MGU 68 | Feeling Afraid

 

Why do we hold ourselves back when we are about to do something we are really passionate about? Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen attribute this resistance to feeling afraid that we might not get our desired results. In this episode, Jason and Whitney get uncomfortable digging deep into their selves and unraveling their greatest fears in life. Listen in and discover the distinction between bravery and fearlessness and why the latter should not be our goal. Fear will always accompany us in our creative journeys, and it does have a certain function, but we should never let it take the wheel as we venture into the unknown.

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The Two-Fold Nature Of Fear: Friend or Foe?

One thing that has been on my mind and my heart a lot, and not just in 2020, but since I entered my 40s if I’m honest about is the idea of our relationship to fear and how we navigate this topic of fear. One of the things that Whitney and I love to talk about on the show, if it’s your first time joining us here on This Might Get Uncomfortable, is the dynamics of how our mindset, belief systems, relationship to fear, purpose, heart and soulfulness play out in our lives. We haven’t dedicated an entire episode to the dynamics of fear. I’ve been waiting for the right moment to bring this to Whitney and if it is your first time joining us or you are a longtime reader, we do things improvisationally here in the sense that Whitney or I will have an idea, a nudging or an inspiration for a topic and we won’t let each other know what that is.

We surprise one another. If you ever heard either of us react with, “Interesting,” it’s because the other person doesn’t know what the other person’s going to talk about. This idea of fear though, it’s loaded. It’s multidimensional in the sense that people have fears around different things. Some people can be mortally afraid of one thing and it doesn’t bother someone else. An example would be public speaking. There was a survey that went around in mid-2010 serving a few thousand Americans about what their greatest fears were. Right at that top of the list, I believe it was even greater than the fear of death was the fear of public speaking. For me, that’s not a big deal. Public speaking isn’t nothing. I got that in the bag but apparently thousands, perhaps if we extrapolate it, millions of people are mortified by the idea of getting up in front of a group of other humans and speaking publicly.

This episode I want to dedicate, Whitney, to talking about not our relationship to fear, but I want to talk about our greatest fears. I want to dig in and go there because I don’t believe that I’ve ever admitted publicly what my greatest fears are. I’ve been ruminating on this and meditating on this subject, especially during this time of quarantine and shelter at home that we’ve been in during the COVID-19 crisis. I’ve been literally meditating on my relationship to these giant fears. One thing that I guess I’ve been thinking about is a couple of books. One we’ve mentioned before, which is The Fear Cure by Lissa Rankin and her wonderful perspectives on loss, death, letting go and fear. The other one is The Top Five Regrets Of The Dying. This is a book that came out in 2012. Bronnie Ware was a palliative caregiver compiling these observations that she had of people who were at the end of their lives and the regrets that they had.

That’s an interesting jump-off point before I pass the ball back to you, Whitney, to talk about fears. She talked about these top five regrets and the first one she mentioned was I’d wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. The second one was I wish I hadn’t worked so much. The third one was I wish I had the courage to express my feelings more. Fourth, I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Number five, I wish that I had let myself be happier. I remember reading this back in 2012 when it came out, but it’s related to the topic. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself. That one cuts me right to the heart because I often wonder, Whit, if I’m living my authentic life. This is something that still haunts me and I think about it all the time or if I’m doing what others expect of me. That one particularly cuts to the bone. Do you ever ruminate on that? Do any of these resonate with you or hit you the way they hit me?

To me, this is number one, which is I wish I’d live a life that was true to myself. It’s challenging though because what’s true and meaningful to us in one moment can change and not be as meaningful or the things that we’re passionate about, excited about, truer to us, these things can change. If you’re a human being who is a seeker in this life, someone who is constantly looking for new information, growth and transformation, then meaning naturally changes for you. What are you passionate about? What are you involved in? What are you focusing your energy on? It’s almost like a bit of a moving target this idea of living authentically to oneself and being true to oneself. We’ve touched on this in a previous episode about aging where I talked about my fear of mortality and Whitney talked me off a ledge. She’s like, “You’re only 42. You’re not even halfway through your life yet.”

We don’t know how long we’re going to live. We never know that. I suppose this idea of death for me is not so much the fear of dying, leaving this body and whatever may be waiting in the next incarnation, the other side of this reality, or whatever you want to believe in heaven, multiple, whatever that may be. It’s this idea that I didn’t do everything I wanted to do in this lifetime. There are some big things in terms of things that I know I haven’t done yet that I’ve been putting off that I’ve been afraid to do, that I’ve been afraid to focus my energy on. I’ve been trying to sit with why do I and why do we as humans have this tendency to continue to put things off that are meaningful to us? Why do we do that? Things that we know we’re passionate about, things that we know are deeply meaningful are in our hearts that we dream of.

The things that we daydream about when we’re at work, we have a lunch break, when we have a little downtime during a day or in particular during this time of shelter in place we’ve been going through. Perhaps there have been some dreams that have been gnawing at us, picking at us or poking us. I guess the question is why do we hold ourselves back? There may be a day of reckoning for us near the end of our lives or if something suddenly happens to us where we reflect on the fact that we haven’t given it our all or done everything that we wanted to do. In a big summer, if we talk about our greatest fears, that’s one of the biggest ones for me is this idea that I’m going to be near the end of my life at whatever point that is and realizing that I didn’t do everything that was in my heart to do.

That honestly terrifies me. It reminds me of my favorite Dr. Wayne Dyer quote which gives me chills when I think about this quote. He’s got a lot of great quotes. His quote was, “Don’t die with your song still inside of you,” which is a double entendre for me because I love music so much. If I’m honest about it, I haven’t given my music my all. Whitney, you know this, close friends and perhaps colleagues of ours who are the audience of the show know that I’ve dabbled in music for years now. I’ve been in and out of bands and done things like that but if I’m honest with myself, I haven’t given it my all and that eats away at me. It’s one of those things where sometimes when I’m alone, I stay up at night wondering why I’m not giving it my full effort because I love it. Why am I not doing that? These are the things that keep me up at night, Whit.

