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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