Don’t Let Fear Keep You From Success

Personal Development What Your Father Should Have Taught You

If you don’t get up and face something that has knocked you down there is a good chance that next time you face that situation you will be afraid of it. Fear seems to be rampant in our society and the entire victim mentality oozes with fear as does our social and public media. Don’t let fear control your life. There is no joy in that, in fact you will find that joy seriously eludes you.

You need to get back up on the horse that threw you!

Here is another installment of What Your Father Should Have Taught You. Getting back up on the horse that threw you. That is an old saying that my Dad used to pass on. It speaks to a truth that was well known in the American West and my Dad was born in 1919. He didn’t have a car as a teenager, he had a horse and he rode it in town to be with his friends. My Dad loved horses and he rode them whenever he could. His influence may have influenced me to enter the US Cavalry when I graduated High School.

Anyone who has broken horses knows that if a breaker doesn’t get back up on the horse that threw him he is done. The best way to overcome the fear and apprehension is to face it again as soon as possible and to overcome it! How different from how the more recent generations were raised where they were so sheltered from adversity that fear and self-absorption seem to be their primary driving force. You see it constantly applied by media. Fear seems to be the primary motivator they use. Everything is an emergency, or an unprecedented crisis.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain

In the book Dune by Frank Herbert fear is called “The mind killer.” But it not only kills rational thought it also kills opportunity. And steals success from us.

I don’t like fear. I hate it. When I was little I was very afraid. One of my earliest memories was being afraid of a loud stranger. I toddled over to where my father sat. He was leaning forward with his forearms on his thighs and his hands held loosely in front of him. I ducked under his hands and looked out from standing between his legs, looking through his hands and fingers. The one thing I remember most clearly is not the fear of the stranger but the feeling that nothing could harm me when I was protected by my father’s powerful hands and presence. I had to be very small to be able to do that.

Unfortunately, from a certain point of view, I grew up and couldn’t hide behind my father’s hands. But then I have done things I never could have imagined when I was a toddler. It’s a trade-off. I cannot begin to tell you how many things I didn’t do when I was little because I was afraid I would look stupid, clumsy, or fail. I missed some opportunities that I still have today and wonder how my life would have been different if I took them.

Fortunately, my father always encouraged me to face my fears so I learned to face my fears rather than hide from them. After I joined the US Army my training helped and at one point I had 3 six foot boa constrictors so I could face my fear of snakes. I hated being afraid of things because of all the opportunities I had missed and I later came to the realization that I sometimes learned more from mistakes than from successes. I remember reading of a famous businessman who was asked what was different this time that made him successful after three bankruptcies. “That’s easy,” he responded. “It’s the lessons I learned from the three business failures.”

Almost no one succeeds the first time they try something. When we see performers, craftsmen, artists, and others who have a great reputation they did not start out as great. They learned over time. What if they had been afraid to begin?

I remember watching an old show: Gunsmoke. I was only half paying attention when I heard a voice I recognized. It was Harrison Ford! He was playing a bit part as a thug in a gang that was in town to kill sheriff Matt Dillon. No one starts out as great. They become great through hard work and overcoming obstacles.

I have tried to give that realization to my children and grand-children.

I remember taking my sons to the park. They wanted to climb things I was afraid they were too little for but I let them try. I wasn’t stupid about it. I didn’t just sit ten yards away and let them go. As they started to get high enough I moved close enough that I could catch them. Never letting them know I was scared they would fall, I made them think I was there just to tell them what a good job they were doing and how proud I was of them. I did tell my youngest son when I realized that he had climbed to the top of a pine tree when he was seven that I didn’t want him climbing higher than the roof of the house when he was alone. Safety is good. Fear is not.

But fear can be a powerful influence on us. I remember talking to my stepdaughter. She desperately wanted to dance at a medieval ball. She had done all the practice classes but was too scared to dance when asked to. She was afraid she would mess up. Dancing is not something we do to be perfect. It is to have fun. I told her about all of the times I had missed out on things I wanted and how I learned that everyone is too busy having fun they don’t care about how well you dance. They are busy dancing. But her fears were strong and she never danced that night. It made me sad as my wife and I danced, looking over at her standing on the edge of the fun. I tried again to encourage her but the fear overcame her desire to have fun. It still makes me sad to think of it. But it is not an unusual story. Most of us, if not all, can probably relate to it.

Sometimes, fear of failure or ridicule is even scarier to some than physical threats. I know that helped me through the army basic training. When I got there I was literally, a 90-pound weakling and couldn’t do three push-ups. But I was afraid that if I failed, no matter what others thought, I would never be able to look at myself in the mirror again. So I didn’t fail no matter how unprepared I was for the physical challenges. The mental ones were simple so that made up some. I was too stubborn to give up. I still am. Eventually, I went to the Drill Sergeant Academy and on to officer school in ROTC with a US Army scholarship. By that time, while not maxing the PT test completely I could regularly max two of the three events and I did well on the third.

We can change. It just requires mental and physical discipline and a determination to never give up – especially don’t give in to irrational fear or fear that keeps you from doing your best. Being stubborn can help you face your fears but like everything else, too much of anything can be bad. A little fear can be a warning that keeps us alive. Too much prevents us from doing our best and overcoming challenges.

We need to face our fears and overcome them. Get back up on the “horse that has thrown you off” no matter how much it hurts and face your fear. If you wait then the fear will only grow so the sooner you face it the better. It won’t get easier if you wait so don’t.

This is something that your father should have taught you as mine taught me.

Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it… that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear. – Dale Carnegie

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