The Secret to Doing Brave Things

Earlier this week I hosted a webinar, and during that training, I asked people what was the main thing holding them back from pursuing their dreams. Do you know what they said?

Good Fear
Photo Credit: °]° via Compfight cc

I’ll give you a hint. It was a four letter word beginning with the letter “F.” No. Not that f-word. Sheesh. Get your mind out of the gutter. It was a much worse one.

Fear. That’s what holds us back from the lives we’re meant to live. That’s what prevents us from finally going pro with our dreams. You probably knew that, though. But did you know that not all fear is bad?

It’s true. Some fear is actually good. It helps you get to where you want to go in life. So how do you tell the good fear from the bad?

How I faced fear without overcoming it

Here’s how it works: Good fear leads to action. Bad fear leads to complacency.

Good fear — like the fear of never doing your dream or making a difference with your life — makes you move.

Bad fear — like the fear of messing up or getting rejected — forces you to stay stuck.

For years, people have been asking me to share my process of how I chased my dream and became a full-time writer. It’s something I’ve helped many others do, as well, but for some reason still felt unqualified to teach.

Who was I to tell people how to live their lives? What right did I have to tell people to chase their dreams?

But every time, I did, there was fruit. People would tell me, “that’s amazing!” Or, “thank you so much!” Or, “this changed my life!” I couldn’t believe it. But then again, we are often the ones most oblivious to our greatest contributions

So after waiting for the right time, I finally realized that time was never going to come. I was never going to be ready. I was never going to not feel afraid.

So finally, I just did it. And here’s my secret: I was afraid every step of the way.

What’re you afraid of… really?

We are all waiting, I think, to not feel afraid before we attempt great things. But that’s not the way it works. When you’re afraid of what people might say or of totally bombing it, that’s when you play it safe.

That’s when you fail.

The secret to doing brave things, then, isn’t to not fear. That’s a myth. We’re all shaking in our boots when we attempt great things. The secret is to do it afraid.

So when I opened a new course to help people beat fear, find their passion, and start doing it for a living, it’s no surprise some said they were afraid to take the next step. That’s normal.

The question, though, is what kind of fear is it? The kind that will leave you stuck? Or the kind that could set you free?

That’s a question you’ll have to answer for yourself.

Let’s face fear together

Recently, I launched a brand-new course about what it takes to turn pro as a writer — based on the concepts in my best-selling book, The Art of Work.

Honestly, this was something I was afraid to do. It felt risky and audacious. Again, the voices of accusation came, and I started to feel like an impostor.

But finally the fear of failure just wasn’t enough to not try. What I realized was I was more afraid of not doing it than trying and failing.

That’s the difference between good fear and bad fear. So I recognized it for what it was, counted the cost, and pulled the trigger. I think we all have the power to do this. You can do it, too.

To learn more about this, check out the webinar I mentioned earlier. In the replay, I share everything I’ve learned in the past severals years of becoming a full-time writer (and how you can make a similar transition).

That replay will only be available for the next few days, so be sure to carve out some time and listen to it before I take it down. And remember that brave people don’t wait to feel brave. They do it afraid.

Was there ever a time when you felt afraid and did it anyway? Share in the comments.

34 thoughts on “The Secret to Doing Brave Things

  1. I was afraid to go to Guatemala three summers ago when someone asked me to go. I’m glad I made the leap of faith and went anyway. As a result, my life has changed dramatically. I’ve been back two more times since the initial trip, and I have plans to go back many, many times again before the end of my life.

  2. I’m afraid right now. Afraid of exposing myself to the nation’s small business community and talking about lessons learned from failure. I’m afraid to ask for help and I’m afraid of not having something to hide behind if it doesn’t go “just right.”

  3. Walking out on a hellish Hollywood assistant “dream job” and, in desperation, getting a job as a bartender at a strip club. Not only did it allow me the time I needed to heal, but the experiences I had was enough to get me writing. 🙂 A blog turning into a book! Credit to you and Michael Hyatt, thank you!

  4. That webinar was epic live, and I watched the replay this morning. I’ll likely watch it over and over until it’s taken down, it’s that good! It reinforces what I am currently doing and helped expand my mind. It’s a great visual compliment to The Art Of Work. Thanks a ton, Jeff!

