I was recently hanging out with a super-successful entrepreneur. He’d just secured almost $20 million in funding for his fourth startup – but he was terrified of becoming homeless. And he’s not alone. Lots of successful business owners have similar fears, even though they’re unhelpful and unrealistic. Here’s how to move past them…Video Transcript and Relevant Links
I just spent some time with a friend of mine, and we were actually out in the woods sitting around a campfire sharing things… and my experience is that's when a lot of the intimate sharing comes out.
And my friend shared with me how he was scared that he was… he had this fear of being homeless. He's got a wife and two young children. He was just scared that they would end up out on the street homeless. And the thing about this friend of mine is that he has a startup. He's a founder in a startup and they just had raised money. They just had this funding bring in almost $20 million, and this is not his first startup. This is actually his fourth startup. The past three were successful and he had this track record of success, yet he was scared about being out in the streets homeless with his family.
This is a bit of an advanced topic because there are some people that its probably a good legitimate fear to be scared about being out on the street. Who work really crazy hard to get beyond that. But the thing is, becoming successful doesn't make the fears go away. And even though I could say to my friend, “Let's be rational about this and let's look at this track record of success that you've had and the fact that you've succeeded over and over and over and you're going to succeed this time, even if you don't, you have the skills to go out and succeed the next time you're not going to be homeless.” I think it was good to talk about that rational side.
But then, my friend is not the first person I've met – I've worked with thousands of entrepreneurs and I've met some that were just ridiculously successful – that still had that fear that maybe I just got lucky. Maybe the only reason for the success is luck.
Well, if you've had that track record, you've built those skills, it's probably not luck. And just building those skills means you can go build something again. And I know so many people that have had big set backs, lost their business or their business has gone down one way or another and they've been able to turn it around.
But in addition to that rational side, you might want to…(if this is you, if you're feeling that fear) you might want to say, “Where's this fear coming from?” Where often it's patterns we learned as children, as young children. We have these patterns that we developed, these mechanisms we developed because at that stage we're just coping and we're just looking for love and we're just looking for safety and we're just looking for belonging and the people around us are interacting with us and we're just seeking those – love, safety, belonging – and we create these mechanisms.
And maybe one of those mechanisms is fear. It’s always looking for those threats, the threats that are going to send you out homeless and maybe if you can find those patterns… and this is deep work. This is lengthy work. This isn't a five-minute-video work, but this is deep work. And if you can find those patterns and then you can look at that pattern, this fear of being homeless or this fear of whatever, and ask, “How does that serve and honor? How has it served me in the past? How does it help me in the past?” Honor that fear, that feeling and say, “How has it helped me in the past? And now how is it going to help me if I leave it behind?”
If we were sitting around that fire out in the woods talking about this, if we could just offer that up to the fire and say, “Here, consume this mechanism, this learned mechanism I had because I want to honor it. It's served me in the past, but it's not going to serve me going forward. I'm going to let it go.” Let go and honor that. But then honor where you're going to go when you leave that feeling behind.
I'm Jeff Walker. Wherever you're watching this, scroll down, leave a comment for me, and let's go get ‘em this week.
Faith, not fear, keeps us in the right place and helps us move forward, TR Bian
Many thanks Jeff. My fear is having no money to pay the mortgage and bills. Yes it comes from when I was growing up and having no money. Also when I have tried to start a business it always comes back to this – having enough money which is why I stop which has happened twice which is a shame. I have to try to leave it in the past, and move on with my business. Many thanks again, this really made sense.
I guess most successful people have some fears and one of them is “losing” all they have accumulated in life. Mainitaining what they have attained is the most pressing challenge for most driven individuals. Thank you for sharing this analysis of “Fear” ..False Evidence Apprearing Real and internal threats that all of us face internally sometimes everyday.
I think some people are trained to be anxious by their upbringing, you will end up on the street if you don’t study hard, you will be a ‘failure’ if you don’t knuckle down and take life seriously!
You know, the chances of you existing are something so remote you would not be able to quote that number in less than 30 minutes…it really is that unlikely.
All of this universe with its ridiculous vastness, and all of the matter and energy it contains, some of this has concentrated itself into a sentient being, that is aware of its existence.
So what if you fail, you can always try again, so what if you do it tough for a while?
I find studying astronomy, and philosophy is very valuable.
Playing guitar, and music, this also has helped get by in hard times.
I wish you well, whatever your course, wherever you are, life is something very special, and we have all won the lottery.
Keep it real guys.
Mike! Wow that is a powerfully written response. Thanks. I needed to hear it the way you phrased it.