They keep a lot of people up and this is a relatable thing or maybe people don’t realize why they’re being kept up so much. It also reminds me of another one of our favorite books which is The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield. That book is all about resistance. A lot of the times that we face resistance is because of some fear that we have. I think what you’re saying here is you’re not doing the things that you feel like you want to do or that you ought to do. It’s helpful, at least for me, to examine the resistance to it. I was experiencing that lately. I’ve had this project, to give a specific example, that I’ve been working on in my heart and my mind for months.

I have the title. It’s called Beyond Measure and I dream of the day where I’ll be able to announce on the show that it’s launched officially. I mentioned it once before because I remember your reaction to it, Jason. It’s been on my heart for a lot longer but it started to take form in January 2020 and then I got this strong feeling about it in February and then COVID-19 happened and I thought like, “I’m going to use that as an excuse not to launch this.” My plan was to announce it in March or April 2020 and now here we are in May. I’ve been examining like, “What is it that is causing me not to do this?” It’s fear but it’s also that resistance. It’s important to get specific with our fears and what’s causing that sense of resistance especially when it becomes to something that we’re passionate about.

I’m still trying to figure it out. Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint it on your own and it helps to discuss it a lot, which is one of the reasons we love doing this show is we find that the more you discuss something with other people or say it out loud. It becomes easier to identify your fears. It’s easier to reflect on things. This is another reason why meditation and journaling are powerful. It’s because if we can give ourselves the chance to open up about it, it helps. One of the reasons that we get stuck in our fears is because we’re in our heads, but not in a positive way. Meditation to me is a positive way to be in your head but then the common experience that we have in our heads is that we sit there, focus, repeat over and over again all of those fears and resistance that’s based in fears like I’m not good enough is a big one.

This is why Jason and I released an eBook on this subject called You Are Enough which you can download for free on our website at Wellevatr.com. That was the first free offering that we put out there because this is one of the biggest pain points for people, not feeling good enough. I feel like that not good enough in itself is a fear, but that feeling is also rooted in a deeper level of fear. On a surface level, it’s easy to say, “I don’t feel like I’m enough.” You have to keep going another level to try to figure out why exactly you don’t feel you’re enough. Sometimes it’s the fear of going that next level deeper. When I’m saying that I’m envisioning water like an iceberg or something and you can see things on the surface, but people are terrified to go underwater to see what’s below. In the case of an iceberg, there’s something even bigger under the surface and it’s like, “I don’t want to know how bad it is under there. I’m going to pay attention to what’s on the surface level.”

When you think about the ocean, some people are terrified. They’re like, “There are sharks in there. There are crazy sea creatures. I don’t know how deep it is. What if it never ends? I get stuck down there and I can’t breathe. I run out of oxygen.” It’s hard to go deeper within yourself. A lot of us stay on the surface and it seems exhausting sometimes even for Jason and I. I can speak for myself here and say that I’m aware of my resistance and aware of my fear, but sometimes the energy of trying to dissect it and resolve it feels too much and I’m like, “I’ll do it another time.” This is one of the reasons people go to therapy, but then they only scratch the surface and they’re going to therapy for years and years and not making what we might perceive as progress. The other thing is that you can’t rush these things and sometimes it does take years and years. Sometimes it takes a whole lifetime. I don’t think in our lifetimes we’re ever going to get to the point of being perfectly healed, clear and completely fearless.

My observations of some of the wisest, most Zen people out there, they still struggle with things. That’s part of the human experience. The goal is not necessarily to figure it all out and suddenly one day life is perfect and easy and all of that, but you can take a day-to-day perspective of finding peace, chipping away at it, and also getting into the point where you feel good at that moment. That’s what happens to me. I go through these spikes of anxiety and oftentimes if I reflect on it, breathe, be present and acknowledge the fear that I’m having at least becomes easier to cope, deal with and it gives me a starting point for the next day or the next time I want to examine it. The trick is not putting it off and avoiding it.

You can be afraid and still take action in spite of it. Once you get into the action, your fear will recede. Click To Tweet

It’s interesting you bring this up and your process, Whit. The thing that I flashed on right at the end of you elaborating your feelings and your relationship to resistance and fear. I feel this is an analogy that flashed in my mind. It’s almost like a video game to me in the sense of in a typical video game structure, the levels get gradually or drastically harder as you go through the video game. You fight larger or more powerful monsters or adversaries depending on the levels you go through. As your powers grow, the challenges, scary monsters and villains grow typically in a one-player format game.

If I think about the stuff that I’ve chosen to do that I’ve willfully chosen to work toward and do, there are many examples of this. Moving away from home scared the shit out of me years ago when I left Detroit for the first time moving all the way across the country. Getting a TV series on Cooking Channel, which was scary as hell. Writing my first book felt horrifically scary and I never talk about this. This is why I wanted to do this episode because I certainly haven’t communicated this in any kind of public format but doing these things scared the shit out of me because part of it was I put so much weight and importance on doing a good job with these things. These opportunities were created or manifested, whatever you want to say about it.

There was almost this idea that, “Don’t fuck it up. Do not suck. You’re going to be on TV. You’re writing this book. You moved all the way across the country to create this life for you. Don’t fuck it up.” I don’t know that I necessarily enjoyed or have enjoyed, this is interesting. I’ve never had this realization before that I don’t think I allowed myself to enjoy the creative process of a lot of big projects in my life because I put so much fucking pressure on myself to do a good job, to be perfect at it, to kick ass, and to be the best I could be. Sometimes I not only didn’t enjoy it as much or allow myself that enjoyment, but I also didn’t necessarily pat myself on the back afterward and be like, “You did a great job.” It was like, “What’s the next thing?”

