Why You Need To Do Sh** That Scares You

Greetings from sunny Los Angeles, CA!

Today is my first official day of living out of a backpack, as yesterday I took the first of 16 flights on my 35,000 epic quest around the globe.

I am effing terrified.

I certainly feel like Frodo Baggins, leaving behind the comfort and safety of Bag End and the Shire to go exploring the big and dangerous Middle Earth.

Sure, I don’t anticipate running into cave trolls, goblins, and orcs (oh my!), but that doesn’t mean I can’t relate to the little man with furry feet.

Like Frodo before the “One Ring” incident, I’ve spent my life up to this point pretty much living in a bubble:

  • I went to college, and took a desk job immediately upon graduating.
  • Up until my trip to Peru, I had never been out of North America.
  • I generally eat the same boring foods on a daily basis.
  • My comfortable routine consists of: waking up, working out, writing articles, and then answering emails.  Repeat.
  • Although nobody believes me, I can be quite introverted around new people and am content to sit in the background.
  • I am more than happy to spend all of my afternoons and evenings on a couch playing video games.

My own “Shire” allowed me to exist without risk within that bubble. It was comfortable, it was easy, it made me feel safe.  Well, I don’t have The One Ring to destroy in Mordor, but I do have an adventure that needs to happen.  I’ve said goodbye to my old life, told my amazing friends and people I truly care about that I won’t see them for months, moved out of my apartment, sold my car, and got ready to travel all by myself.  It’s been brutally difficult, but I’m so glad I’m doing it.

As Bilbo told Frodo: “It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.”  I honestly have no idea where I’ll be swept off to and what adventures await me in 2011, but I can’t wait to find out.


Doing sh** that scares you is a good thing.

Every time your heart starts to beat out of your chest from fear, being uncomfortable, or getting stuck in a new place where nothing is familiar, it’s a great reminder that you’re alive.

And every day that you wake up alive and healthy is a great day.

Never forget that.

So how do you do sh** that scares you? It certainly doesn’t need to be a trip around the world – that’s the path I chose because if I picked anything less ridiculous I wouldn’t have done it.  It just needs to be something that takes you or your body out of your comfort zone, which is completely different for everybody.  Yeah, you’re going to be nervous as hell, you might stumble through it, but as long as it doesn’t kill you, you’ll be a better man/woman/nerd afterward because of it.  Depending on how risk averse you are, the “sh** that scares you” could be any number of things:

  • Trying new food
  • Asking somebody out on a date
  • Going to a public place to work out
  • Cold-calling a new business opportunity
  • Saying hi to a complete stranger
  • Raising your hand in class
  • Jumping out of a plane

Last week, I read about the 10-Year Rule over on the Art of Manliness, one of my favorite websites on the Internet.  Simply stated, the rule tells you to live life as such:

“Whenever you are presented with a choice, ask yourself which option you would prefer to have taken in ten years.”

Boom. I’m going to guess in 95% of the situations, yourself ten years from now will look back and be happy that you took the chance/tried the class/made the change/etc.

If you’re afraid to do something due to a lack of confidence (something we all suffer from), read “How to appear more confident in 15 minutes.”

For my upcoming adventure, I plan on doing all kinds of crap that scares me, from scuba diving (what about sharks?!) to skydiving (what if the chute doesn’t open!?!) – yeah, it’s going to cost me a fortune, I might need to stock up on diapers, but I know 10 years from now I’ll be telling my kids about how great it was.

Regret sucks. Let’s not have that.

Change Promotes Progress

George Bernard Shaw once said: “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” If you go to the gym and do the same thing every single day, you’re not getting stronger or faster…you’re just getting really good at doing the same thing every day.  Your muscles are built when they are forced to adapt to a new load, more repetitions, or less time between sets.  As long as one thing is different compared to last time (in the heavier/faster direction), progress can be made.

Fear and change are good things.

Your heart is no different. If you run the same distance in the same amount of time every day, your heart gets REALLY good at functioning for that particular distance and time – there’s never any fear or need for it to change.  However, if you happen to suddenly find yourself in a situation where you need to sprint or do something that puts your heart under duress, it might not how to handle it.  In absolutely extreme cases, we like to call this a “heart attack.”

