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Who Made These Stupid Rules Blog - Hiking the Trail of Fear

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Hiking the Trail of Fear —


The word “Fear” is used frequently these days. There is something so ominous and inherently evil sounding about it. Like a masked marauder lurking in the bushes waiting to rob a stage coach of weary travelers.  You might even say merely hearing the word “Fear” is scary. President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said “The only thing we have to fear…is fear itself” in his 1933 Inaugural Address to our weary nation during times of turmoil and uncertainty.  Allow yourself to daydream for a few moments with me. By all means, keep reading and stay focused, but allow an open mind to ponder a new possibility.


I’ve thought a lot about fear recently.  Not for any other reason than I’ve encountered so many people during the process of writing my book who struggle with fears, both real and imagined.  I have been filled with a sense of wonder and amazement while discussing their viewpoints, hearing their stories, gleaning insight and listening to their concerns.  I decided to look inward to learn how I viewed my own fears, both real and imagined.  Are they really fears or are they concerns? Perception is a funny thing…


First off, allow me to say (this will be no surprise to those who know me well), I am a worrier.  I worry about every little detail.  I try to cover all my bases and anticipate every situation. Although you can never make everyone happy, I try to never be the cause of issues.  I’ve been in sales too long and it’s just who I am.  But I realized that I don’t truly fear anything. That thought troubled me.  People with no fear are the people who jump out of airplanes with no parachutes. As I began to write down my thoughts, I began to discover how I viewed fear.  I’ve decided that “Fear” is a backpack we carry on our journey. The important distinction is how we fill it and how heavy it becomes…


To this end, I’m taking you all on a hiking trip. Let’s grab our bags and begin our trek. “Where are we going?” you ask. “We are hiking the Trail of Fear.” (Cue ominous music). We are heading out into the great unknown. But don’t worry; we can re-pack our backpacks together. 


What do you fear in life? What are you carrying with you? What do you take and what can we leave behind? Think about that for a moment… It’s important to remember that some people are carrying feathers in their pack and some are carrying lead in the same size pack. Size isn’t important. The weight is… And it isn’t always visible to the casual observer…


In this book, we will discuss “asking the right questions” when removing obstacles and objections. In my quest to define “Fear”, I discovered that most people have difficulty defining their “Fears” just as I did.  Let’s look at a few typical fears: the fear of snakes, the fear of heights, the fear of trying, and the fear of failing (and yes…the fear of failing and the fear of trying are two completely separate things). There are also relationship/life fears of being alone, not being accepted, and the fear of leaving or staying in a relationship.

But are we asking the right questions here? What do you truly fear about spiders/snakes? Do you fear the snake or are you simply concerned about being bitten by a venomous species? Now that’s an interesting thought.. Is it a giant fear or a minor concern? When we stop focusing on the giant task of “Conquering your Fears” or “Overcoming your Fears”, we can begin to simply address the minor concerns that culminate to cause them. Let’s work to turn the lead weights of a “Fear” into a few feathers of concern to address.


Do you truly fear heights or do you fear the landing? The joke response we’ve all heard is to say “I’m not scared of heights, I’m afraid of falling.” Are you sure you aren’t merely concerned about the landing? The way to answer this is to ask yourself, “how high is too high?” What thought pops into your head? Is the answer “high enough that I would be injured when I landed”?  If you were guaranteed to land softly, would you still fear heights?


When we step back, ask the right questions, and truly think about it, we find that most of what we “Fear” is a combination of minor concerns that weigh down our backpacks - 10 lbs of Fear of Heights, 15 lbs of Fear of Poison Ivy, 8 lbs of Fear of Snakes, etc. What are you carrying along with you in your pack? What is weighing you down?


Allow me to give you an example to start repacking our Backpacks for the Trail of Fear metaphor.  I am clumsy. I fall down a lot more than an adult should (My family and friends are chuckling and nodding their heads). I’m concerned about injuries from impact. But I’m also concerned about venomous snake bites on the trail.  So how do we address these concerns? How can I lighten the load in my pack? If I’m concerned about injury, I need to watch my step. If I’m watching my step, I should be able to see any snakes in my path. Hmm... that’s interesting. So in my Backpack of Fear, I’m taking a small bottle of “watch your step”. Two concerns addressed with one simple item.  My load was just lightened.


As we walk through life, we all encounter our inherent “Fear of Knowledge” which can stop us dead in our tracks. We fear something because we “know” what will happen as a result – i.e. “Touching a hot stove will burn your hand”. Generally I would agree, yet magically, scientists and adventurers have discovered that you can quickly dip your bare hand (under the right parameters/prep/circumstances - *Don’t try this at home, kids*) into molten lead without injury. Molten lead is much hotter than a kitchen stove. Remember that experience can provide great insight, but it can also create needless barriers for us to overcome. When you automatically “know” what will happen, you’ve already stopped your search for answers or new opportunities.  For example, until recently, we “knew” that Pluto was a planet…now we aren’t sure. The truth is, we never knew Pluto was a planet… we “believed” Pluto was a planet. Big distinction. No one had ever been there. Who was the first person to stick their hand into molten lead fully “knowing” that a kitchen stove can cause more pain than a person can bear?


When we boil it down into its most basic premise…Fear is simply a tool. It can be used by others to detour you from an endeavor. It can be used by others to control you. It can be used by politicians to validate their points. But it can also be used to inspire. What? Inspire? Innovate? I would be highly inspired to break my running speed record if I were ever chased by a bear or pack of wolves. When we begin to address the concerns that make up the fear, we nibble away at the weights in our backpacks.


I realize that my example is an oversimplification for most. But when you think about your “daily life fears, relationship fears, or career fears” in a more positive light (cue happy music), a world of solutions and opportunities can present themselves.  Sometimes the simple search for an alternate opportunity can help you achieve goals you never imagined were possible…i.e. a bare hand in molten lead…


Instead of saying, “I fear losing my job”, let’s begin to ask, “What is it about losing your job that scares you?” The loss of income or stability? Your Retirement Account? Your children’s education? Your pride? When you are able to look at the foundation of concerns that built the fear, you can begin to patch the cracks or solidify the base. When you work toward the positive, the negative begins to diminish….


I wouldn’t have you believe that life will always be great. I mean…let’s face it…Sesame Street has had a grouch for decades. But I will promise that if you can look into one or two items in your life that invoke “Fear”, search for the root cause of concerns rather than the lead weight of fear, your pack will get lighter. A lighter pack gives you more opportunities for adventure on the trail.  If nothing else, it might just give you a smile.


Oh…there is one more fear that we didn’t address… What about the Fear of Success? Hmmm….now that’s an interesting point.  I’ve met many people who are deathly afraid of succeeding. Are you one of them? I’ll be looking for you on the trail…

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