You want to know how to live fearlessly? You have the power in you to live as fearlessly as a warrior. This simple technique makes it fun living the fearless life.
Every time the phone rang in the call center where I used to work, a part of my mind would ask me “Am I not worth more than this? Is this it for me, sitting here talking to investors I don’t even know?”
The disgruntled complaints I took made me grind my teeth. “Your service is terrible,” callers would say. I’m just a call center agent, can you please shut up? I wanted to say. But the boss was in the background so I’d bite my lip.
One time, when I was so bored I was practically yawning at the desk, a customer said, “Your company sucks.”
“Yes, maam, you’re correct,” I said.
“Excuse me? I want to talk a manager, immediately.”
… “We’re very dissatisfied with your attitude,” the boss said. “We would fire you, but your statistics are so good. We need you here.”
So maybe you should pay me more and treat me better, is what I felt like saying, but again I bit my lip.
Within a few months I was so sick of everything that once every week I told my boss I had diarrhea so I could take the day off—no one ever questions diarrhea.
During those days off I’d stare into the mirror, look myself in the eyes and say, “What the hell do you think you’re doing? You’re wasting your life away. Quit that crappy job.”
But I needed the job. I had bills to pay. My girlfriend wasn’t working. And my family and friends expected me to do this 9-5 thing even if it was bullshit.
I was afraid of leaving my job.
I was afraid of jacking it in. Fear had me in its grasp, as fear does with most people. Doesn’t matter whether it’s fear of the dentist, fear of flying, fear of public speaking, or fear of losing your job… your fear grabs you by the balls and squeezes them tight.
Pardon the French. But that’s the reality, isn’t it?
Tension was in my mind. Because my mind was torn in two. Quit that job one part of me said. But people will judge me if I’m not working and I won’t be able to pay the bills, said the other part.
One part was optimism, the idea of doing something better, the other part was fear, the idea that if I left my job I’d end up with friends mocking me for being unemployed and my girlfriend leaving me.
That’s always the way. Fear and hope are two sides of the same coin. They’re two polar opposites, magnetic polls with equal force, both trying to move you in opposite directions with the same force, so that they neutral each other out and you end up going nowhere.
At that time, I had no clue how to live fearlessly. Thankfully, I was about to learn precisely how to live fearlessly, and my fearless new life would begin.
Staring deep into my own eyes in the bathroom mirror, I knew that what I needed most wasn’t a new job. The job was secondary. The work wasn’t the real issue. There was something deeper, something intangible.
What I really needed was to conquer fear so that I could live a new life. Because while fear had its stranglehold around my neck I wouldn’t ever get anywhere.
I needed to conquer fear. I needed to learn how to live fearlessly.
I immediately grabbed my pen and paper–as a writer, the answer to everything is found in pen and paper (or keyboard and screen).
So I grabbed pen and paper. And I divided that paper in two down the middle.
There were two sides of my problem. One side was the fear of doing something new. The other side was the act of doing something new.
So I divided the paper in two, labeled one side Fear and the other side New. And told myself that I was going to fill the page with ticks as I beat fears and did new things.
This was to be a game. Every time I either conquered a fear or did something new, I would put a tick in the corresponding table of the paper. Beat a fear, put a tick in the fear box, do something new, put a tick in the new box.
This idea had come spontaneously, but it was inspired by years of reading psychological articles.
What I knew was this: The reason I was so afraid of quitting my job was because the brain naturally hates change.
Your brain has been taught, through evolution, that change is a threat. Your brain started to learn this millions of years ago with the cavemen.
It’s very easy, as a caveman, to stay in your cave where there are no lions. Stay in your cave and you probably won’t be eaten. Venture out of your cave and you might feel teeth penetrating your flesh.
Problem is that if you don’t venture out of the cave you won’t ever get food so you’ll end up starving to death.
Flash forward in time to today and things haven’t really changed that much. Change is still fear and hope combined. Quit your day job and you might end up broke. But don’t change your day job and you might bore yourself to death.
That’s why most people change only a tiny bit, only as much as is absolutely necessary, so they’re safe but also don’t starve. Most people do not live fearlessly, even though they wish they could.
Most people who quit their job get a very similar job at a very similar company doing a very similar thing, and then they’ll say, “I can’t believe this new company is treating me as badly as the first one!”
People fear change. That’s a psychological fact. And if you want to know how to live fearlessly, you have to start by overcoming your fear of change.
Problem is, if you’re the type of person who teats life like an adventure and whats to make the most of every minute, you have to be willing to accept change and try new things. In other words, if you want to get a lot of living done while you’re on this Earth, you have to overcome your brain’s fear of change.
So I devised my little way to train my brain to overcome fear and to do new things. This was when I started to learn how to live fearlessly.
The little table I’d drawn on the paper in front of me, that sheet that would chronicle the times I conquered fear and the times I did something new, that wasn’t just paper and ink, that was neuroscience turned into a little game, it was a training program for my brain, a way in which I could teach my brain to overcome fear and to try new things in life.
Armed with my paper and pen, I set out into the world, determined to conquer fear. But I knew that if I was to do this thing right I had to be my own best friend. If I’d told myself, “Just hand in your resignation note and start living your new life” I wouldn’t have done it. That would have been like going to the gym for the first time and bench-pressing 350 lbs. Not going to happen.
I started small. No Herculean feats. No Everest challenges. Small stuff, so my brain could build those muscles and get stronger, overcoming fear one step at a time.
It started, as it does for a lot of guys, with talking to women. I was a shy guy. Talking wasn’t my strong point. My face would turn ruddy and I’d mumble when I spoke to a girl I liked. Sounds lame. Was lame. But it was my reality back then.
So I would go into the city and find women I liked. And I would just talk to them. Not using pick-up lines. Yuck. Not my style. Just chatting to them about whatever was happening, casually, you know, small talk. Talk to a girl, put a tick in the box.
I was afraid of the dentist too. Thought that son of a bitch would rip all my teeth out and charge me thousands for the privilege. So I went to the dentist. Put a tick in the box.
Meanwhile, I’d also try new things, not conquering fear, just doing new things to inject some neural-plasticity into my brain.
Novelty is actually incredibly important for the brain. Doing new things creates new neural connection in the brain, making you more intelligent. So I did new things. I took up Capoeira (a Brazilian martial art), I got involved with amateur dramatics, I took classical singing lessons. And all this novelty ignited my brain and sparked my neurons.
Sure enough the muscles built. I began to be able to conquer bigger fears and do more radical new things. Two years into this practice my brain was so jacked-up that when I got the opportunity to move country to Canada, I took it gladly, not fearing the unknown, just excited to be so alive. And when those 711 tires rolled of the tarmac at Heathrow and the streets of London faded into the distance, soon looking no bigger than silver worms… I knew I had conquered my fears.
I still have that pen and paper. It’s next to me now. I still put ticks in those boxes. I still challenge my fear and engage in novelty. And when I look back now, I know that those 5 minutes, years ago, when I looked in the mirror and devised my game of “Tick the box”, those five minutes changed my life forever.
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