Instead, imagine that you’ve been training with intervals; your heart is constantly forced to adapt: beating very quickly, and then slowing down, and then speeding up, and then slow down, always existing outside of its comfort zone.  The next time an incident comes along that requires an increased heart rate, your ticker is going to say something like “psssh, I do this every day anyways.”


If you do the same thing day in day out without any change, you’re just going to get REALLY good at doing the same thing every day. Pardon me for being slightly presumptuous here, but I’d guess there’s probably one thing about your life currently that you’d like to be different.  It will probably require you to do something differently, sign up for a class that might make you feel dumb, or to talk to somebody with the possible fear of rejection.

Progress and evolution require change.

That’s a good thing.

What are you afraid of? Good, go do that.

Tim Ferriss, author of the 4 Hour Workweek and the 4 Hour Body, keeps just a few things on his work desk at home. One of those things is a simple reminder to makes sure he’s always making progress and living a better life:

“Do one thing that scares you every day.”

Yeah, it’s easier to not look in the mirror, not step on the scale, not go to the gym, continue admiring that girl/guy from afar, continue doing the same things in the same way day in, day out.  However, I like to think that us nerds here in the Nerd Fitness Rebellion are a different breed:  we see things that scare us, we encounter obstacles and challenges that are new and terrifying, and we embrace them wholeheartedly.

What exists outside of your “Shire” that you’re afraid of?

  • Do you not go to the gym for fear of ridicule? For fear of looking stupid?
  • Do you skip out on group yoga classes or runs with your coworkers because you’re worried you’re too slow/big/out of shape?
  • Do you see somebody you’d like to talk to, but choose not to for fear of rejection?

I want you to join me. Venture outside of your Shire.  Getting in shape is just one part of life – improving the rest of it can be just as scary, but is absolutely necessary if you truly want to level up your life.

If you’re okay with it, share what you’re afraid of in the comments.  I bet you’re not the only one who’s afraid!

Beyond that, what can you do to start conquering that fear TODAY?




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    82 thoughts on “Why You Need To Do Sh** That Scares You

    1. This is the one write up that I keep coming back to.. to remind myself of not staying in my comfort zone.. nice job steve! Its time to take some risk…

    2. Ive read most of your articals Steve and want to change but I keep running into the same problems: I’m fourteen with two set in there way parents who I believe don’t even know the current version of me and are much less open to a dramatic life style change that they’ll see from me when they get past there precoceptions. So I’m basicly out there with a couple freinds for support. Oh and sorry about your grandma I know its late but I just read the post before I found this one.

    3. I return to this post because this past weekend, I did something that scared me.  I participated in a 5k zombie obstacle course.  I’m no good at running.  and I *never* try to do things I’m not good at.  as my friend, I don’t like being the smaller fish in a pond.  but this weekend, I was.  I was a tiny fish.  but I didn’t get eaten.  in fact, I made it out with one flag still in-tact.

      thanks, Steve, for always pushing me to be a better person.

      because of you, and because of the Nerd Fitness community, I officially Leveled Up this weekend.

    4. I love this post. I’m a huge fan of the Shire. Thanks for the info on the books as well.

    5. This is SO gOOD! thank you! I’m really afraid of joining a karate group as they have been training for a long time and I have never ever trained karate in my life, however it’s a big dream for me. I’m so afraid tomorrow my first lesson starts and I don’t know anyone, anything :)) hahaha, I’ll just do what scares my, that’s right! and I’m gonna be good at it! promise! :)))

    6. This is one of the most important articles I have read. In the past year I have made some of the most substantial changes to my attitude and to my life. I always credited the existentialist, and my favourite band Bad Relgion (I still do!) for these ideas but I forgot I had read this article around that same time. Paying attention to this article and taking this attitude is really life-changing.

    7. Man! You’re such an inspirational speaker! I swear, that in my opinion God has used you to inspire many people. I’m liking all the inspirational articles! Keep up the good work!

    8. hey, om*g,

      im fifteen and i literally am having the exact same issue. i really want to change but its hard because of all the inaccurate outside perception of who I am. i pretty much only have a few friends for support now, because, like you said, my parents dont see any need for a change.

      But i told myself, no matter what, if you really want to change, to really be who you are, you will have to change no matter what, because that will just be your natural instinct.

