivator tends to block creativity, spontaneity, and joy. Second, fear as a motivator tends to disappear eventually and is often replaced by apathy or despair. Still, it can have its advantages sometimes, if not as a motivator, then as a reminder to keep in our Purpose. I’d like to be in a state of fearlessness at all times, but the following list helps remind me of what I don’t want. These are the things I fear:
· Being average
· Being less than average
· Not doing my best
· Not trying
· Not living out my destiny
· Giving up
· Having to explain to God or my children why I gave up
· Wasting time
· Wasting potential
· Wasting my life
· Leaving nothing for my children
· Being broke
· Being sick
· Being lazy
· Allowing fear to run and ruin my life.
Most importantly, I don’t want fear to run or ruin my life. That fear can be a good motivator. Too often I’ve seen people with huge potential not reach it. They say it’s too hard and they are afraid of rejection. Here’s a perspective on rejection: We survive it. We think we can’t or won’t, but we do. Most of us have faced it, personal or professional, and if you’re reading this, then that means you’ve survived it. It won’t destroy us physically and it doesn’t have to destroy us spiritually. We simply keep going.
Steven Pressfield told me his first three books didn’t sell. He was in the business for years before his book and then the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance made him professionally successful. I’m sure this is true for most people who want something more out of life. They try and try and they work hard and finally they put out their first big work and…nothing.
Last year I published my first book, A Few Kind Words. I sold a grand total of eight copies. I have over 1300 Facebook friends and hundreds of people I’ve known and helped, and I still sold eight copies. Eight. And do you know how I feel about it? I feel fine.
Would it have been nice to sell 800 or 8000 or 800,000? Of course. But success will come when it will, and maybe not at all. What matters is that I did it. I’m a published author. Nothing will ever take away the feeling I had when I hit send and published my very first book. And, honestly, I don’t think about the eight or the number of people, including close friends, who didn’t buy my book. All that matters is that I put it out there.
Besides fear, the thing I fear most is quitting. There are times just before I begin to write that I feel distant from it. There’s no connection. Then I wonder if I should stop. But then this fear of not writing, of not striving towards my potential takes hold and I decide even if all I write is garbage, I’m still going to write. I’m not going to stop. Oh, it’s possible that I’ll miss a day once in a while, but I’m going to Keep Going. It scares me to do otherwise.
In a perfect world there would be no enemies, internal or external, to keep us from living out our potential. But we’re not in a perfect world. So we need to be vigilant. We need to be aware of and guard against everything that would keep us from moving forward. Fear is not a good motivator, but vigilance is.
Of course the best motivator is action. When I’m doing my work, fear vanishes. Everything vanishes except love, joy, and peace. That’s why I Get Started and Keep Going every day. As St. Paul said, “Perfect love casts out fear.”