If I reflect on it too this idea of the analogy of a video game, as we go through the life of identifying something we’re afraid of and saying, “That scares the shit out of me but I’m going to do anyway.” I feel like I’ve had a willingness to continue to do that. I also feel there are more advanced levels to this game of looking at fear, understanding the fear, choosing to move toward the fear, and do the thing we’re afraid of anyway. There are still a few levels where I’ve opened the door or graduated at that level and been like, “Not ready.” I refuse or to this point have been terrified of those particular monsters or villains. Those are thought forms and belief systems about ourselves anyway.

I believe all these externalized mythologies, we talked about this in the National Tell A Story Day: In Praise Of The Power Of Storytelling episode but this idea of archetypes of monsters, villains and bad guys that they’re reflections of figments of our consciousness and belief systems about ourselves anyway. For me, if I think about the things that I am terrified, those monsters and villains that I haven’t conquered in the video game per se, it’s like finishing a record like my own album, not with a band but my own songs. Putting my own songs out there and finishing an album is definitely in there. At the top is the idea of having kids. You know well as my best friend how much I’ve struggled with this and how terrified I am of this but those are two things immediately where I’m like, “Those are too scary.” I know it, I feel it and I acknowledge it but I’m not quite sure how to wrestle with those and win. 

Why do you use the word, win?

Probably because of the video game analogy is binary of you face the scary thing and you either get killed by it or you win and defeat it. I’ve tried to understand the terror of both of these things for me. There’s something about permanence or the lasting ripple effect. This is an ego thing if I’m honest about it. About with putting an album out or putting my music out there, the realization that I’m not as good of a musician or a singer as I think I am or other people have told me I am and recording something, paying all of the money, the months and months to record something, and then finally putting out and being like, “I fucking hate this.” I’m terrified of putting my full heart into my songs in my music that no one’s heard, releasing it, realizing it’s socked and I hate it. That terrifies me somehow of the idea of I think I’m this good but then I’m not. With the fatherhood thing, that’s a deep well to spelunk. 

There’s so much to that. I’m afraid I’m going to fuck up my kids and somehow have certain tendencies like my father did and want to abandon them. I’m going to be a horrible father and I’m giving up too much of my freedom. The permanence of caring for another being for the rest of my life like that. I’m all right with animals. That’s fine. That’s like, “You guys are a twenty-year commitment, but a lifetime commitment. I don’t know.” Something about that terrifies the shit out of me. In therapy and a lot of psychedelic medicine, particularly the Ayahuasca episodes. I’ve tried to exhume and get deeper into this fear of permanence, commitment, and why this particular idea of fatherhood and caring for a child scares the hell out of me. It still terrifies me.

It’s all interesting and it’s part of the unraveling. I pulled up my notes or the highlights I made in the book, The Fear Cure, that we referenced earlier. What you were saying here about winning, there’s a good line in that book about how we live in a culture that teaches us that if you want something you have to get it. You have to push, strive, put your ass in the chair until it’s done, make it happen, go for it. Put your nose to the grindstone, no pain, no gain. If it’s not going well, try harder but never let them see you sweat. For Pete’s sake, don’t stop and save her what you’ve achieved because there’s a bigger goal right around the corner.

That hits. You know when something hits and it feels like someone pricks you with a needle and you’re like, “Keep going.”

Another point that the author, Lissa, makes is that you may well achieve everything your ego desires only to discover that achieving your ego’s desires doesn’t satisfy your soul. That’s something that we can conceptually understand. We talk about that so much and how we, as a culture, especially in a city like Los Angeles or working in the entertainment business and very much so in the influencer community, it’s ego-driven. It’s like you’ve got to go higher and higher. Part of the reason we feel that way is because we don’t ever feel satisfied because it’s all based on the ego. It’s not possible to ever feel satisfied. That’s maybe not the way the ego works. It’s always going to want more. One of Lissa’s points in the book is being less sperm and more egg. I think this is especially important here is that you can be good at doing things, but you need to learn how to receive because if you’re trying to do all the time, what are you getting?

If you never stopped to receive anything, you’re literally not getting anything, you’re giving. We do live in this culture of give, go, and deep down we do want to receive but we are also not being set up to receive. If we’re giving, going, striving, and wanting more. We don’t even have a chance to savor it. If we do, it’s so fleeting before you move on to the next thing. The big point in The Fear Cure is about surrendering. You can stop spiraling into all of your fear, your pain, all that suffering and just be. Come into a good relationship with uncertainty, facing uncertainty with excitement and curiosity instead of fear. Accepting the inevitability of loss, knowing that loss can help you grow or getting uncomfortable can help you grow too of course. Trusting or at least hoping that you’re being guided by some higher force or energy, whatever you define it, as God if you’d like, spirit, universe and tapping into your purpose, trusting the world more without ever having to understand why things are happening.

I think anytime that we experienced strong fear, that’s such a great opportunity to examine it and let it pass because we don’t have nearly as much control as we think we do. That’s the biggest lesson I keep hearing. Whenever I’m experiencing fear, it’s usually about something that hasn’t happened yet. It’s projecting into the future or it’s a fear that something’s going to happen based on the past, my past experiences especially. If you meditate or journal, if you can be present with yourself, fear is not there in that present moment. If you journal it, you can look back and see all the times that you were afraid of something that never happened. It reminds me of that. There was a magnet I think or it was a picture printed and magnetized to the refrigerator in your home in Venice, Jason. It was a famous quote.

You’re amazing because I wanted to bring this up and you’d completely read my mind, Whitney.

MGU 68 | Feeling Afraid

Feeling Afraid: People have fears around different things. A person can be mortally afraid of something that does not bother someone else.

