I had a conversation the other day with my daughter about her fear. She had some anxiety about getting ready to try a new sport. Twenty-four hours later I found myself having the same conversation with a good friend of mine, an entrepreneur, about a change in his business that he was embarking on. In both situations, I shared the same advice.
“Fear can ride in the car, but it has to stay in the back seat. It can’t ride shotgun, and it absolutely cannot drive.”
It’s nowhere near the radio either.
I think I first heard this description of fear riding in the back seat from my good friend and OrangeBall partner Beau Nordby. It has always resonated with me. Like many leaders and entrepreneurs, I regularly battle to keep fear away from the steering wheel. I’m constantly making decisions that require me to balance the upside potential of my choices against the downside risk. Of all the things that guide my decision-making process, I’ve had to be very intentional not to let fear steer my direction or dictate my path.
I’m very aware of what my fear really is. It’s a voice in my head reminding me of all the ways anything can go sideways. I get it. Sometimes fear is healthy. Yes, it can warn me of danger. But for the most part, I have found that fear is not on my side. It is paralyzing and confining, and its goal is to keep me from reaching my full potential. It limits me, and it fills my head with lies and questions meant to hold me back. I hear them every day…
“What if this happens?”
“You’re not good enough.”
“That won’t work.”
“They’re smarter than you.”
One of my greatest sources of fear? Failure. As an entrepreneur, the moment one chooses to go all-in on their dream, the concept of failing becomes your greatest adversary. As much as we all preach the value of a good fail, and that our greatest lessons come when we fall down, no one actually wants to fail especially when everyone is watching us. The best way to protect ourselves from the embarrassment and hurt of failure is never to try.
And so that’s the moment, amid all the doubt, the questions, and our anxiety about failure, that we shake hands with our fear and embrace it. It’s not going away. Then, we wrestle it into the backseat and buckle it in tight so we can grab the wheel and drive. It rides in the back, it never steers, and it never touches the radio.
Hear the questions in your head and embrace your doubts… and then call them what they are. Name them, put them where they belong, and make your decisions with a focus on all the possibilities in front of you, not the lies.