  5. I think this is a great discussion and Jeff, you brought up some wonderful points. So
    many like to espouse the virtue of facing fears. I guess, eventually, there will be an upside
    … not too many talk about what happens next. Not everything turns to rainbows and lollipops in a nice neat time frame, though (Jeff, I’m not saying that you said it would … just sharing from a personal experience). Despite a ton of fear, 2 1/2 years ago, I left a high-paying job that I was miserable in. I’d been in that job for over 22 years. At first, it felt freeing. I had some savings and landed some contracts. All was not great … but okay. I was like a
    toddler learning to walk again. As of today, I’m still struggling to figure out how to make a living. I still feel that God called me to make that change. I don’t regret facing my fear. I just feel stuck in limbo. Don’t mean to be a bummer. Just wonder if anyone else ever took a leap
    and landed in limbo for an extended time … and what did you do to get out?

    1. Hi Janette Marie. Maybe the insight I got from personal experience might help. Are doing the same things you did for 22 years (at a job) expecting different results? Shake things up again and take another leap. Limbo for another 2 1/2 years might drive you back to an unhappy job because that’s what you know. I had to stop my business of 23 years as a wildlife artist because of the economy and changed stride a few times. It’s very scary. The best thing I did was just be friendly with everyone, not talk business, just network and don’t expect anything in return.
      Hope this helps, and the very best luck. R

  6. i am feeling led to begin working in our county prison system, sharing the Truth i have been so privileged to be steeped in all my life. i was afraid, but i contacted Prison Fellowship anyway. Jeff, have you thought about interviewing Annie F Downs about her book, Let’s All Be Brave? it speaks so well to this subject and she’s in Nashville.

  7. Hi Jeff – I have been meaning to email you. I have been following your blog for some time now and have read two of your books and have the third though I haven’t read it yet. I have absolutely loved your books and will email later as I am commenting by phone.
    You have so inspired me to quit saying when I am ready. If I do that won’t I be an imposter and so on. It seems in this world of credentials we never feel credentialed enough to really be whatever it is we seek to be. Yet that is stagnating and prevents us from moving through fears.

    Last year for the first time I went camping by myself. I love camping but my husband does not. I have longed for years for someone to go with me so I could go. I was stuck in a mindset that it was not safe for me a small female to go it alone.

    First stop Chaco Canyon- one night at park, was great and had an astronomy night and we actually saw a star being born!!! Wow don’t cover it! Next sequoia national forest, county park north of Bakersfield, CA. Kind of rowdy with other guests, got to see a bear beautiful four days. Then there was mount Shasta one day in a KOA ick and two remotely on mount Shasta, which was one too long. I was ten miles up my Shasta and two miles down dirt both days and first night were gorgeous but then about dusk the second night it got windy I had to throw things on my tent to hold it down, load up what I could and make a bed in the car. The next morning I woke up to six inches of snow. Outside of losing an ax and some tent stakes all was fine. I handled it and no one bothered me outside of the noise of the two drunk hunters in the county park the last night as they yelled BEAR all night trying to scare someone.

    Whew that was a lot to do on phone, please excuse typos and grammatical errors. 🙂

  8. For many years, a sense of unworthiness led to fear. But God made a way to step by step push me out of my comfort zone by sending me someone who saw me as a leader and asked me to head up my region of an international ministry. Oh I felt so ill-equipped. But I did it afraid…and I have done many more things since afraid, including launching my community site, Circles Of Faith…and then hosting live events through this site, which has become a ministry. I can still go there, but I am less afraid. And now even more afraid of missing out on the full life I know is meant to be mine.

  9. Jeff, thank you for this post. I continue to find inspiration…and courage…in your words. I’m going to spend some time thinking and discerning about good fear and bad fear. Thanks.

  10. Hi Jeff. When I was show jumping I had a particular horse that would become out of control over a course of big jumps, but I just bit my fear and did the course. It was exhilarating and liberating to finish or even win. As one becomes older the fear of what could have happened takes over, unfortunately, even though it never did. The mind plays tricks and creates scenarios … it’s a dangerous thing, the mind, and needs a good reality beating at times.
    Your follower from South Africa.

  11. I just wrote on this very topic a few days ago at I think fear is the number one inhibitor for people when it comes to living a life of passion and purpose. I’m learning to face my own fears right now, realizing that life is much too short to be afraid of what anyone may think, and that moving beyond fear is the best thing that I can choose to do.

  12. I resigned from a good paying job from a very well known company to finish off my masters thesis full time so I could just start anew with my dream. Man, I knew I was crazy for even considering quitting from work. But eventually I accepted that I was really crazy and there’s nothing I can do other than chase my dream. It felt like my whole life will be wasted if I would just go with the flow of things around me that obviously was taking me off from my dream. Better to fail from trying than doing nothing.