 

Did I read your mind or we’re on the same wavelengths as this? Are we close that we can anticipate?

It’s a Mark Twain quote. It was in the fridge at my old house in Venice Beach, “It isn’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just isn’t so.”

It might have been that, but I was thinking of something different. The one I’m thinking about is a famous quote and I don’t remember the words off the top of my head, but the idea is that a lot of great things have happened to me. One of those things that’s in my head clearly but trying to verbalize it into the correct words. It ends with none of them happened. Wasn’t it on the refrigerator?

It was Mark Twain, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

That’s the one.

Mark Twain dropped a lot of quotes. 

Isn’t it always interesting when you find quotes from people in different generations and you realize that as human beings we have experienced a lot of the same challenges no matter what our circumstances were? We think that modern life is going to solve all of our problems, but the truth is we have these basic problems that are there no matter how much we try to control them, change them or make things better, they’re still going to be there.

Joseph Campbell, who I love to bring up, is one of my absolute favorite authors. In his book he said, “The world is a mess. It’s always been a mess.” In our time, there’s a tendency to be like, “Things are horrible.” His point is like, “When the world has always been a messy, confusing, strange place, it’s always been that way.” Our job is not to fix the world, change the world or save the world. He’s like, “Save, change and accept yourself.” I’m riffing on his thing. To your point, Whitney, for all the advancements in technology, society and everything that we have, do and create, we still struggle with all of these things, these fears, shortcomings and perceptions of not enough.

These are certainly not new struggles for human beings. It’s what you and I discuss on the show. The deepest underlyings of meaning, purpose, fear, terror, triumph, love and authenticity. All this shit is not new perhaps the circumstances that we’re facing, the particular circumstances have never existed in the combination they have. To back up your point, Whit, the things we struggle, tumble, and wrestle with, humanity has struggled, tumbled, and wrestle within different versions for eons. One thing that I have found interesting and I go back to music. For me, music has certainly been one of the most important things in my life. If people don’t know me, they don’t know how deep the love that I have for music goes. As I mentioned the beginning of this show having played in different bands, sung and played music for twenty years but listening to music growing up. More importantly, in the times I have been depressed and struggled with suicidal ideation and feeling completely devoid of meaning in my life.

What is the point? Massive existential dread. There have been specific albums, artists, and music that have been with me through those times and those songs, artists, and records hold a deeply special place. There are books too. One of the quotes that I remember about the fear that has stuck with me for years, and he’s not necessarily one of my favorite artists of all time, but for some reason this song off of his solo album. Julian Casablancas, most people know as the lead singer of The Strokes, the band out of New York City. He created a solo album years ago and there’s a song called 11th Dimension. The quote from the song is, “It won’t end here. Your faith has got to be greater than your fear.” I remember the first time I heard that song. I stopped and I was like, “Whoa.” It goes like, “It won’t end here. Your faith has got to be greater than your fear.” I was like, “That’s a brilliant line.”

I realized that riffing off of what you said from Lissa’s book, The Fear Cure, if I surrender my little ego into thinking that I’m in charge of all this, I have the ultimate control of my life. I have the faith to surrender that there are God, universe, spirit, my ancestor’s spirit guides, whatever anybody believes in non-physical entities or even people in your life that are supporting you and loving you in whatever way. Faith comes in when we can’t see the outcome, but we trust in something bigger and greater and more expansive than ourselves. For me, riffing on this amazing line from Julian’s song, when I’m anchored in my faith, when I’m deeply in trust that everything’s going to be okay and I’m supported and loved and taken care of, I find that the fear doesn’t creep in as much. I returned to that lyric and I listen to that song from time to time to remind myself to anchor yourself in that faith. You got to anchor yourself in that whether that’s religious or not, spiritual, or whatever that is to you. Anchoring and aligning myself with a greater, more expansive energy, is a way to get me through those times when I’m scared as hell.

Something else that is worth considering too is fear isn’t a bad thing. We associate that with, “I can’t be fearful.” That’s also part of our culture. We think of this hustle culture and definitely in terms of how many cultures view masculinity is you can’t show that you’re afraid because fear is often associated with weakness. If this is something that most people, if not all people are struggling with, then a lot of people are trying to pretend that they don’t have that fear. Avoiding it may even make it worse. It’s like anything if you hold it in, it eats away at you and it causes stress. A lot of stress is rooted in fear. If you allow yourself to experience it and let it pass through you, it might happen and dissolve a lot faster. It also reminds me of Marianne Williamson who says that the opposite of love is not hate, it’s fear. If we can experience that fear and then give ourselves more love during it, that fear will dissolve as a result of the love or a little bit it will still be there.

We don’t know if we ever become fully fearless, but when we’re feeling fear we can use it to our advantage. I pulled up some of my highlights from The War Of Art. Towards the end of the book, there’s a great line that says, “The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear, then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.” Part of the advice is that you can be afraid but you can still take action in spite of it. Once you get into the action, your fear will recede and you’ll be okay. If you can look at it in a different way and look at fear as part of the process and a good sign, then it can benefit you more.

Sometimes when we feel like we can’t overcome something, we give up. We say, “This is too hard. I haven’t figured this out.” Where we can beat ourselves up and think like, “There’s something wrong with me. I’m always afraid.” That becomes part of our excuse. Another section of The War Of Art talks about how that fear is a good sign and self-doubt, fear as an indicator. It’s telling us what we have to do. The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it. Resistance is experienced as fear. The degree of fear equates to the strength of resistance. Therefore, the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that the enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there would be no resistance.

Bravery means doing something scary. Fearlessness means not even understanding what the word “scary” means. Click To Tweet

I love that point because it’s like, “You want me to learn how to cook eggplant parmigiana and I’ve never done it before, so what? I don’t care that much about eggplant parmigiana.” 

