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How to Be Courageous When Facing Fear

I used to teach hand-to-hand combat to civilians in a 1,200-square-foot metal-sided warehouse with a 14-by-14-foot roll-up door. Nestled between several small automotive shops, it didn’t have AC to help during the Texas summer or heat for the winter. This meant we relied on fans and space heaters to make things bearable, not to mention good old-fashioned grit. On occasion, we would have 25 students packed in this hot metal box on a Saturday morning, and as uncomfortable as it was, nobody ever complained. Our school mascot was a very personable and highly intelligent black dog named Sparqi, who loved to walk around and say hi to everyone, whenever it suited him. Sometimes, he even wore a school T-shirt—just because he could.

The floors were bare concrete; the only exception was a 12-by-12-foot matted area that was framed with two-by-fours and mounted in the center of the room. Adhered to this red mat was a 12-inch-long piece of black tape that represented the essence of everything we taught. This simple piece of tape was referred to as THE FEAR LINE. When you stepped up to it, and put your toes on it, you were indicating to any black belt in the room that you were ready to be attacked, with anything they could muster, at any time. With your feet together and your hands by your side, you purposely made yourself vulnerable and confronted your fear of being hit, being hurt, and being embarrassed.

For new students, stepping up to the fear line was a major ordeal and took a great amount of courage. But, over time, as their experience and skill set improved, so did their confidence. And as their confidence improved, so did their performance. When a new student was told to toe the line, they did so with fear and trembling, but they still did it—they just did it afraid. Courage at its finest!

When was the last time you stepped up to the line and confronted your fears, unleashing a new dose of anxiety? What if you take a risk toward achieving a goal or a dream, and it fails miserably after all of your time and effort? What if nobody supports your endeavors and you get criticized by a handful of anonymous haters on social media? What if others judge you? Or, worse yet, rejects you? What if you lose your hard-earned money—all of it?

These are the thoughts we risk facing anytime we choose to step up, stand out, or bet on ourselves. So why push through, exposing our humanity and vulnerability? The answer is simple: We choose to focus on a better narrative for our life. Can one person who achieves triumph overcome the voices of a thousand naysayers? The answer is an emphatic, yes! When we choose to go through the wall of external or self-imposed adversity, we are metaphorically inviting “fear the counselor” to sit on our shoulder and whisper wisdom in our ear. And in doing so, we are simultaneously rejecting “fear the jailer,” who tries to stand in our way and shout lies to our face. By choosing a better narrative for our life, we have taken the most important step toward finding our resolve and taking the leap—even if we have to do it afraid!

Power Quote

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

—Dale Carnegie

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