How to Harness Your Fear and Build a Better Future

Earlier this month I was exploring what the future of marketing might look like for SU. I had sourced lots of ideas, conducted research, and was working towards a plan. But something kept getting in the way. I wouldn’t always prioritize the time to do it even though I knew it was important. I wouldn’t write down all of the ideas because some felt controversial. And when I got closer to having a finished deliverable something was getting in the way of sharing it. I felt “stuck.”

We’ve all had those moments when we say to ourselves, “This isn’t working, something needs to change.” And yet, nothing changes. We continue to push forward the way we always have. We get more frustrated, we feel burned out, we feel stuck, we’re exhausted, and we keep plugging away like we always have. The funny thing is that if you’ve been in one of those situations, you almost always know, maybe not with 100% certainty, but you’ve got an idea of what needs to change. And it’s even harder when the thing that needs to change is in our control. It’s easy to look externally and say, “Well that needs to change, and this needs to change, and so and so needs to change, and then it’d all be better.” But guess what? It’s not true, because most of the time, what needs to change is already inside of us, it’s just not getting out. Something is holding it back. Something is holding back that fire, drive, and determination to do the right thing and to make the change. But for some people, they’ve figured out how to overcome whatever it is and make amazing things happen—like educating children in Myanmar with VR or figuring out how to 3D print objects in space.

Back to marketing. I knew what needed to be done, but it wasn’t happening and I wasn’t making it happen. So I asked myself, “Adam, what is keeping you from spending all of your time on the future of marketing?” Naturally, I wrote down all of the external things first like, “I’m waiting on this person to figure out something else. And once I have that, I’ll be able to get this done.” Well, guess what? That’s bullshit. So I kept writing, kept digging, to find out what was getting in the way. I wrote down four things that were hard for me to come to terms with.

  1. I was afraid that I might be wrong and that it could have negative implications for the company.
  2. I was afraid it was going to be hard to get people bought in.
  3. I was afraid that people might leave or that it might cause others to fail because of me.
  4. I was afraid that I couldn’t do it.

Adam Hofmann

It was at that point that I formed a hypothesis that the always present barrier to success and personal growth is fear. 

I reflected back on when I’d been in this position before. Turns out, I had a pretty hard falling out at the first company I ever started because I put myself out there to take a stand for a direction I knew we needed to head in. I pushed all my chips in. And it ended up with me having a rough fall out and leaving the company, never to find out if my master plan would have even worked. I’ve grown a ton since that experience, but that was the fuel for my fear in this moment—something that happened 7 years ago that I hadn’t completely processed!

We’re human, and that means we’re all wrestling with fear on a daily basis. Fear is the number one thing holding us back in life. Fear keeps us safe and secure. Fear makes us believe that if we keep things the way they are we’ll feel warm and fuzzy inside. Fear doesn’t want us to grow or change. The people who appear fearless are just better at greeting their fear, acknowledging it, and then moving on. This is a skill we can all learn and develop. Sometimes overcoming it is not an option and it’s forced upon us, and other times we have to overcome it. But it’s always up to you.

So I ask all of you: What is one thing you’ve been holding back on doing? What’s the one thing that you know deep down if you did it, it would have the potential to change everything? Find that one thing, say hello to your fear, thank fear for keeping you safe when it’s absolutely necessary, and then kindly ask it for a rain check on your discussion today because you’ve got something big to get done. Maybe it’s declining a meeting so you can finish a project. Maybe it’s blocking your calendar to talk to customers so you can iterate your product experience. Or maybe it’s just taking a personal day because you’ve been grinding for way too long. Here are a few tips to get past whatever is holding you back.

  1. Write down the one thing you really want to do (dream big).
  2. Write what is holding you back (be honest and don’t judge yourself).
  3. Notice which of those things has to do with fear. Spoiler alert, most of them will.
  4. Write down all the possible positive outcomes from doing what you want to do. Read this every time you get stuck.
  5. Think of one thing you can do today to take a step closer, and do it.

Now repeat this every day until you’re closer and closer to whatever it is you want to achieve. Give yourself permission to be bold and to be honest about what you really want.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I got my plan done and I’m excited for what’s ahead. But the bigger thing I’m even more excited about is that I’ve decided to write a book about fear. I plan to explore what fear is from a biological perspective, how people confront fear on a regular basis, and what the most successful and fulfilled people in the world do to overcome fear. My goal is to build a framework that anyone can use to dream as big as they want and then make it happen, using new habits to overcome their fears along the way.

You know what else scared the heck out of me? Publishing these thoughts on the company blog. But we got this, let’s go!

Have thoughts or comments? Inspiration for people to interview for the book? I’d love to hear from you via email (adhofmann@gmail.com) or WhatsApp (+14156361620).