Thanks Mike, great reminder
Yes, excellent way to look at life in general. When I’m feeling fear or anxiety I always remind myself that if the sun is shining, and I’m alive on the earth with air to breathe and water to drink… I am absolutely okay. Every single other thing can be figured out, most of it through the kindness and generosity of our fellow humans if you are in real dire straits. So honestly there is not much to worry about if you have those few things. Anything else beyond shelter and food are self-created desired for the type of life we desire to live… and if we should have to be without them, we are still okay. So, worry or anxiety over them is not helpful in attaining them and certainly not necessary if we don’t have them as we are okay if we don’t. That way of thinking helps me a lot. In fact, I’ve created bracelets for my young family members before they went to college that have representative beads for the sun, earth, air, and water… just so they always remember that there is no problem that could be so big that they should ever think it was more important than their life or that can’t be solved.
Great message this week. I hear you suggesting we transform the fear into energy that serves us. It reminds me of what Dr Dyer used to always say: “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change”
So good. As usual. Thanks for all that you do!
Thanks for the reminder of realizing that fear has served me in some way in the past but it won’t serve me moving forward. The question I ask my clients is “how is this working for you’?
That was great. Yes, we news to honor it because it worked for us in the past but recognize it wont work for us in the future.
Thank you Jeff!!! Always inspiring !!!
You ask some great questions and there is a lot more to it. I know you won’t respond to this and it will fall into the waste pile. We have been taught, we believe, that our thinking is truth. The past is just a memory and the future is a projection of our thinking. Our past is colored by our perception and it changes over time and our future thoughts are complete bs. To give either substance subtracts from anyone’s ability to move forward. I would love to chat more about this with you so your audience can truly thrive.
@Jason: I read it. 🙂 And yes, you’re right… there is a lot more to it than I could cover in a short video.
Well timed videos, Jeff.
I’m in “wildfire area” – Los Angeles county. My two major fire evacuations – 2017 (lost most everything from fire domino effect) and then 2018 – which came after a long caregiving for an abusive parent, long estate settlement mess, I was finding that even though I am an expert in crisis management, exit planning and bounce-back, I was hitting a “type 5” area ( using your white water rapids term) of having a new unmanageable level of anxiety, fear and situational depression.
Most recently it was triggered two weeks ago when we were told by text “mandatory evacuation leave NOW” for a wildfire – and it turned out to be a false notification by the national READY system!
I feel hyper-vigilant and feel every time I leave the house now I need to take my suitcase and work gear because I don’t know if I can get back home again.
“Fear” is taking its toll. I’m exhausted.
Somehow watching your first campfire chat “fear video” shifted something for me. I realized the PTSD started in childhood, feeling unsafe, unwanted and unloved. (late in life baby, only kid, unhappy parents and daily parent abuse). But I learned “how to survive“ and oddly it made me stronger. But that feeling of “never feeling safe” is deep and lingers – buttons easily pushed.
Your video made me realize how much that “fear of feeling fearful” holds me back and what would be available if I just get on with my life. This is the new normal. We have wildfires here. If I don’t like it, move.
Meanwhile get back to what I do. I’m a writer, speaker and trainer with over 20 years experience and the last nine not doing it have been really crappy.
I’m claiming my life back. I’m throwing my “fire fears” into “your metaphoric campfire”! I’m fighting my fear of fire with fire – “fighting fire with fire” as the expression goes.
I’m reclaiming me. It’s time for that inner scared kid to quit hiding in the corner. I have stages to share what I’ve learned.
Thank you for sharing your videos.
These heal. May I share your videos with other fire evacuees? We have about 19,000 in just LA County and another 125,000 recent evacuees some still not back in homes from Tick Fire. That’s just here. Sonoma Co up north still burns (100,000 + evacuated) and over 14,000 fire evacuee homeless still not settled from Camp Fire in Paradise / Chico from last November.
Your videos may help many of us with fire related PTSD.
@Caesi: of course you can share my videos, I would be honored. The healing work is hard. And it’s an ongoing process.
That’s really traumatic @Caesi Bevis! Sorry about your losses. Feel free to reach out of you need help. I specialize in working with women with trauma and PTSD, will be happy to give you a free session.
Carlota Santa Cruz
This goes Deep. Thank you.
Yes, let’s get’em this week.
LOVE this video. I’m doing the deep work and it’s so, so powerful. I really appreciate how you honored how the fear has served in the past before offering it to the fire.
Thanks Jeff! This is very important stuff. Your answer is right on track – the fear goes back to early experiences. I’ve worked with many successful individuals who had exactly the same fear. It doesn’t relate to these people’s current reality and their position in life.
The way I as able to help them is because I am a brain-reprogramming expert. Early traumas leave traces that disorganize brain functions. I have unique and specialized tools that restore brain organization and then the traumas go away.
There is also more to fear and other emotions that people realize! I developed new, powerful ways to work with emotions that are so easy that everyone could do them. I’ll be happy to tell you more about it if you wish.
