How to Succeed When You’re Afraid

Do you consider yourself a brave, courageous person?  Are you the type who could base jump or get on a stage in front of 100,000 people without fear?

I’m not.  I’m working on it though (not the base jumping, exactly, but the bravery).

I loved the movie We Bought a Zoo and my favorite scene was the one with this quote:

 “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and
I promise you something great will come of it.”

Two wonderful things happen when you’re courageous:

1)  You discover you can overcome fear.  Regardless of the outcome of your courageous moment, you prove to yourself that you can do it and survive.

2) Much of the time you discover that the thing you were afraid of was not only nothing to fear, but led to amazing things happening next.

Just 20 seconds…

Over the  last year I’ve tried more and more to just be brave for those 20 seconds in many areas of my life.  That first 20 seconds is really the hard part.  If you can get past that, you can do it.

It used to take me that 20 seconds of courage just to hit “publish” on a new post to my blog.  Now it only takes a few seconds of courage.  It gets easier.

Last year I sent out an email requesting testimonials… it sat in”draft” status for days before I got brave enough to hit send.  And afterwards I sat at my computer in tears as responses came back.

Yesterday I said yes to becoming an author in a group book project.  I’m terrified and excited.

In the past year I’ve been on stage for the first time for my business.  Trust me when I say you do not want to know how I reacted the first time to that experience.  The second time got easier.  If you were watching closely you could still see my hands shaking.  But it didn’t kill me, and (whispering) it was even a little bit fun.

Why am I sharing this with you?

When I asked you what your dreams and goals were, I saw a recurring theme of secret dreams… of things we want to do but we aren’t sure… our dreams are so often surrounded with insecurity of whether we can REALLY do that.

In the last year I’ve transformed my business completely from being an hourly service provider to bringing in most of my income through training and group work.  If you’d asked me 18 months ago, I probably wouldn’t even have been brave enough to admit to you that what I really wanted to do was teach and train.  And parts of my biggest dreams… I’ve only admitted to one person.  But that’s where it begins — recognize what you want and then commit to making it happen.

It comes from tiny steps of courage.  One at a time.  Building on each other.  For me, it’s just focusing on the very next thing I have to do and getting the support I need to do that.  At various points over the year it’s been hitting publish on a sales page, stepping through airport security (traveling alone used to terrify me), picking up the phone, and lots of showing up over and over again no matter how scared I was inside.  It didn’t always go smoothly.  Sometimes I failed and had to just know that I’d do better next time.

When you hear me say, “If I can do this, I KNOW you can do this” I believe it 100%.  In fact, I’d be willing to bet you’re probably starting out ahead of where I started with fears.  Think how much quicker you can do it!  And if you identify with where I’m coming from, just know you don’t have to let those fears stop you.

Be brave. You can create what you want.

If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your community.  Those following you and working with you (or waiting to discover you so you can help them!) need you to be brave for them.  Recognize that and allow it to become more powerful than your fears.

If you need a little inspiration here’s a great video to help you think even bigger about being brave:

My challenge to you: Today, do something brave. 

Maybe there’s a email you’ve been thinking of sending–asking a client for a testimonial, to connect with a colleague, submit a guest post to a bigger blog, find out about a speaking opportunity, reach out to work with a coach or mentor, reconnect with someone who’s fallen out of your life, tell someone you care about that you miss them and they matter to you.  Or maybe it’s something bigger that you’re ready to be courageous and do!

(And maybe you need to do it before you’re “ready”…)

Want accountability?  Share what your “brave” action will be in the comments below, then go do it!

Or, share a time you were brave and you’re thankful because something awesome happened as a result.

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  1. My ‘brave’ thing for today? To create a badge for site owners I feature on my blog. I’ve been putting it off because my blog is so new, but I’m going to be brave and do it anyway! Certainly can’t hurt.
    Monique Bowen recently posted… How to Get 100,000 Facebook Fans WITHOUT Buying ThemMy Profile

  2. Love this. It speaks to the heart and that is what I truly love. Staying safe is great and we can’t judge what type of life that will lead to but mixing a little bit of adventure and something new can certainly lead to extraordinary moments in life!
    Sabrina recently posted… Easy Cheating Goal Setting in JanuaryMy Profile

    1. It sure can. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment, Sabrina.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… One Cool Way to Achieve More of Your GoalsMy Profile

  3. Wow, you really made a connection with me on this post. Like you, I’m not the kind of person who just up and does something. I used to hate networking, until I got out there and just ‘did’ it. Now I love it.