Vegan eggplant parmigiana.

They’re like, “I challenge you to make a vegan eggplant parma like a big whoop.” They’re like, “I challenge you to finish your album in six months.” I’m like, “What do you mean six months?”

Another point within this book is that the counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death. It’s also a matter of how you position yourself because you might position yourself as being self-confident, but deep down you’re terrified.

It sounds like a lot of influencer parties we go to in LA. 

That’s the thing, it’s part of the culture. We associate being insecure as being weak. A lot of us want to put our faces on and say that we’re super confident. I think about how I’ve met and judged a lot of content creators over the years. They seem confident on camera but then when you meet them in person, they’re super awkward, insecure and nervous. It’s like, “What if that’s more of the reality? What if they’re not trying to bullshit you by acting super confident all the time?” Even the people that stay at home, the super introverted content creators that don’t even want to push themselves to go and put on a fake mask because they think that they have to. The trouble is that sometimes we feel we have to present ourselves as something that we’re not because that’s the way the culture that we’re in is.

That’s one of the most common human experiences we have. It makes up many movies or TV shows. Any fictional works of art are often based on this desire. The storyline of somebody feeling they can’t be themselves to be loved and accepted. They present themselves as something that they’re not. In the story, they realize that they’re better off being themselves and that when they’re themselves, they’re more accepted. That’s absolutely true. Something that a lot of us believe and yet many people still feel like they need to pretend that there’s something else. I’ve gone through those phases many times. I still do in a lot of ways. I’ve been slowly unraveling that and I’ve been in resistance to that culture.

I feel like the act of putting on layers of makeup, doing my hair, and trying to present myself as what is culturally acceptable as an attractive woman. I get to an event and I’m like, “I spent all this time and effort putting on this literal mask. I don’t even care. Why does it matter?” It’s tough because then we see examples of people being rewarded for their masks or people being rewarded for their true selves and their true selves are not us. I had a conversation about this earlier with somebody who is utilizing TikTok and it’s like, “I saw somebody else doing this so I’m going to go copy them and hope that it works for me too.” Part of me is like, “That makes sense as a social media strategy.”

I can see why you would do that, but then another part of me cringe because I thought if we don’t feel like we’re getting the results that we want, a lot of times we turn to other people and we’re like, “That person’s getting results. I’m going to do what they’re doing.” If that’s not authentic to you, they’re not your results. They’re somebody else’s results they’re trying to get. That in itself is bizarre if you think about it and it doesn’t feel that good. Take it from me and I’m sure Jason can say the same thing. The number of times I’ve tried modeling myself after somebody else thinking like, “I want what they have.” Did Paul Jarvis talk about this in our episode with him, Jason? If we try hard to live the life like somebody else, we’re living their lives, not ours.

We did touch on that with Paul and it also hearkens back again to things we’ve talked about with Joseph Campbell who had said that if you’re going into the forest and you’re on a path, it’s a path that someone else has created. You’re not walking your path, you’re walking a path that someone else has already laid out. Your point with it is conflicting though because if we look at some of the industries per se that people are celebrated for their achievements. One of the ones that I think about that is coming up because there is a docuseries on ESPN called The Last Dance which is all about the Chicago Bulls run of the championships in the late ‘90s. It talks a lot about Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen and the whole Bull’s mystique. 

It’s funny you bring that up because I decided that I’m going to watch it even though I’m not into sports. I’m still curious about watching it. I’m excited to see where we’re going to go with this.

I’m a huge basketball fan. Spoiler alert, everyone. I played basketball when I was young, junior high school. It’s my favorite sport. I don’t watch any other sports other than basketball. I love that game. It’s something that still brings me joy to this day when I pick up a ball and go to the local basketball court. The point is they dove in one of the episodes about not only the relationship between Kobe Bryant who unfortunately passed away and Michael Jordan. How much Kobe initially idolized Michael and wanted to cultivate a relationship with him in a personal context which they did as a big brother, little brother. More importantly that Kobe mindfully and meticulously modeled his playing style, his game, and his moves after Michael Jordan. There’s a YouTube video that has a side-by-side, dual-screen of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant playing games.

It is a mirror image of each other. The turnaround jumpshots, the drives to the basket, the way they would dunk, the way they would assist and the way they carried themselves on the court. First of all, Kobe was a psychotic competitor. They both were students of the game, first at the gym, the last one to leave. My point is it’s a bit confusing the messages we get from society because we see two of the greatest athletes of our generation, one in Kobe who admitted he modeled his exact game after Michael Jordan to the tee. He admitted he copied his moves. It was incredibly successful. One of the greatest players of all time but then we have this other thing of, “You shouldn’t do that because then you’re copying people.”

There are other numerous examples of comedians talking about how much other comedians influenced them. They said, “I took my style from so-and-so. I took the way I deliver jokes from blah-blah.” I don’t want to fill this entire episode with examples, but the most immediate one I can think of because the docuseries is on Michael and Kobe. We get fucked up mentally. I get fucked up mentally sometimes. I’m like, “I’m trying to carve my own path as an artist, a chef, a musician, a speaker, a podcast host.” You’re like, “You guys should do it like Joe Rogan or Tim Ferriss. Be a musician. Be like Ray LaMontagne. Be like Amos.” I’m like, “I want to know who the fuck I am.”

MGU 68 | Feeling Afraid

Feeling Afraid: The more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul.

 

The thing I get caught in, Whitney, and the things that matter most to me in particular is music. I’m glad we’re speaking about this. I was speaking to my vocal coach, Claire, about this. We had an online vocal session. I said, “The greatest struggle for me is I still don’t feel like I found my voice.” She said, “What do you mean by that?” I said, “When I sing and I listened back to me singing, I still feel I’m seven different singers in on.” He sounds a little bit Jeff Buckley and a little bit Scott Weiland. There’s a little bit of Chris Cornell, but he’s not himself. I don’t feel like I found my voice. I still feel like I’m imitating to a degree some amalgam of my seven favorite singers. It fucks with me hard. I struggle with that so much. 

