Boo! 

Did we scare you? 

Good. It might be just the feeling you need to be successful! Well… sort of… 

 

Fear is that full body feeling that can block us from taking the action we need to progress in our lives. We work hard to limit this bad feeling and the potential of the worst outcomes we imagine, removing ourselves from circumstances and avoiding experiences that we predict will be accompanied by suboptimal results; however, Michelle Poler discovered the things we fear might be just the things we need – the opportunity we secretly crave – to move towards the success we desire.  

Michelle ventured on a journey full of fears and discovered a success-studded process for living life outside the zone of comfort. She broke out of her controlled lifestyle in an experiment called 100 Days Without Fear. Over the course of the experiment, she faced 100 of her fears such as holding a cat, frying something, getting drunk, posing nude, cliff diving and flying a plane (full list here). In her final fear of the experiment she took on public speaking on the TEDxHouston stage.  

Her message about overcoming fear and tapping into your potential resonates strongly across many groups of people. Poler has been invited to speak to audiences across the globe – one being the 2022 McDaniel College bachelor’s candidates – wielding lessons on failure, bravery, confidence, success and beyond that she gleaned from her experiment.

Before and after facing each of her fears she documented her thoughts on the challenge, her fears and the experience. The reflections offer a great framework for identifying and learning from fears in business, prompting one to consider their goals and the movement of their mindset.

Explore below the value of each phase of reflection. Then, tackle your own fears with a template linked at the end of this blog post! 

 

What’s the challenge? 

You need to know what you are going up against. Having the challenge clarified in your mind is helpful for several reasons. It is the ability to: 

  • Know what you are hoping to overcome, so you can recognize when you have; 
  • Measure your progress towards a defined end; 
  • Equip yourself with the proper tools and resources necessary; 
  • Pinpoint the source of your fear, frustration or other response.  

 

What are you afraid of? 

Through her experiment, Poler was afraid of “being ignored,” “something going wrong,” “the unknown,” “rejection,” “embarrassment,” “loneliness,” and “making a fool of myself.” While these are specific to situations she put herself in, they seem quite transferable to many of the things we find ourselves avoiding in an effort to limit discomfort. However, this goes against our desired purpose as “comfort is what keeps us from innovating, it convinces us to continue doing things the same way we’ve always done them,” Poler said in a compilation of her keynotes posted on Instagram. “The enemy of success… is comfort.” 

So, what’s scaring you? What comfort are you choosing? What discomfort are you avoiding? Knowing what you are afraid of: 

  • Describes the discomfort so you know where you need to go; 
  • Puts a label to it and removes the paralyzing feeling of confusion; 
  • Empowers you to do something. 

 

How was the experience? 

After each experience, Poler realizes she was capable of endeavoring what she feared all along or learned something about herself and the world. With each fear, she grew her confidence and knowledge. She celebrates each lesson in her reflections, and for you they can serve to: 

  • Document a move in your journey (you never know how significant it may be!); 
  • Provide an archive to revisit when similar challenges arise; 
  • Be a reminder that you are capable of hard things. 

 

Use this template to realize and leverage your fears for progress. As James Hayton and Gabriella Cacciotti wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “For entrepreneurs, courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to persist in spite of it.” 

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