How to Conquer Any Fear You Have

John Wayne once said: “Real courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”

Sometimes, you have the opportunity to do sh** that scares you…like jumping out of a plane (that’s me in the picture above!).  It’s those that can conquer their fears, no matter how great or small, that generally get further in life than those who settle for the safety confines of mediocrity.

So why do things that scare us?  Because:

  • We need to – like leaving a great job for another because it fits better with your life.  Sometimes there’s no other option.
  • It makes us feel alive – like sky diving or bungy jumping.  Life suddenly seems more precious after these moments.
  • It’s a huge opportunity – like giving a giant public presentation that could lead to bigger opportunities.
  • It could change our lives – like asking out a guy/girl or telling somebody you’ve known forever how you truly feel.

As I’ve stated in my previous “why you need to do sh** that scares you” post, we all have things that we NEED to do in order to level up our lives. This past weekend, I decided to conquer two big Epic Quest goals that scared the crap out of me: bungy jumping and sky diving.  While editing my video footage from both adventures, I realized that my old post was horribly incomplete.  After all, identifying things that scare you is one thing – actually having the guts to follow through and DO those things is another.

Luckily, I’m here to help!

Now, these videos aren’t REQUIRED viewing, but you will get the most out of this article if you take a few minutes to watch the videos from my adventures. (Okay, so maybe I’m just really proud of how both videos turned out and think everybody should watch them.)  The first video is me sky diving at NZONE in Queenstown and the second is me bungy jumping off Kawarau Bridge.

Steve Jumps Out of A Plane (Video)

Steve Jumps Off A Bridge (Video)

Here are five surefire solutions to conquering your fears, along with examples from my two quests on how I was able to suck it up and take care of business.

Recognize and rationalize

This is probably the happiest picture of Steve Kamb ever taken. Great shot of my white thighs too.

But enough about thighs.

If you’re reading this site, you probably have some nerdy tendencies, most likely an overactive imagination and ability to over-analyze any situation to the point of paralysis.  Whenever you’re faced with a difficult decision or something that terrifies you, it’s really easy to only see the worst part of it:

  • Want to ask a girl out? What if she laughs in your face along with everybody else in the bar?
  • Want to try a new class at your gym? What if you trip over your own feet and crash into the instructor?
  • Thinking of quitting your job? What if you can’t find a new one and you’re poor and homeless forever?!

To borrow from Tim Ferriss, simply ask yourself “What’s the worst that could REALLY happen?” For me, I had a fear of both skydiving and bungy jumping – I mean come on: with skydiving your life is in the hands of another guy, wearing a backpack, falling 15,000 feet from the sky.  ALL KINDS OF STUFF could go wrong!  And bungy jumping – forget about it.  Your life hangs in the balance by a glorified rubber band.

Fortunately, I took the time to research both experiences.  Although the ‘worst that could happen’ was that I could die, I realized that I was more likely to get injured in the car on the WAY to either event than when actually doing them.  I weighed the pros and cons and decided that the risk of both adventures weren’t nearly as big as I had made it out to be in my mind.

More often then not, the worst case isn’t life threatening or even that bad; also, it’s usually temporary, while the payoff from the risk could be monumental and life-changing.  It was this rational type of thinking that gave me the courage and follow my dreams to run Nerd Fitness.

Make it impossible to say no

Bungy jumping wasn’t on my initial list of things to do, and yet look at me here, representing the Rebellion over the Kawarau river. I was okay with skydiving, but I had this massive fear of jumping off a bridge and having the rope snap on me; I decided I was too young and this was one risk I wasn’t willing to take, so I left it off the Epic Quest list.

However, I also knew that going to Queenstown, New Zealand and not skydiving would be like going to Peru and not seeing Machu Picchu – I’d be missing out on something special.

About a month ago, my friend Sue who lives in New Zealand emailed me a time-sensitive coupon for 50% off a bungy jump. Because I only had a few hours to act before the deal expired, without putting any further thought into it I quickly entered my credit card number and bought the coupon.

All of a sudden, I had a bungy jump reservation.  Then my brain woke up.

Sure, an economist will tell you that it was a sunk cost at this point, so I could still back out of the jump without any change in my financial well-being.  However, as a guy on a budget running a site built around improving your life and facing your fears, you bet your ass I made myself jump – I had already paid for it!  Can’t let something like that go to waste.