That’s one of the big drawbacks to that pressure to put yourself in a mold or the desire to. A lot of us start to lose sight of who we are because we’re busy trying to be like somebody else who was successful. If you copy somebody, it’s a shortcut to getting similar or the same results. Many coaches online, and we’ve done this too as a marketing strategy simply because we’ve seen it work. It’s like, “Follow my strategies and you’ll get the same results that I did.” Those things have started to make me cringe a little bit even though the point in saying those things or operating that way is that we do look to other people for examples. We want to see that somebody has walked the path before us. If you think of a literal path through the woods, if you’ve never been there before, you’re afraid you’re going to get lost. If you get lost, you won’t survive. If there is a path in front of you that you’ve seen other people walk or you’ve heard that other people have walked and nothing has happened to them, they’ve survived, then you feel more confident doing it.

To some extent, it’s helpful when someone says, “Follow me. I’ll show you the way.” Sometimes it can be a bit manipulative. It depends a lot on your wording and your aim there is if you are either the leader or the follower, in either case, it’s not that you’re saying literally follow my every move. If you think of this path again, do you only step when the other person steps you? Is your pace the exact same? Are you wearing the same clothes? If you’re trying to be a clone of that person, you’re not going to feel like yourself. When you go on a trail and you see that some people walk a little outside of it, it’s also like coloring outside the lines when you’re giving a given a coloring book. Your teacher might be encouraging you to color within the lines because they want it to look pretty and they know that if you color within the lines, that it will look desirable. It’s always neat when somebody colors outside the lines because you’re like, “That’s creative.”

As long as you’re not doing that to be rebellious. If you have a purpose, if you look at this path or drawing in front of you and you say, “I feel like I can do it in a different way because this serves my purpose more. I can add to it. I can make it better in my opinion.” If you look at a trail, there’s a rock in front of you or a stick in front of you. You could jump over it and stay on the path or you could go around it because you found that’s more effective for you. With all these metaphors, much of this is deciding do you want to carve out your own path? You certainly could. Do you want to follow somebody else’s? If so, do you want to do it exactly the way that they have simply because it’s easier and it requires less courage or you find a little combination? There’s no harm in being inspired by somebody. There’s no harm in following somebody to an extent but at what point is it too close to them?

At what point do you do things a little bit different because that’s what you want to do? That’s part of it too, especially when we’re little, we’re often shamed so much by parents and teachers simply because they don’t know any better. That’s how they’ve been taught to teach, lead, or guide. As kids, we start to be afraid of doing things differently. We’re afraid that we won’t fit in. We’ll be punished. We won’t get the results and we’re taught that we want. We’re conditioned into this. It’s sad because then we grow up feeling like we always have to do it a certain way, there’s a right way and a wrong way. If it’s any different than how other people are doing it then that’s wrong. If we don’t get the results, other people are getting them. There’s something wrong with us. That plays out in many different ways in our lives. We become afraid to color outside the lines or to go off the path a little bit even if our souls, our hearts are telling us to do it differently.

If we tune in and we get to the root of the fear as we’ve been talking about in this episode, if we realize that the only reason we want to do things the same as other people is that we’re afraid we won’t get the results. We can try to do things differently and see what those results are and also let go of this big attachment to the results. That’s part of it too. This fear you won’t be accepted and sometimes it’s temporary. A lot of people are considered crazy or weird because they’re different but then over time, if they stay true to who they are, they become accepted the end. If you let go of any attachment to be accepted, let go of attachment to results and follow your heart, then it might end up playing out completely differently and it’s a temporary challenge for you. It might morph into something you could never have expected because you were too busy trying to follow what was working for everybody else. Going back to TikTok, I think about this a lot. I’m passionate about TikTok.

I bring it up in a number of episodes. I love it from a consumption perspective. I find it entertaining. I’ll sit down and watch TikTok, an hour flies by, even though they’re fifteen-second videos. I’ll sit there one after another. It’s addictive and it’s sometimes nice as a form of entertainment for me, but I am also a creator on there. I’ve had to work through a lot of mental challenges with this platform because I’m bringing in a lot of these preconceived notions about my experience on there. It’s like, “I need to get X number of followers. If I don’t have these many followers or get these many views in my videos, then I’m not doing it right. People are going to come to see my account and judge me because of my numbers.” As soon as that thought goes through my head, I start to think, “Why does it matter? Who cares what my numbers are? I love this platform. I’m having fun and being creative on this platform.”

I find myself, if I tap into what I want to do, I want to play around on there regardless of the results. I have this inkling in my heart. I hear this little voice, “Keep going, Whitney. Keep doing what you like to do on this platform because at any point, it may change. You may find that people will like it over time. You have to do something the way that you want to do it for a long period of time and people will enjoy it.” Ultimately, if I continue to detach from any expectations about whether or not somebody’s going to accept me or enough people will accept me. It helps me be freer. I say this as a content creator and a lot of people have this experience on social media even if they’re doing it for personal reasons.

We’ve been conditioned to want all these numbers. It’s like, “Only these many people liked my photo. That photo wasn’t good.” It’s disturbing that we judge whether not we are good if we are doing things right based on how many people agree with us at that moment. My big point is, A) Why does it matter and B) Why don’t you keep doing what you want to do? Who cares what people think about it? What they think may change over time and even if it does never change, who cares? Either way, if you let go of your attachment of expectations and attachment to what other people think of you. Do what you want to do. You’re winning because if they never like you but you’re still doing what you love and how you love to do it, that’s all that matters. If they end up liking you at some point, that’s the icing on the cake.

