Starting in the Swimming Pool (or Facing Your Fears Pt. 1)
A lot of folks talk about fear when they’re starting something new… and it makes sense when you think about it. Fear used to be something that kept us out of danger, kept us alive. But when your fear is holding you back from doing something big, you have to find a way past it. For me, it starts here…
Video Transcript and Relevant Links
So, I had this question come in on the blog. “Fear… I know you must have been afraid when you first start stepping out. Say a bit about how you dealt with that.” And that’s an interesting question.
I know this comes up a lot. People are afraid. And sometimes fear is good. I mean, as humans we evolved to be afraid of saber tooth tigers and things like that. And back in those days, yeah, fear is what kept you alive. These days, most of us are not in physical danger. And so, fear is … well, it can really hold you back in big ways.
So when I was first starting out, first of all, the thing that motivated me was desperation. We were … Our family was desperate. We had no money. It was just desperate times, and I desperately needed a change. And when I started out, it’s a crazy-long convoluted tale. I’ve told you. You may have heard that story. But when I first started out, I sent out an email to 19 people, 19 people that I knew that I thought might be interested in this topic that I was publishing about, which was the stock market. I was publishing about investing in the stock market. And so, there wasn’t actually a lot of fear because, at the end of the day, if I sent out this email with this newsletter, which is just, whatever, a couple hundred words I wrote, and they didn’t like it, it was pretty small stage.
So that’s the first thing to think about. The reality is, when you’re first starting out… you’re gonna probably start on a pretty small stage. And the exposure isn’t gonna be that high. And I just used this word, “exposure” and since I do a lot of outdoor adventure things (adventure sports), that term means something, “the exposure.”
So I’ve done a lot of whitewater kayaking. And I actually got fairly good. For those of you know whitewater, I paddled a lot of hard class-four and some class-five. So class-five is potentially life threatening, you’re going over waterfalls and stuff like that. Didn’t do a lot of class-five. I did a lot of hard class-four…
But you don’t start off doing hard class-four or class-five. You start off in the swimming pool. That’s where you start. You start off with a swimming pool working on your skills, working on your roll, working on your self rescue. And then you go from there to moving water that’s still not really rapids, and then you go to class-one water. And when you’re paddling class-one, if you even looked at class-five you wouldn’t even know how to look at it. You would just see absolutely pure chaos there. You wouldn’t know how to make the decisions on how to run it, what to do, how to judge what the line is, anything like that. The exposure is too high.
I was just out skiing with my son and a bunch of his friends and they are extremely good skiers. We were out on a day where there’s just a lot of snow—it was what we call a powder day. We’d just gotten like 27 inches in 24 hours. There’s huge amounts of snow. And when there’s huge amounts of snow, my son and his friends go out … they go hunting cliffs. They go look for cliffs to jump off of. And so I … Crazy me, I was out with them. I wasn’t jumping any cliffs, but I would be able to ski around the cliffs and watch them—and they’re jumping off these things. Some of them, I think, were probably around 20-foot cliffs. I mean, it would terrify me to do that but they’re doing it because they had the capabilities to do it…
But they didn’t just step into doing 20-foot cliffs. They started off going off little one-foot jumps, and then two-foot jumps and they gradually built up the skills, so then they could go and judge it.
So what I’m getting at, when you’re starting out in business it’s just the baby-steps. You take those initial steps and you learn how to judge the next bigger steps. Like right now, I can walk … I’ve stepped out on stage in front of thousands of people, no problem, but I didn’t start off stepping out in front of thousand of people. The first time I presented was probably to 20 people, and then 30 people, and then I built up my presentation. I built up my presentation skills. I learned what to do when things go wrong, when the projector goes down, or your easel that you’re writing on falls apart. That’s happened to me. It didn’t freak me out. I didn’t have any fear because I built up the skills gradually.
So this is a huge topic. I’ll do a part two on this video. The idea of fear is a huge, huge topic. But the reality is, the way I got around it when I started out was just… I had to move into action and I was on this small stage and I gradually built my skills up. And if you look at anyone who’s done any type of performance, any type of big things, they practiced on a smaller stage first, and then they built up their capabilities. They built up their capabilities over time.
Like right now, I’m super comfortable on stage, but if you put me in front of 80,000 people and had me speaking on a topic I’ve never talked about before and said, “Jeff, you’re on in five minutes,” I’d be catatonic. I’d be freaking out. But I also have the judgment now that I wouldn’t ever accept that. I would say, “No, I’m sorry. This doesn’t fit my perimeters. I’m not stepping on stage right now.”
Long story just to say that you need to take those baby-steps. And generally, when you take those first baby-steps, who’s watching? The parents are watching. Your parents aren’t gonna yell at the baby if you fall down after your first baby-step. So when you’re just starting out, you’re probably gonna be playing in front of a small audience, or you need to figure out a way to play in front of a small audience and take your first steps there, and then it’s a process to gradually build up your skills from there.
So I’m Jeff Walker. Wherever you’re watching this, scroll down, leave a comment for me and let’s go get ’em this week.