    I never would have imagined having my own business until I took the FastTrac course developed by Kauffman Foundation. I did it to have something to do; by the end I thought I can do this. It gave me the confidence to put together a business plan and put it into action.

    I used to agonize over whether to publish a blog post; then it was do I want to publish it where my friends and colleagues can actually see it? I’m pretty much over that, too.

    I have two things I’m hesitating on right now. One is getting up before a group and talking about how to develop an online presence. I do great when it’s one-on-one, but groups scare me. The other is putting together an eBook. My husband continues to encourage me, but I’m still on the edge. Not sure when I’ll jump off, but I’m getting closer!
    Julie Myers recently posted… 6 Email Marketing Tips for Your Small BizMy Profile

    1. I can’t say I *love* networking, as it still frequently terrifies me, but I have gotten more comfortable with it. :) It’s great that you’ve gotten there!

      You know, the group thing isn’t so bad once you get started–really. :) I got pretty comfortable with webinars/teleseminars first and that really helped me as I just put that into my head that if I could handle teaching on a webinar with hundreds listening, surely I could get on a stage in front of less than a hundred. :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… What is Your Big Dream?My Profile

  4. loved that movie- We bought a Zoo. Nothing like jumping in feet first and going for it.
    I heard a statement just last week that said- fear is only in your mind.
    I moved half way across the country to a small town for no reason other than to just do it! OH mY.
    Looking back- what was I thinking? Looking forward- best thing I’ve ever done.
    PS- I saw you on stage and you were awesome! :)
    Denys Kelley recently posted… Do you have Themed days for posting on Facebook?My Profile

    1. That’s fantastic, Denys, and so wonderful to hear it was the best thing you’ve done. :) It’s crazy how the scariest things turn out to be the best.

      And thank you. I appreciate that. :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… How to Succeed When You’re AfraidMy Profile

  5. One of my favorite topics. Yes, you’ve quantum leaped since I first connected with you. I’m not surprised; it’s what you communicated with your energy. Continued success! Feel you fear and keep moving forward. Your success influences your audience to do the same.

    People have the misconception that successful people don’t have fears. But that’s not true, successful people, like you, feel their fears and do what they must do for their ideal successful lives. If you wait for fear to go away before taking action, you’ll remain stuck. Fear and Success are a team and those who accept that do great things.

    I embraced my fear and started a blog. I don’t believe I’m a good writer but I still do it anyway. I embraced my fear of public speaking and joined Toast Masters. I’m a hypnotherapist and a coach, I’ve got to practice what I preach.

    Happy New Year Michelle. Your 2013 gonna be EXTRAordinary!
    Adalia John recently posted… 30 New Year Affirmations to Kick Start Your YearMy Profile

    1. It still surprises me to find out some of the people I admire most are ever uncomfortable or fearful — it doesn’t show. I am learning. Slowly. Sometimes the same lesson over and over until it really sinks in. But learning.

      Love that you’re doing so many big things (blogging, speaking) to get out there and help more people, Adalia!
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… 5 Ways You Might Be Driving Your Readers Crazy (Without Realizing It!)My Profile

  6. Last October I did my first EVER teleseminar o.O Holy Moly — because of a family emergency I had to postpone my spot to the end of the month (Thank you so much for stepping in at the last minute. Though I know I have said a million thanks before this LOLz). The nerves, the crazy stage fright … OMG I had to go through all that for 3 more weeks on top of other things, but I survived! Had a wonderful time and I am looking forward to doing it again soon :D

    For us introverts, this is NOT an easy fete! But once we get past these small steps, we get to enjoy bigger and better milestones! I am so proud of you, Michelle, for how far you have come just in the past 12 months! You are inspiring! I’m looking forward to the awesome things coming ahead for all of us! 2013 is going to be an even bigger and braver year!!!

    1. Yes, I seem to remember having quite an interesting time with Amethyst on that one! LOL

      We’re going to make 2013 rock, Kimberly. ;)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… How to Promote Your Blog Posts (Video)My Profile

  7. I have always been a fairly, hmmm, I guess ‘vivid’ is a good word to describe me. Over the years I have embarked on many crazy quests with reasonable success and have been asked often how it is that I am so brave so easily. Well I am not brave, no no. Anyone who has ever seen me flee from the movie Poltergeist can attest to that, I do not have an open under the bed area because I’m terrified of a clown trying to kill me in my sleep. Actually all clowns creep me out, but I digress. So I tell all those people that I am not brave and they don’t have to be either. The trick is to not be afraid and it’s a snap from there.
    Cairn Rodrigues recently posted… Granny PantiesMy Profile