This is a quantum shift though in how people perceive and how numbers reflect on their worth. We’ve touched upon this in previous episodes of this notion that to achieve certain tiers of the video game, we’ll go back to that analogy again. For a lot of people in the health and wellness, entertainment space, the intersection of a lot of the things that Whitney and I play in, create content, and do our business in. There’s a lot of pressure in certain industries to have numbers so you get, for instance, a publishing deal. In book publishing for a lot of publishers, not all, but a lot especially the big ones, if your aim is to get a book deal on a big publisher, one of the questions they’ll ask you on a phone call is, “What’s your platform like? How big is your platform?” 

Same thing when a record company is looking at you. I was talking to a mutual friend of ours, Ryan Carnes, a couple of years ago. When he goes into castings a lot, they’ll talk to him about his social media following and he’s observed perhaps in his opinion, less qualified or skillful actors getting cast in certain roles because of the size of their social media following. They’re expected to promote the commercial, the short, the digital spot, the movie they’re into their large platform. The pressure that exists in a lot of people’s minds around their intrinsic value as an artist, creator or thought leader, whatever it is in your category that you want to be in. If I want to unlock these “higher levels” of the video game, a book deal, a record deal, getting cast in a great TV show, I’ve got to have the numbers. These industries feed that monster now.

Our friend, Robert Cheeke, that we had one of our best and deeply visceral, emotional and wonderful episode. He was talking about this new book he’s working on and a lot of the self-worth issues he was facing around publishers telling him, “Your following is not big enough. You need a coauthor.” There are a lot of flaws to this thinking in these industries that perpetuate this, “We like your content, but your numbers aren’t high enough” It didn’t use to be that way. You well know, Whitney, a couple of years ago in the Wild West of social media, it was about energy, content, and your particular personality aligning with the publisher, the record company, the brand. It’s evolved in the last decade now into, “We like you but your numbers aren’t good enough.” It can wreak havoc on people’s mindsets. It can drive people to buy fake followers and fake comments. What you texted me, the thing about the quote that said, “Fake followers don’t spend real money.” What was the quote you sent? You sent some great brilliant quote. 

That’s exactly what it was. It was fake followers don’t spend money or something.

You pay what you can easily do. There are companies out there that you can give $10,000, $20,000 and all of a sudden overnight you’ve got 500,000 followers. They’ll create accounts and follow you, but then when it comes time to sell a book, sell a record, or have an affiliate deal where the brand, the record company, or the publisher is expecting you to move a certain number of books based on your following. There is going to be a reckoning at a certain point where they’re like, “What the fuck is going on here? How have you only sold 1,500 books? You have 500,000 followers.” Even if people feel pressure to “cheat” the system or going back to the topic of this episode, they’re afraid that they’re not going to unlock these higher levels of achievement in their industry. If you buy fake followers, fake comments and you do get the big deals, it will bite you in the ass eventually.

Fear will always join the ride. What is important is you don’t let it steer the wheel. Click To Tweet

At least our egos hope that’s the case. We have this desire to do things right and then hope that people that don’t do things that we think are right get punished for it. It’s such a big judgment that we place in other people. One thing that I’ve been learning is to let go of those judgments. If somebody else thinks that the way they’re doing it is right and that conflicts with what I think is right, then it’s not up to me to decide what’s right or wrong. I’ve gone through a lot of phases. If I tap into it, that is my ego talking or sometimes that’s fear. I don’t want to do things that way and that person is doing it and they’re getting results but I think they’re cheating. I am afraid that they’re right all along and that cheating is being rewarded.

It’s like the ego hoping that somebody is doing things differently than me, I perceive them as doing it the wrong way, it’s cheating the system and trying to think of another word there. I found myself judging those people so much and it takes a lot of effort not to judge. I’ve been trying to unravel that for many years because I’ve been in the habit of judging people. I’ve been in the habit of saying like, “That’s the wrong way and I hope that they get punished for it. I hope they fall on their ass for doing it the wrong way because that’ll give me satisfaction.” The fear there is that they’re going to be rewarded for cheating. They’re going to be rewarded for doing it differently than me. I’m going to believe that I should have done it their way all along. It’s the ego saying, “My way was the wrong way all along and their way was the right way.” There’s a big judgment on cheating in general, but it isn’t cheating, maybe it’s a different strategy.

Who even defines what cheating is or not? Granted we’re not talking about relationship cheating. That’s a whole other subject matter. Even with that, I’ll be honest, I’ll say it here, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to have compassion for people that “cheat” on one another because when I was younger, I was paying much attention to this cultural definition and shaming of cheating. I was like, “I can’t believe that person would do that to the other. How dare they?” The older I get, the more perspective I have on relationships, what other people have been through and learned more, you can start to see why people make those decisions. It doesn’t mean that they’re a bad person, but they’ve made a decision based on fear of themselves, it’s their ego, weakness or whatever it is. It’s the cliché line of people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Most of us have experienced something where we’ve made a decision that hurt somebody else. Most of us have done something because our ego was in charge, fear was ruling us, or we wanted to be rebellious and say, “Screw it. I’m going to do whatever I want and I’m more important.” This comes to play in our professional lives in many different examples of all of these rules that we have. Sometimes people don’t want to follow the rules. Even if that means they hurt a few people, they want to be selfish. Who are we to say what’s right or wrong is my point? Everybody is on a different path for different reasons and when you label something as right or wrong, that’s usually an ego perspective on it.

It’s interesting because in the context we’re talking about of industry, followings and things like that, they are not in a defined set of rules. If we compare it to sports or we compare it to an activity where it’s like, “You can’t dribble out of bounds or you can’t shoot from this area.” There are defined metrics and rules for certain activities in life. What we’re discussing in particular in terms of social media, book sales, record sales, it’s something Whitney and I talk about a lot because we hear a lot of stories and insider information about people that have done some interesting things to sell products and sell books. To your point, Whitney, there isn’t a set of rules to abide by. Is it cheating if there is no set of rules? Is it our judgment of they ought not to do it that way? It’s interesting you bring that up. I want to jump into a book that I revisited that I started reading years ago. It was one of those situations where, “I love this book. I’m excited.”

