I remember the thing that scared me the most.
It was knowing I wouldn’t be there in the middle of the night when my kids were having a nightmare.
It almost incapacitated me.
Now my kids are older. One’s in college.
But when I was going through my divorce, I realized I’d never be with my kids the same way again. And the facts lead to fears.
I’m scared of something new all the time. And I wanted to learn a better way to deal with it.
So I started studying a new process from my friend Brandon Webb. He talks about using fear as fuel. “Tension is energy,” he says.
Brandon is a Navy SEAL. He’s experienced some of the most terrifying, life-threatening situations you can imagine. He’s also been through a divorce. So I like talking to him about that. And he also runs his own business (a media to commerce called the Hurricane Group).
He’s not getting shot at anymore. But he still has to deal with fear: business fears, family fears, money fears, etc.
“Fear is something we’re going to live with for the rest of our lives,” he said.
So I had him break down his process in his new book, “Mastering Fear: A Navy SEAL’s Guide.”
This is what I learned:
1. Decision: come to the decision of dealing with the fear
I used to have a fear of public speaking.
First, I had to become aware of it (that’s a precursor to “making the decision”).
Then I decided to pursue it. Public speaking was something I wanted to get good at. Same as comedy. I didn’t just say “I wish this fear would go away.” or “I wish I was good at…”
It wasn’t easy because I hate confrontation. And it was almost like I had to confront myself. But after I did that, it became a process, which lead to step #2.
I’ll give you an example.
When Brandon was training to be a Navy SEAL, he was put in simulations. Not virtual reality. Real-life practice.
They’d practice missions in high stakes situations.
People shooting, bomb threats, etc.
It felt real, which allowed him to have a focus and a concentration that he could use later when he really needed it.
Now, not everyone is going to set time to rehearse getting over their fear. And I think that’s the difference, for me, between staying afraid and entering into a process of recovering.
3. Letting Go
This is NOT step one.
So many people talk about “surrender” as if that’s easy to do.
That’s why I like the steps in Brandon’s book. Because it tells you to work your way up to letting to. Not to do it overnight. And it doesn’t make you feel like you’re any less capable if you can’t let go right away. It just means you’re human.
There’s gravity and there’s fear. It’s part of life.
Brandon said, “There are so many people who end up in these miserable relationships, they’re in these careers where they thought at one point, ‘I’m going to be a doctor or a lawyer and make all this money,’ then they do and they’re absolutely miserable. And they just won’t let go.”
He compared this to having a “fixed mindset” versus an “open mindset.”
“Not too long ago, you were a kook to think that the world was anything other than flat. So when I translate that to fear, I tell the story of the jungle training where they show you how to trap monkeys.”
This sounds crazy, but keep reading.
“And how you trap a monkey in the Philippines is you dig a hole, you put something of value you in there. In this case, it was a coconut. You put sticks in the hole so then the monkey sticks his hand in, grabs the coconut, but he can’t pull it out.”
This is where it gets relatable…
“The monkey won’t let go of the coconut. All he has to do is let go of the coconut and he’s free. He’s sitting there looking at the Filipino guy coming to club him in the head and he still won’t let go of the coconut.”
He trapped himself.
“I tell that story because, for a lot of people, holding on to the coconut is like holding on to the fear.”
4. Know What Matters
This is my favorite step. Because it reminds me of one of my favorite books, “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl.
He survived one of the worst concentration camps in WWII when other people didn’t. And it’s because he used this mindset of remembering what matters.
I’m going to write a list tonight.
The premise of Brandon’s book is really powerful.
It’s not about conquering the fear. It’s about using that fear to even be more powerful. Like an alchemy.
Maybe, if I had Brandon’s book back when I was getting divorced, I would’ve had the same fear. But it’d be watered down. Because I’d remember the truth behind that fear was that I wanted to be a good dad. That’s all.