    1. Vivid – what a great word!

      And clowns are creepy, totally agree. :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… One Cool Way to Achieve More of Your GoalsMy Profile

  8. i want to, need to, MUST finish this book! And I’ve hit scared so I’m stuck. So how about this, I’ll do it anyway and aim to have it done by Sunday night. If not Completely finished by then, then with my proof readers.
    susi recently posted… Dull Jaded Skin?My Profile

    1. Great goal, Susi! ~*~*sends fast, fun writing vibes*~*~
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Do You Dare Join Me for This?My Profile

      1. thank you!
        great post by the way
        susi recently posted… Dull Jaded Skin?My Profile

  9. I signed up for a meditation retreat that starts Friday evening, goes all day Saturday & part of Sunday. I want to learn to quiet my mind and be more present.
    Debra Jason recently posted… What’s Your Word for 2013?My Profile

    1. That sounds wonderful, Debra. Hope you have a lovely, peaceful, quiet time. :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… How to Succeed When You’re AfraidMy Profile

  10. In the past I’ve done brave (or slightly crazy) things like buying a 1 way ticket from northern Alberta to Fort Lauderdale & taking the next month and a half to wander back home. Staying with friends and family. Helping a few entrepreneur friends along the way & spending 4 days with a great aunt in her 90’s (who went to dance class 4 times a week, even though she was blind – totally inspired by her). And I’ve packed up all my belongings and put them in storage so I could live my dream life of traveling and working from anywhere (House sitting became my new “home” ). I’ve kept a tiny little journal in my purse for 7 years where I periodically write little things that I’ve done that were courageous or brave & read it again when I’m feeling scared.
    Because the truth is I’m scared a lot. Frozen with fear more times than I can count. This year I’m trying to focus on being more courageous. Thanks for this post Michelle! Great conversation.
    Loralee Hutton recently posted… How Many WordPress Plugins Are Too Many?My Profile

    1. She sounds like an amazingly inspiring woman, Loralee.

      And I love the idea of keeping a journal of the brave things you’ve done! :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… What is Your Big Dream?My Profile

  11. I am SOOO with you on traveling alone. I was terrified. I did it for the first time in 2009 to a conference in San Antonio, TX and then again in 2010 to Dallas, TX twice, then to SLC, Utah in April 2011. Wow it sure got easier each time.

    My biggest fear is failure. I have been attempting to self publish a book for years. This is going to be my year.
    Alyssa recently posted… What’s Wrong with Your Strategy?My Profile

    1. It sometimes feels safer to keep the possibility that we could succeed in our hearts/heads, than it is to really go for it and risk the failure. One thing that helps me is to look at the worst possible thing that could happen if I go for it. What if I screw up completely? What if I completely fail? It’s never as scary or as terrible as I fear. And then, what’s the best that could happen? What if it really does work? The risk seems a whole lot more worth it that way for me. :)

  12. Michelle,
    Thanks for this inspiration. I will add to the questions I ask myself while planning the day, “What can I do today that’s brave?” Powerful. Imagine if we all did that every day this year? How much more confident would we be? Fearless! Now I’m pumped. :)
    Jesse – Cajun Copy recently posted… How Much Are Testimonials Costing Your Company?My Profile

    1. I love that idea, Jesse. What a great daily question!
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… What is Your Big Dream?My Profile

  13. There is one random Indian missing in this comment section. Here I am.

    The fear of failure is something that stops us from doing what we want confidently. But, if we can just take some courage & do what we would like to do / we can do, things can be wonderful. Not always but, its a higher percentage than your thought of failure.

    Nice article :-)

    1. Thanks, Sai. Welcome to the comment section!
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… One Cool Way to Achieve More of Your GoalsMy Profile

  14. Fear keeps you from accomplishing great things. I wonder how much progress we all would have if we didn’t let fear into our lives!

  15. Kudos to you for your bravery Michelle, as they say “fortune favors the brave” Long may your good fortune continue.

  16. Hello!
    What a great blog with wonderful encouragement. I love it! I try to do something brave, as much as possible. This “pushing” of myself brings out changes in my perspective, attitude and heart. But, I must admit, this is hard to do. So, I tend not to overthink the opportunity. Instead, I do it and evaluate my feelings and how my actions affected others. Now, this change in “stepping out of my box” did not happen until my late 40’s. So, it took me a while to grab my bravery. Well, I’m glad I found you. Wanda, over at The Watered Soul, suggested your blog. Take care and many blessings!
    Cynthia recently posted… Coasters Travertine Scripture & Cross Religious Art Matthew 11:28 in Gold and Black Scripture Art by PrayerNotesMy Profile

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