I’m going to read the first two chapters and lay it down. I’ve gone deeper into this book. The book is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Elizabeth Gilbert is somebody that Whitney and I both enjoy on her social media feeds. We both feel she consistently puts out some super heartfelt, vulnerable, the real stuff, her captions in our posts. We adore Elizabeth Gilbert and her spirit. There’s a chunk of the book that I want to read about fear specifically. It starts off with the fear you need and the fear you don’t need. You think I’m going to tell you that you need to become fearless in order to live a more creative life, but I’m not going to tell you that because I don’t happen to believe that’s true. Creativity is a path for the brave, but it’s not a path for the fearless. It’s important to recognize this distinction. Bravery means doing something scary. Fearlessness means not even understanding what the word scary means.

If your goal in life is to become fearless, then I believe you’re already on the wrong path because the only truly fearless people I’ve ever met were straight-up sociopaths and a few exceptionally reckless three-year-olds. Those both aren’t good role models for anyone. The truth is you need your fear for obvious reasons of basic survival. Evolution did well to instill a fear reflex within you because if you didn’t have any fear, you’d lead a short, crazy, stupid life. You’d walk right into traffic blindly. You drift off into the woods and be eaten by bears. You jump into giant waves off the coast of Hawaii despite being a poor swimmer, and you might even marry a guy who said on the first date, “I don’t necessarily believe people were designed by nature to be monogamous creatures.”

You absolutely do need some fear in order to protect you from actual dangers, but you do not need your fear in the realm of creative expression. You don’t. It’s because you don’t need your fear when it comes up to creativity, it doesn’t mean your fear won’t show up. Trust me, your fear will always show up especially when you’re trying to be inventive or innovative or do something brand new. Your fear will always be triggered by your creativity because creativity asks you to enter the realms of uncertain outcomes and fear hates uncertain outcomes. Your fear, which is programmed by your evolution to be hypervigilant and insanely overprotective, will always assume that any uncertain outcome is destined to end in bloody horrible death. Your fear is like a mall cop who thinks he’s a Navy SEAL. He hasn’t slept in days. He’s hopped up on Red Bull and he’s liable to shoot at his own shadow in an absurd effort to keep everyone “safe.”

This is all natural and human and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It is, however, something that very much needs to be dealt with. This is a cool analogy that Elizabeth gets into how she deals with her fear. This is something that I try and remember to do all the time. It comes up in my mind often when I feel my fear come up in a big way. She says, “This is how I’ve learned to deal with my fear. I made a decision a long time ago that if I want my creativity in my life and I do, then I have to make space for fear too, plenty of space. I decided that I would need to build an expansive enough interior life that my fear and my creativity could always peacefully coexist since it appeared that they would always be together. In fact, it seems to me that my fear and my creativity are conjoined twins, as evidenced by the fact that creativity cannot take a single step forward without fear marching right alongside it.

Fear and creativity share a womb, they were born at the same time and they still share some vital organs. This is why we have to be careful how we handle our fear because I’ve noticed that when people try to kill off their fear and try to become fearless, they often end up inadvertently murdering their creativity in the process. I don’t try to kill my fear. I don’t go to war against it or try and banish it. Instead I make space for it, heaps of space every single day. I’m making space for fear right this moment and I allow my fear to live and breathe and stretch out its legs comfortably. It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back. If I can relax, then I see my fear relaxes too. In fact, I cordially invite fear to come along with me everywhere I go. I even have a welcoming speech prepared for fear, which I deliver right before embarking on any new project or big adventure.

It goes something like this, “Dear fear, creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life and that you take your job seriously. Apparently, your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting. May I say you are superb at your job? By all means, keep doing your job if you feel you must but I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us. Go ahead and make yourself at home.

Understand this point, creativity and I are the only ones who are making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the roadmaps. You’re not allowed to suggest any detours. You’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. You are not allowed to touch the radio. Above all else, my dear old familiar friend, fear, you are absolutely forbidden to drive. We head off together, me and my creativity and my fear side-by-side-by-side forever, advancing once more into the terrifying but marvelous terrain of unknown outcomes.” It’s good.

She’s such a wonderful writer in the sense that she takes non-physical things like fear and she anthropomorphizes them which means she gives them a human form, a human spirit as she creates this context of creativity and fear as conjoined twins and passengers on this road trip. I love it so much. I had to read the whole thing. That is not the whole chapter. This Big Magic book is something that I love as a companion to the other books that we’ve mentioned. We talked about The War Of Art with Steven Pressfield. We talked about The Fear Cure, Lissa Rankin, we mentioned Joseph Campbell’s books, A Joseph Campbell Companion. We talked about the Top Five Regrets Of The Dying. These are all wonderful perspectives, talking about purpose, regret, focus and fear.

It’s a wonderful time especially as we’ve been sheltering in place and having so much time to look at ourselves. For you, dear reader, if you’ve had any of these tussles with your fear, your sense of purpose or even coming out of this time as the shelter and place orders are now being lifted here in California. It’s an interesting time as we emerge out of this cocoon, this womb together of what is it we want to do? Who do we want to be in the world after all this? This topic of fear, purpose, creativity and courage, it feels to me, Whitney, that these topics somehow are more potent than ever. They carry more weight and importance than they ever have, for me at least.

MGU 68 | Feeling Afraid

Feeling Afraid: Your fear will always be triggered by your creativity because creativity asks you to enter the realms of uncertain outcomes, and fear hates uncertain outcomes.

 

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