Change: Why it is good to feel the fear

Think crazy, act courageously and live a fulfilled life.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke a sentence in his first speech as the President of the United States of America during his inauguration on March 4th, 1933 that is still one of the most famous quotes in history, “The only thing we should fear is fear itself.“ Sounds pretty logical, right? But I am convinced that exactly the opposite is the case. Because we all have fears. Some of them are small, some bigger. But we all have them, even Bruce Springsteen, Tiger Woods or Barack Obama. No matter what great person we admire for their unique actions, they all have to fight the same doubts, insecurities and fears as you and I. And this is for a simple reason. A life without fear simply does not exist. Fear of the unknown is a normal result of daring to make a change, making courageous decisions or striking out in a new direction.

The only fear you should have is not to be afraid anymore.

Having no fear would inevitably mean that you are living a life of mediocrity, comfort and standstill. That we don´t dare to take a risk, but rather play it safe. That we have stopped growing as a person, stopped evolving and lead a miserable existence in a mental no man´s land. And I don´t know about you, but the thought alone gives me goose bumps.

No, if this was the price I had to pay to live a life without fear then I am happy for every little bit of doubt, every insecurity and every single fear. Because these feelings not only show me that I am alive, but that I am well on my way of doing something that will make me grow as a person. After all, the biggest breakthroughs always lie in the changes that we fear the most.

Therefore, I am firmly convinced that there is only one fear we should have—the fear of not being afraid anymore. I even dare to claim that the degree of fear is a good indicator of how big our dreams truly are. If you don´t feel a bit of doubt and fear during a change, you can be sure that your endeavor is not nearly challenging enough. And another thing is important. Most fears turn out to be unfounded in hindsight. It is the movie in our head that constantly supplies us with detailed horror scenarios that makes us hesitate and wait. But once we successfully face that fear, we also constantly realize that reality isn´t quite as bad as the images in our head have made us believe. Fear is an illusion.

At the end fear is just an illusion

And believe me, I know what I’m talking about. For years, it was one of my biggest fears to have a blackout on stage during one of my speeches. I colorfully imagined all the horrible things that would happen if this mental picture became reality. And one day I accomplished it. My own personal horror scenarios had turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I was standing on a big stage. Bright spotlights were shining down on me and three hundred people were sitting in front of me. Up to this point, everything was running fine. I was completely in my element, the audience was laughing a lot and the spark was catching more and more as the minutes passed. I just finished an inspiring story about bungee jumping and the audience was clapping enthusiastically. Enjoying the experience, I allowed myself to be carried away by the moment and was just about to get to the next point when, suddenly, something happened. Exactly nothing. From one moment to the next my mind was completely wiped clean; I was at a loss for words and had completely lost my train of thought. What I feared the most suddenly became reality. I experienced a classic blackout and was desperately searching for an opportunity to curl up and die out of shame, while thee hundred pairs of eyes were looking at me expectantly.

And I don´t know where the impulse came from, but for some reason I remembered what I always reiterate in my books and speeches, namely that it is better to do something instead of freezing. So I started acting and slowly moved towards the speakers’ desk where my MacBook Air was located. There I took deep breath and had a sip of water, and, suddenly, without any prior warning, everything came back to me—my words, my train of thought and also my confidence. I walked back to the middle of the stage and just continued talking.

Isn´t real life the best teacher? What we fear the most isn´t as bad as we expect it to be most of the time. Quite the opposite. If you offensively deal with your fears you can turn any kind of challenge into something positive in the end. Actually, the audience hadn´t even noticed that I had a blackout. The whole drama played out exclusively in my own head.

There was huge applause after my talk and everyone was satisfied. And the cherry on top was a remark from a lady in the third row, who approached me with a smile and said, “Mr. Grzeskowitz, this was great, you really spoke to my heart. And do you know what I liked the most? That pause you made after your story about bungee jumping, when you slowly walked to your desk. It really gave me time to think about my own changes.“ 

My invitation for you: Think crazy and act courageously

One thing you can take away from my story is this: If you dare to overcome the doubts, insecurities and fears of your daily life then you live a life at the edge of your comfort zone. But such a place, not known to many people, can be quite lonely, because the majority would rather take the easy way out, and concentrate on the well-known convenience of what is known as normal. By doings this, they keep narrowing their mental and physical abilities more and more, which are being fearfully guarded by tall walls. But just like the Irish playwright George Bernhard Shaw once said, “What we need is a few crazy people. Look where the normal people have taken us.“

Therefore, I would like to invite you to be one of these positively mad people. To think crazy, act courageously and live a fulfilled life.

Let the change begin!

Yours,

Ilja Grzeskowitz

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