Want another way to make it impossible to back out of something scary?  Make a public declaration. All of a sudden it’s not just you you’re letting down, but a whole BUNCH of people if you chicken out.   You can also make a big investment, either with your time or money, that will make backing out that much more painful than actually going through with it.  I have to imagine half of the marathon-running population is made of up people who pre-pay for a race and then force themselves to go through with it.

Take the decision out of your hands

This is a picture of me and Greg, the professional from NZONE who jumped with me out of the airplane.

Sure, I have a smile on my face in this picture, but inside my stomach was doing somersaults.  I was doing okay as we flew up and up and up, looking out the window as our plane soared over the majestic lakes and mountains of Queenstown.  However, things got real VERY quickly once that door opened up at 15,000 feet and all I could see was nothingness in front of me.

Fortunately, I wasn’t the one who had the make the final decision to hurl myself out of a moving airplane – that decision and timing was Greg’s – I was simply along for the ride.  And thank God he did, because this was one of the most incredible experiences of my life – you can see the look of pure elation on my face for the entire 60-second free fall.

Gee what a shocker – something really scary and terrifying turned out to be amazing.

If you’re scared to do something, pick somebody more confident to do it with you and follow their lead. That way, you’re not making a big scary decision, you’re simply putting one foot in front of the other and going along with the crowd.  My buddy Joel organized a massive skydiving adventure while we’re at the World Domination Summit in June.  I bet a BUNCH of folks signed up for that because their friends are also doing (this is why I’m doing it).  When it comes time to jump, they’ll simply follow the lead of those around them and make the leap.

This is one of the few occasions where I can condone peer pressure.

Stop thinking and just JUMP

Pretty good form, eh?  Could have been better…next time!

The decision when I skydived was out of my hands.  However, when it came to bungy jumping, there was nobody else to tell me when to jump; nobody to push me; nobody to give me the green light.  It was simply me, the edge, and my courage.

When standing on the bridge overlooking the crystal clear blue waters of the Kawaru River, I started to get a little nervous.  When I was “on deck,” watching as the lady in front of me stood at the end of the plank paralyzed, refusing to jump for almost three minutes, I was REALLY nervous.  Trying to help her, the jumping operator even did a few countdowns to nudge her along – each time he’d get to ONE and she’d say “No wait. Stop. I’m not ready.”  Eventually she meekly kind of fell off the edge and screamed all the way down.

Then it was my turn to get strapped in. I was told to sit down as they wrapped a few big ropes around my ankles and had me walk to the edge of the plank.

Not going to lie, I totally dropped a massive F-Bomb when I was right at the end of the plank.

I was terrified. However, rather than give into that fear, I allowed my mind to shut down and let my body take over.  When the man asked if I was ready, I automatically said “hell yeah” even though I wasn’t.  When he started his small countdown of 3-2-1, I took a deep breath and leapt out into the air almost immediately.

If you watch the video, you’ll notice that there is ZERO hesitation in when I get to the edge and when it’s my turn to jump (you can’t hear the audio – the pause is him counting down) – this wasn’t because I was fearless; far from it.  It’s because I knew that if I had allowed myself to stand on that edge looking down for any longer than half a nanosecond, I would have frozen.

We’re nerds, we can paralyze ourselves with thinking VERY easily and quickly.

I remember reading in Neil Straus’s The Game (a fantastic non-fiction book in which he infiltrates an underground society of pick up artists) about how he got over the fear of approaching the opposite sex at a bar. He said that once you make eye-contact with a girl/guy, you can only give yourself three seconds before approaching her – any longer and you start to psyche yourself out with what you’ll say, what she’ll respond with, etc.

Sometimes you need to shut off your mind and go for it.  Put one foot in front of the other and see what happens.  After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

When all else fails, fake it.

Does this look like the face of a man who’s scared?  Hell no!

Was I? Absolutely.  Going back through the videos, I like to think that I come across as somebody who’s 100% confident in everything that I do – no need to get scared; it’s just another day of extreme activities after all.

So why do I look so confident?  Because I’ve become very good at projecting confidence even when I don’t have it (which is often).

At one point in the skydiving video, the camera zooms in on one of NZONE’s signs:

“Be brave.  Even if you’re not, pretend to be.  Nobody can tell the difference.”

It’s absolutely true..if you’re good at it.  I’m deathly afraid of public speaking, but I can do pretty well with talking to large crowds simply because I’ve had plenty of practice projecting a calm, cool, and collected demeanor…even though I’m a complete mess inside.

If you’re not good at faking confidence, try reading “How to become more confident in 15 minutes.” After that, it just comes down to practice, practice, practice.

