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.
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.