      One of my biggest fears, is the fear of being judged by others. But know matter what, if you want to really change to be who you really are, then you have to change.

      best of luck 🙂

      (now ik technically yur 16 now ;))

    9. I have a huge fear of failure. I think I’ve been so afraid of people putting me in my place that I’ve just put myself in my own perceived place.

    10. Kick butt article!

      I think my biggest fear is that of success… and the responsibility that comes after I am successful at something that I perceive as “big.” I am studying for the MCATs right now, and being an excellent procrastinator as I am working along with a deadline that isn’t something I can cram for. The frustrating part is realizing that I am sabotaging myself, be it for studying or my diet or working out or riding or cleaning my bloody apartment, and not being able to stop myself. And it’s a giant roadblock in my path to achieving my life-goal of being a physician. Maybe the fear is that of living up to my perceived expectations from others. Who knows? I know I just keep plugging along and working. And being frustrated at times because I see myself throwing up the fear and the procrastination and the….

      I’m afraid of heights and falling, so I ride horses. I am afraid of being injured so I can’t work (self-employed as a manual therapist), so I ride horses. I’m afraid of snakes, so I learned how to hang out with them on campus. I’m afraid of being in a decent relationship, so I make friends with new and fun people. I’m very shy, so I try to be in situations to talk with new people. I am afraid of failure, so I keep trying new stuff. And oddly, there is the fear of success… one of these days I’ll figure out how to overcome that.

    11. Great article!! It’s exactly what I needed today! Considering a big career change that scares the crap out of me, but would totally make me better.

    12. This article inspired me tremendously today. Thank you.
      I fear sharing my story, the wounds that have lead me this far this far, are terrifying to talk about. I just recently wrote my very first blog, & for the first time, I shared some of these wounds. And, I felt rejection with the first person that read it, and called me to ask questions ONLY about the one part I’m most self conscious about. This was a new friend I made at a seminar. And since the call and questions, I haven’t heard much from them since.
      This created hesitation on writing my next blog, & even sharing my blog with others.
      I have decided my next blog will be solely about that single intense wound, & I will open up even more, being extremely vulnerable, and will share my blog with public. That is terrifying for me, but I know it needs to be done

    13. I had to re-read this article because I’ve been wanting to seek out my first Web Development client for the longest time. Now that I have one, I’m scared crapless because 1) He’s my best friend and 2) I’m scared of sounding greedy or desperate when it comes to talking money. But I’m going to do it and I’m going to just take it one day at a time, one step at a time. Because the only thing I fear the most out of this is not doing it and regretting it later one. God Bless you all!


    15. Mine is so minor, but it’s a start. I am going solo camping for the first time ever this month!!! Thanks for the post!

    16. Steve… I am going to leave my Shire next week to a one year world trip as well and I am going to start in Australia. I wasn’t scared until this very moment and I am so glad I’ve found your article! I really want change in my life, I really need change in my life.
      Love the quote about the ten year lookout!
      I super scared and super excited at the same time right now!! 🙂

    17. I fear being rude and confrontational, so thought it would be a good idea to practice on youtube and started confronting a person while being rude about it. I feel like shit and are ashamed of the posts I made. Think I just don’t have it in me to do stuff like that. Decided to do confront someone in a dick-ish way on a daily basis to see if it would make me grow as a person but after 2 days and 2 comment I think I’ll have to say that it was a fun experiment but it’s not something I could do daily.

    18. my brother wants to take me to an mma class today and i am feeling terrified. i’ve seen videos online of people throwing eachother around and the thought of it makes my stomach turn. i’m aware that i’m just a beginner and nothing like that will be happening to me (yet) but what scares me most about going to the class is being forced to interact with the other people there. it’s more than likely that i’ll have to be partnered with someone i don’t know and prepare for some one on one stuff. i’m SUPER introverted and don’t know if i’ll be able to handle it. if i could go with a friend it would be totally different but i know none of my friends will want to so i feel pretty lost.

    19. I’m too scared to experiment new things. I refrain myself from playing games because I fear loosing and getting humiliated.
      If I stick on to a girl and she is not being very responsive I take way too long to move on from her.
      I fear telling my boss that I want to resign and step back from arguing with people cos i think I’ll hurt their sentiments.
      I fear taking up new challenges cos it involves commitment and I have to get out of comfort zone.
      Although from outside I’m a very social person and can quickly initiate conversation with anyone these are what I’m afraid of.

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