How do you conquer your fears?

These are the ways that I’ve been able to get over some fears that I have. Now it’s your turn – any tips and tricks for other folks who are struggling to accomplish things that scare them?  Any stories about something awesome you did to overcome something scary and had a positive result?  Any big fail moments that you can share so others don’t make the same mistake?

Help out your fellow rebels!


PS: Does anybody have any suggestions for a Nerd Fitness hand signal or sign?  I keep doing the rock and roll fingers or the hang ten thing in these videos…I got nothing else!  I feel like there should be an NF signal or Rebel sign or something to show that we’re representing the NF community.  Let me know if you come up with anything good – I’m all ears.



side note: I received a partial discount and full reimbursement for the video/DVD package from NZONE Skydive in exchange for writing about it here on the site.  They were an absolute pleasure to work with (Thanks Ann-Louise), my jumper Greg and camera guy Stu kicked ass.  They actually did most of the editing in the video above; I simply changed out the music and reworked some sections to sync up the music.  If you’re skydiving in New Zealand – go with NZONE, and splurge for the DVD/Photo package – it’s absolutely worth the cost – they do it right.

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33 thoughts on “How to Conquer Any Fear You Have

  1. Cool pictures and video.

    I did my bungie jump over lake Taupo and my tandem sky-dive over Mission beach in Queensland.

    Like you I found the tandem sky-dive easier, it’s so high up it doesn’t seem real and you don’t have a choice anyway since you’re strapped to the instructor.

    The bungie jump on the other hand was nerve-wracking. I was told to just fall forward rather than jump, scary as hell.

    My palms are getting sweaty just thinking about it again!

    I still don’t like heights!

  2. Great post! The key, which is what all your tricks get you to do, is to JUST DO IT! That is the only cure. When I lived in Quebec for 5 years I was scared to speak French for the first four because I wasn’t very good and thought the people would judge me or laugh. But I wasn’t getting very good from my course. Then I noticed what I demanded of my children and how they learned. After that I just didn’t care and spoke my broken French. So my broken french became conversational within a short time. I was handling the stores, talking with my neighbor, even teaching an Aikido class in French. Guess what: some people did laugh or try to make me switch to English, but I didn’t give a rat’s butt about it and I came out way ahead.

    I’m going to do a 5 minutes comedy open mike set, my first, in the next month to completely destroy any fears I have left of public speaking. I looked at a few and about 80% of the comics suck. really, probably almost 100% of them do, but 80% suck really badly. If they have the balls to try, so do I. And none of those stinkers died.

    I was recently changing jobs so I had tens of interviews, even for jobs I knew I wouldn’t get. I realized after a short time that I was performing much better in the interviews for jobs I didn’t want. I was confident because there was no power over me from the other side. Another example of “stop caring” yielding.

    Now I’ve starting a blog on parenting, parenting styles, teaching children, child safety, and other such knowledge that I may have related . I’ve started a couple of others in the past but I’m taking the lead of the successful people like you and others with this one. Forget about being perfect, just go do it. Learn on the job.

    That’s it. Out for now. Great post!

  3. Hahaha, I got butterflies in my stomach by just reading your article! Keep up the kick-ass adventures, my vicarious life through you is going great 😀

  4. Dude that picture of you in the plane before the jump is classic! haha.

    At the end of last year when I decided that my 2011 goal was to ride the Trans America Trail beginning to end, I started telling my plans to everyone close to me. As it gets closer to my summer deadline, my mind is already making all kinds of excuses to back out – but I’ve already declared such an epic goal to so many people that I’ve gotta do it – and have just recently made some power moves to start preparing. So here’s +1 to public declaration!

  5. Dude that picture of you in the plane before the jump is classic! haha.

    At the end of last year when I decided that my 2011 goal was to ride the Trans America Trail beginning to end, I started telling my plans to everyone close to me. As it gets closer to my summer deadline, my mind is already making all kinds of excuses to back out – but I’ve already declared such an epic goal to so many people that I’ve gotta do it – and have just recently made some power moves to start preparing. So here’s +1 to public declaration!

  6. Dude that picture of you in the plane before the jump is classic! haha.

    At the end of last year when I decided that my 2011 goal was to ride the Trans America Trail beginning to end, I started telling my plans to everyone close to me. As it gets closer to my summer deadline, my mind is already making all kinds of excuses to back out – but I’ve already declared such an epic goal to so many people that I’ve gotta do it – and have just recently made some power moves to start preparing. So here’s +1 to public declaration!

