Written by Phil Lord, 11.09.2016
I get up every morning and read short list of quotes that’s pinned to the wall near my desk. The very first – and only unattributed – quote is the following:
“Fear kills dreams. Fear kills hope. Fear puts people in the hospital. Fear can age you. Fear can hold you back from doing something that you know within yourself that you are capable of doing, but it will paralyze you.”
Fear used to control me. It used to tell me what I could and could not do. Over the years, I have learnt to do many things with fear. I’ve faced it; I’ve hit it; I’ve run through it; and I’ve jumped right into it.
I still very clearly remember one of the first times I decided to face fear. I purchased a gym membership. I hadn’t exercised in months. But I did what Tony Robbins had said I was apparently supposed to do: I registered for a marathon the very same day and told everyone I knew I was just 9 months away from running my first marathon. Well. Just about every day for the following 9 months, I was afraid. I was afraid when I realised I could hardly run 20 minutes on a treadmill. I was afraid when I saw the number of miles I was going to be running. Most importantly, I was afraid when others, even those closest to me, would underline how idiotic my plan was. I can’t count how many times I heard: “How about a half-marathon?”
I learnt a meaningful lesson through these months of training: I learnt that fear simply does not go away. Even if I consistently found the strength and the discipline to run the miles. Just months away from the race, I was terrified as my travel schedule would force me to scarify so much. I remember getting off a plane in Sydney, hopping on a cab, and changing into my running gear. I then ran 32 kilometers in just over 4 hours, having barely gotten 3 hours of sleep. The only good part was that I treated myself to KitKat bars as my source of carbs. Several days later, I figured I could get some confidence from facing another of my fears: heights. So I bungee jumped in New Zealand. I almost got PTSD. I didn’t sleep a single hour the night before and wanted to run away probably over 100 times. Fortunately, again, I had told everybody I was going to do it, so I had no choice. It was fun. Somewhat fun.
I also remember the fear I felt the very morning of the race. For some reason, someone had the brilliant idea of making everybody get on a bus at the finish line. Just to make sure we knew exactly how long 42.195 kilometers is. The 45-minute drive was so long I would have gotten bored had I not been too busy stressing out.
But when I finally crossed the finish line, I had not had enough. I wanted more. I had discovered just how exhilarating it felt to defeat fear. What else than something so debilitating, so hard to face, could be so satisfying to defeat?
That same year, I landed two prestigious research assistantships at my law faculty and helped build a renovation company. I also founded and grew my own business. That is not to say, however, that I had learnt anything about my ability to defeat fear. As I achieved these things, I got scared to the point of wanting to give up every step of the way. And I still am pretty scared. That’s part of being human. We give up. We give in. We settle for less. Being and doing more is a constant struggle. That’s why so few people succeed at anything.
I read the quote every morning to remind myself that fear is not just a part of me, but that it is also my best friend. Fear is my reservoir of energy. A feeling so strong, when put to good use, can help anyone achieve great things. Without fear, nothing would be possible. And even if anything were possible, it certainly would not be worthwhile.