I have been working with 1000’s of entrepreneurs for 30 years in Silicon Valley and China and I have a different read on this. First, if you have been successful 4 times before and you are worried about being homeless you have a gambling issue and need to look at your investment strategy. One never and I mean never put’s their house on the line for a startup venture – leads to being divorced, depressed and even suicide – just say no.
The other important factor is that successful CEO’s are that way because of their teams it is not a single participant sport. Through an affiliation I have with the Wealth Dynamics people I have learned that we allies different parts of out brains – there is always a dominant trait that we have that follows us unless we know for to use to our advantage and surround ourselves with the right team. I have seen countless number ofd startups fail – common misconception is they run out of money – that is not the root cause – the root cause is, take your pick: bad leadership(micro management), wrong team, wrong go to market plan, or a really big one is a CEO that is stressed, depressed or has high anxiety. All companies stall – it is what they do to get restarted and cross the chasm.
@Dean: it sounds like you have lots of experience… but with all due respect, I think you missed something in this video. Or maybe I just didn’t communicate clearly. Your take on this is purely financial/transactional, and that’s not what the video is about.
My friend didn’t put his house on the line in his startup. And IMO he has no real short term or long term possibility of being homeless. But that doesn’t make his fear (or anxiety) any less significant. And my experience is that many founders and CEOs have this type of long-term fear and anxiety.
Hi Jeff, thank you for posting this video. I love this. The fire solution is great, and in my opinion more powerful than our western rational culture realizes. As Liz Gilbert said in Eat Pray Love, describing one of her talks with her Medicine Man, in Balinese wisdom both Heaven and Hell are love, which is a really weird idea for us to understand and accept. But in my opinion this makes sense, because the deep-seated irrational fears we may have can ultimately be unconscious loyalty to the experiences of our family members and ancestors. Sometimes we love our parents and ancestors so much we unconsciously embrace their fears and limiting beliefs, or even their actual painful experiences, and this loyalty can be larger than life for some people who express that loyalty in the form of irrational fear. This “hellish love” and loyalty to the pain of our loved ones can be larger than how much we value our individual well-being and quality of life in our present moment. So as you said… deep work.
Jeff! You are a closet Adlerian! Mistaken beliefs we develop from the desire to belong and feel significant in childhood surfacing as mischief makers in our adulthood. Often overlooked…honor the past and that protective behavior as it helped you survive and get to where you are now. And now, it no longer serves you-so give it gratitude and love and release. Then, have the courage and curiosity to try something new. Love it! Now you are talking my language! ❤️
Thank you Catherine, you comments remind of how deep to go but also to recognize and let go.
Ed Daube, Ph.D. (The Emotions Doctor)
This is a good video and the comments of your viewers are right on. As many of them have noted, the emotion you are talking about here is actually anxiety, not fear, although the two words are often used interchangeably.
Anxiety is a future based emotion, the message of which is that …There MAY be a threat out there which MAY hurt me. Fear, by the way, is an emotion based in the present which says there is a threat out there which will kill me so I must escape from it. Fear, in the face of a fire, motivates escape. Anxiety, in the face of fire, worries about what happens next. Anxiety, in thinking about a future fire, motivates you to prepare a “GO” kit and put the important papers in an accessible location.
I really like the questions you ask which start with “HOW” as opposed to “WHY”. How focuses on the value of anxiety as an emotion which, when taken as “eustress” motivates us to take corrective action. “Why” can get us into an endless loop.
Anxiety as “distress”, the emotion your confidante is expressing, gets us all “wound-up” but gets in the way of our seeking solutions.
While the process of turning distress into eustress does take time, as you correctly point out, a transitional question which is often useful is to ask “If the worst happens, can I survive it?” Note that this question does not involve any judgement of oneself (for having these thoughts in-spite of “knowing” the “irrationality”of the thoughts), the probability of the worst occurring (often very low), or the catastrophic implications (it is a tendency to focus on the worst possible outcome) of the thoughts. Rather, the question refocuses one’s attention on the very real possibility of survival and, if one can survive the outcome, one’s anxiety about the outcome can decrease sufficiently to move forward (move from distress to eustress).
By the way, the connection between anxiety and effectiveness is illustrated by the Yerkes-Dodson Law.
I discuss conceptualizing and deploying emotions as tools on my website and I mention this only in passing should your viewers want to explore a different way of thinking about emotions. The information you provide is quite good and stands on its own merits.
In this video you look different Jeff. Is everything ok?
I think that it was Susan Jeffers who said ‘feel the fear, and do it anyway!’ No use pretending that the fear is fictional or nonsense! We need to press on and work through the ‘resistance’!
😰 Whew! Feeling exhausted and drained after….😷 Talking about Fear, before was too deep for me. It comes from the Pain. But not just an ordinary pain. Thinking why do other human CAN do such things, without hesitation. Knowing, that no one have the right to hurt one another. BUT now, i treated Fear as a challenge also my guide