  7. As always, a great article.
    Here’s my idea for an NF hand sign: start with the American Sign Language (ASL) “N”, with your thumb under your index and middle finger, then stick your ring and pinkie fingers up, which is part of the ASL sign for “F”. If you do it with attitude, it’s a whole new sign, just right for nerdy rebels like us! (I tried adding a screen shot, but couldn’t “finger” it out…)

  8. I completely agree about the projecting confidence bit. For years I’ve been telling my friends (specifically when it comes to approaching the opposite sex), not many people can tell the difference between fake confidence and the real thing. Act like your the hottest guy at the bar, and pretty soon everyone else will be too.

    Great article.

  9. “hell yeah”! You are an inspiration! I’ve been following your blog since before you quit your day job, but have never had the courage to comment or join the nfboards. Sounds silly but I’ve always been afraid people would think I was wasting comment space, or that what I have to say isn’t relevant.

    Well, here’s to kicking fear in the face.

  10. I loved the videos and the post Steve! Awesome, totally took me back to my own skydive and bungee. I can totally imagine you had a sore face from all the smiling afterwards. And frankly NZ has never looked better in these vids 🙂

    Getting older makes you more fearful… and it sucks totally. I need to do something brave (stupid?) to really feel alive again I think!

  11. This reminds me of my bungee jump almost 20 years ago. It was a night time bandit jump (illegal), and I as the last of 15 people to jump. It was foggy out and jumpers were disappearing in the fog above the river, then bouncing out of it only to fall back in. When my turn finally came the jumpmaster asked if I was ready and I said ‘no’. Then he said the words that I’d forgotten for the past 15 or so years until I read your story:

    “Reach deep.”

    5 seconds later, I was taking the ‘elevator to hell’ and loving every moment of it.

    Thanks for reminding me that I don’t have to be a victim to my fears.

  12. wow, i started to get a cold sweat just READING about the bungy jump. i can’t even wrap my head around doing that; but you’re video demonstrates it perfectly when faced with fear – just jump whole-heartedly into it, with full enthusiasm, and then assess the damage (if any) later. good on ya for pullin that one off!

    and the skydiving video was just great – was smiling and laughing at the one (mainly because you were having such a good time – or at least looked to be :-). see ya in the plane in Portland!

  13. I understand the paralysis from fear thing. I still have some issue with that. On one occasion I got myself to stop being paralyzed and go to an event by reciting to myself the litany against fear from dune a couple of times. Fear really is the mind-killer.

  14. I have to ride the bus in the morning and im sooooo scared that there’s not going to be,any seats!! 🙁 help!!

  15. I’ve got a sky dive booked tomorrow. I can’t say this has completely removed my fear but it’s helped me dig deep to face it! Thanks NF. A sleepless night awaits….

  16. Wow, I’m seating down while watching these videos and am sweating profusely, my heart is racing, and I feel sick to my stomach by only imagining myself on the edge on that bungee jump!! BUT, still want to do it:)

  17. Great read!

    As I watch some of the cliff divers jumping at around 90 feet I feel my hands and feet go cold.

    After my divorce in 2011 I went into a “who am I” and “what am I made of” walk about. I joined the local fire department (something I wanted to do for years but avoided out of fear) and learned how to thrive in a fully fire engulfed building, went sky diving, became more of a yes man to adventure and meeting interesting women, learned how to repel and do steep angle rope rescue, applied for the job of my dreams as a technical and safety trainer for a large company…and got it, lost 50lbs (which I gained back and am now losing again…grrrrr, and the stories of becoming a better father, great husband to my new wife, and most of all someone I am proud of continue to this day.

    For me the question came down to “how much is enough?” How many times do I need to do things that scare the crap out of me? Go down the freaking steep straight down slide at Wild Waves…isn’t 7 enough? And I never enjoyed it once. Do I do it again cuz maybe I still need to? Nope.

    My moment came when I realized 3 things about me. I already am. I already have. And I already do. Like the Wizard of Oz. I already have brains, heart, courage. It’s already in me. When I need it I believe it’s there and it is. “CAPABLE” became my life word.

    I grew up believing I was a nothing. Air was wasted on me. Sad to say but suicide became a “delicious” thought to me. I craved my own death in 2006. And as you can tell I didn’t do it…out of love for my newborn son I didn’t want to transfer my pain to him. I couldn’t do that!

    This blog has allowed me to see the courage of others and refresh my own, looking death in the face and with a low gritty voice saying “F…you”. I AM ALIVE!!!

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