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Be the master of your fears

Never let your fear decide your fate.

~ From “Kill Your Heroes” by AWOLNation

Scared_Child_at_NighttimeIt's okay to be afraid. It's natural. But fear also holds us back at times when a bold move would serve us better. I love the above line from the AWOLNation song because it's a good reminder not to let our fears get in the way of what's important.

I’ve been trying to live by that philosophy for years, and while I do pretty well, I still have to fight the angst that often accompanies a new opportunity. In fact, I’ve decided that whenever I feel the fear, it’s a sign that I should probably do whatever it is that has me running the other way.

Okay, this doesn’t apply to things like surfing in a tsunami, diving off a bridge, or anything that usually starts with, “Hey, ya’ll, watch this.”

I’m talking about personal and professional risks where the reward is great but the fear is strong. Things that force me to stretch outside my comfort zone.

When Wiley offered me the opportunity to work on Scrivener For Dummies, I was scared witless. Could I really deliver a 400-page book in three months? S-T-R-E-T-C-H.

Turns out, yes. And, man, is that a boost to the self-esteem.

Korea-Busan-Cliff-Bunji.jump-01Suddenly your confidence soars. The next opportunity comes along and the fear stirs, but you give it the ol’ side kick to the knees and grab the chance with both hands.

You know how easy it is to spiral downward. We turn down chances we really want because we’re afraid we’re not good enough, and then we hate ourselves for being cowards.

Well, you can spiral upward too. But it requires a risk.

Start small.

My first one was Toastmasters. All through college, I didn’t give speeches or presentations in class, I merely survived them. Often with no memory of the event. After three years of Toastmasters and many years of teaching, I looked forward to speaking opportunities. Each one was another chance to prove to myself that I had mastered that fear.

Was I still nervous? Hell, yes. Still am.

But there’s nothing quite like the feeling of standing in front of the crowd, being fully in the moment, aware of where you are in your speech, aware of the individual faces and expressions of those before you, and knowing exactly what’s going on. You can liven things up, change the mood on a dime, speed up, slow down.

You are in control, not the fear.

It’s incredible.

After Toastmasters—and listening to lots of Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy, and Franklin Covey—I made a habit of going after what I wanted. Maybe not as quickly as I’d like, but I did it.

Grad school. New career. Quitting my job to stay home. Becoming a writer. Blogging. Teaching classes. Saying yes to the book.

Next it’s delivering in-person workshops for writing groups (starting this weekend in San Jose, CA!), speaking at a regional conference, and my first national conference workshop appearance (RWA in Atlanta).

Who knows what’s after that?

Self-publishing? Rock climbing? Purple hair? (Okay, probably not purple hair.)

Whatever it is though, I’ll decide, not the fear.

What’s the one thing you’re afraid of that could change your life for the better if you did it? What’s holding you back?

Photo credits:
By D Sharon Pruitt (CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
By bzo ( CC-BY-SA-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Tell your friends!


  1. Reply

    You must do purple hair once! Find some washable purple and do an easter egg head at the very least LOL.
    WHY? Well, one day you will be middle-aged and may want to look back and smile.
    I do. I love to think of that day on the elevator at NIH when my boss, the infamous Bob Gallo, got on, looked at me, and shook his head then said: “you would have to work in my lab…”
    I was wearing a white t-shirt, red leather mini-skirt; my hair: a rat’s tail with the right side boy-short, left side long and dyed candy-apple red…
    Now, I’m a fat, middle-aged, hot-flashing girl who knows a long time ago for a brief time I had a rat’s tail and red hair! Before that, I was a Marine… so go figure!

    • Reply

      Haha, Cristine, I just might. My 14 yo son has been teal, navy blue, green, purple, and neon green in the past year. Wish I’d had his confidence at that age. Um, and I already am middle-aged! 😉

      Love your story. The fact that you were a Marine before that only makes it more interesting. I’ve always loved bucking stereotypes, and though we’re a military family, we’re nothing like the stereotype. Most aren’t, in my experience.

      Anyway, it has to be great to look back and know you really lived the way you wanted to. I’ve told my kids of my own regrets in that regard–mostly in high school–with hopes they’ll be braver than I was. So far, they definitely are.

      • Reply

        LOL I am, if nothing else, a stereo-type buster! It wasn’t until the Marines that I found self confidence. High School felt like one of the layers of Dante’s Hell, looking back -it may very well have been! My mother and her sister had a total of seven daughters, so we were the first generation in hundreds of years to not serve in the military, or so they thought! LOL

        To be honest this lack of male influence might explain why the USMC in my mind was the Merchant Marines and I thought I’d be working on a cruise ship like the Love Boat… so, how does a 18 yr old with a 140 IQ end up in combat boots in the Mojave Desert and not in a tan in the Caribbean? Sigh! As someone said, IQ’s should come with small print or at least an option for common sense!

        I am very glad it wasn’t the Merchant Marines, who I’ve only recently learned so not work on Cruise ships… go figure!

  2. janetwellington


    Hi, Gwen: nice post. I’ve been vacationing on procrastination planet so a few days ago I gulped and gave myself a deadline by acknowledging the fear of: “I don’t know how to do that and I’m just not ready!” So, now I HAVE to figure it out and just do it because I have a deadline attached to that step. Motivating, scary, but I can already feel the positive momentum AND I’ve found the universe is bringing me what I need to move forward. Funny how that works, huh? Best, Janet

    • Reply

      Janet: Hope you enjoyed your vacation! A deadline is a great motivator. That definitely helped me with my book on those days when the words and ideas weren’t coming easily. That’s now the main reason I participate in NaNo or enter writing contests. Good luck with your project!

  3. Reply

    Now what is it we are supposed to be afraid of? I missed that lesson. The children of my father and mother learned only one approach to life. “Damn the torpedos full speed ahead.” Risk is desert. Enjoy plenty of it.

    Christin. May your stereo-type shattering tribe increase. Now tell us true. You know your just waiting for your next launch. You’re just not bored enough yet. Rock on!

  4. Reply

    Thanks Gwen, I really needed this right now. I was just given the position of senior editor at a new publishing company and a part of me wants to curl up in a corner under my blankets lol It’s the first “real” job I’ve had (sandwich maker does not compare!). I came into it knowing I would be nervous but told myself that it was just something that was in the way, yet sometimes it really helps to hear it from another person 🙂

    • Reply

      Novadestin: Congrats on the new job! Very exciting. But it’s always surprising to learn that even good changes are stressful. I remember getting my first job at McDonald’s and wondering if I’d be able to remember the order that you have to put things on the burger. Seriously. It’s mustard, ketchup, onions, pickles, BTW. 😉

      Anyway, I’m glad my words helped. Feel free to check back in and let us know how it’s going. I’m sure you’ll be great. Deep breaths. Good luck!

  5. Reply

    Gwen– Thank you for the post. “Never let fear decide your fate” is a passion of mine, too. Fear had the controls for far too long in my life. Much wisdom here.

    I tried as you suggested and saving the text in one of the forms you suggested did the trick. Duh! I’ll be back. You’re on my resource list now. I’m so glad I found your blog. Thank you for the help.

    • Reply

      Heidi: Overruling the fear is a work in progress, but the results are worth it! Thanks for letting me know my suggestion worked for you. 🙂

  6. Pingback: Be bold, set a goal | The Edited Life

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