  13. I, too, left a job in Corporate America nearly a year ago for more freedom to use my gifts, strengths, and passions. A story that has been very real to me throughout this 2-year process of making the decision to leave and then pursuing work on my own, is the Bible story found in Matthew 14:22-33. As Jesus walks on water, He invites Peter to step out of the boat and do the same. Peter succeeds in walking on the water – until he lets fear get the better of him and takes his eyes off Jesus. Then he starts to sink. So he cries out to Jesus, who rescues him. I have experienced this metaphorically over and over again, especially since leaving my full-time job. Every time I feel afraid, the Lord puts another opportunity in my path, one that usually far exceeds my expectations. I still have to do the work, and even be open to recognizing the opportunity. But as you said “Do it afraid.”

  14. Only every day.

    Afraid to start a blog.

    Afraid to start my first business.

    Afraid to start my second business.

    Afraid to get married.

    Afraid to have children.

    Afraid to start my third business.

    Afraid to play college golf in the SEC.

    Afraid to go to counseling.

    Afraid to keep a journal.

    Afraid to start a podcast.

    Afraid to ask people on as guests.

    Afraid to post this comment.

    Anything meaningful always has fear. If it doesn’t scare you, it might not be all that worthy of a pursuit.

  15. I was so afraid to return to school, had so many doubts. Since I juggled between work, school, and kids, I had a low performance in school and was so afraid to confront my professors about my situation. Then I was afraid to quit my job to focus on my studies. But all those fears pushed me because I had the bigger fear of not being able to finish college. So I quit my job then talked to my professors.. and just last month, I finally graduated, all because I was so fearful. Yes, I did it being afraid. 🙂 Thank you, Jeff!

  16. I believe the more I do and try new things the more scary it becomes. In one of your emails you’d mentioned feeling like an imposter which is something I’ve felt too. I actually wrote about it and a few things that have helped me ( and it was amazing to see how many people have felt the exact same way. So thank you Jeff for sharing your story!

  17. Thanks Jeff for the encouragement. I have reached that place where I’m moving beyond the good fear and continue pursuing the calling. Not too long ago I began telling myself to write, release, share and post. I learned once I finish an article it has already served its purpose for me and by releasing it allows me to write another. I love your expreriences and the simplicity of your message. Awesome post my friend.

  18. A great post in deed. Fear is one crucial tool that we all need to possess in order to really add meaningful values to lives. Of course, not the kind of fear that turns men to boys but a kind that always remind us to put in the best in whatever goal we are chasing.

  19. I have been absolutely *terrified* at various times of my life:
    –A 21-year-old single mom living in a city slum (so poor I had to do all our laundry — including the diapers — on a scrub board)
    –A 26-year-old newspaper reporter who had no education but somehow convinced an editor to hire me
    –A 39-year-old mom in the Intensive Care Unit (my daughter had been struck down by a rare neurological disease)
    –A middle-aged woman leaving a long-term abusive marriage
    –A midlife college student (what am I doing here? I’m older than the teachers!)
    –A freelancer hired by MSN to write personal finance blogs (I don’t even know what a blog IS, so how can I write one?)
    –And most recently, as the creator of an online course about blogging (what if no one buys it? what if the reviewers hate it?)
    Here’s how I “do it afraid,” as Jeff puts it: When I find myself strangled by terror and moaning, “I can’t do this,” I answer myself: “You ARE doing this.”
    Because I am. I’m scared to death, but I’m doing it. Being afraid is no sin. The only real crime is being paralyzed by that fear.

    1. Phenomenal post. I applaud you for your bravery and your words hit home for me. I haven’t faced very much in comparison but I absolutely have achieved great things and sometimes I also saybIm already doing it. My mind is of course t ying to shut me down with fear willing me to run a mile. Maybe that never goes away completely but I do recognize its stronger in some areas than others. I travel the world just because I can so I certainly don’t fear a challenge. I believe if I throw myself into any role I can do it well. But I make excuses when it comes to committing to a career so I’m a career hopper. Its almost as if I prove myself by getting involved but commitment I say things like U don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. U can live as U please. But hey I myself want to focus on one one job etc. I have to figure it out asap as Im suffering in the relationship dept too. I’m not being brave enough to committee, I pick at things until they push away. And breathe with relief.

  20. I’ve heard “bravery” defined as moving forward when you are afraid.
    So you are telling us to be brave and move forward in spite of fear.
    I overcame fear with bravery when I learned to speak publicly. It’s old hat, now, and could only become that through that “intentional practice” you tell of in your latest book.
    Writing is easy for me, but the intentional practice and the bravery it takes to submit my writing to the opinion of a much larger audience is…somewhere around here…hmm…where DID I put that bravery???
    Thanks for this post, Jeff!

  21. Great post, Jeff. And credit where it is due goes to you. I was fearful to write and you told me to write! I did and now I am not afraid! Sometimes overwhelmed but not afraid! Thank you.

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