Fear is “an unpleasant and often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”

Fear can be the most paralyzing state. It can keep us from making even a simple next step. In its most powerful form, fear can cause a person to lose their ability to scream, or even, speak. Fear can cause people to faint or pass out, or even “black-out” losing substantial block of time.

Fear can also override involuntary muscle function(s). Have you ever heard the familiar description, “That scared the crap out of me?” Well, there’s a good reason for that frequently used description of fear. In a true fight or flight – life or death situation, more than one soldier has reported the spontaneous emptying of their bowels when face with almost certain death.

I won’t pretend to have the answers on how to handle those over the top levels of fear, but I would like to talk about an everyday level of fear that affects all of us more often than we might think;

Fear of rejection
Fear of failure
Fear of criticism
Fear of loss
Fear of change
Fear of the unknown

What will happen if you if you step outside of the person the world knows you to be and you try something out of character? What will happen if you fail and the risk sets you back financially? Will your spouse disavow you? Will you lose your home? Will you be the talk of the town? “Hey Did you hear about that crazy guy Johnny that put everything on the line and got wiped out last week?”

I want to talk to you about that fear…the fear of things that aren’t nearly about to kill you! Let’s talk about risk  and reward and how to deal with the fear and minimize the risk.

After twenty plus years, it’s easy to look back and see some of the turning points of my career. Those turning points weren’t so obvious at the time but now I can see them clearly. One of the turning points happened when I was talking to a friend/mentor.

Early on, I came to know a very successful business man named Carlos Balido. He is Cuban and to this day he speaks with a very heavy Cuban accent. As a young man he was forced to seek political asylum in the U.S.A., fleeing from Cuba because of Fidel Castro and his murderous regime.

At age 18, Carlos volunteered to train in the hills of Guatemala to become one of the Cubano Freedom Fighters; a top secret, highly classified mission. The Freedom Fighters were secretly training, with the help of the U.S. and had plans to return to Cuba and defeat Castro and Communism, but things didn’t go so well.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had approved the clandestine military force, was defeated by Kennedy in a stunning upset before the invasion was to take place. One of the most perfect strategic attacks ever planned failed miserably when Kennedy refused to send the necessary air support.

All the air support had to do was defend a twenty seven mile wide pinch at the top of the _________  peninsula while the Cuban Freedom Fighters unloaded their army and supplies and organized. Instead they were slaughtered in a battle dubbed “The Bay of Pigs” by Cuban Presidente Fidel Castro, who demonized the Freedom Fighters as traitors to their country.

My Friend Carlos Balido was captured in that battle, and held prisoner, as a traitor to his country, for about 2.5 years. He was not treated well. In fact, he was brutalized more days than not.

When I met Carlos, those days of discontent were far behind him. He was many years my senior and I admired his business acumen.  We used to talk for hours. He told me his story and I remember him saying that his life was worth one John Deere tractor and a box of medical supplies…for that is what Amnesty International gave Castro for each of the 2, 400 men who had agreed to release.

I asked Carlos, “How do you forgive a country that betrayed you so badly?” He said, and I’ll never forget…

“The United State of America is the greatest country ever invented. The men who run it will always be imperfect, some better than others, and, God willing, they will come and go.”  

Then I asked him, “How did you survive those days of torture and darkness, not knowing if there would ever be an end to it?”

Carlos said something else I have never forgotten…

“The human body is the most adaptable thing on the planet and if you give it just enough protein, and just enough water, and if the mind doesn’t go…it will figure everything out.”

When I heard this testament to the strength and ability of the human body, it haunted me for days, maybe even weeks. Here I was, a young man, in my mid twenties, floundering around under a glass ceiling held in place for those who did not obtain a college degree. At the time, I was hardly able to make $15/hour and no matter how good or dedicated, or innovative I was, advancement was never fast enough, if at all.

My mind kept returning to what Carlos had said about the human body being the most adaptable thing on the planet. I went over and over and over his statement…

“The human body is the most adaptable thing on the planet and if you give it just enough protein, and just enough water, and if the mind doesn’t go…it will figure everything out.”

That sentence was trying to tell me something. It was speaking to me. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I had been contemplating going on my own. Quitting the entire idea of having a job was already rolling around in my head but I was afraid…and there it was, right in front of me…the statement I’d been needing to hear. The fear of removing employment as an option had just been resolved.

What were the chances I would not find just enough protein/food living in the United States of America in the city of San Antonio, Tx? What were the chances I’d be deprived of enough water? I believed Carlos when he said, . “…the human body is the most adaptable thing in the world…” and I knew if having a job was removed from my options, my body would figure everything out. It would have to. It would be forced to. The food and the water were just two parts of the equation and I wasn’t at all worried about not having enough food and water, but there was a third part. What about the third part? That part about the mind;

“And if the mind doesn’t go…”

In Carlos’ statement he was talking about sanity. In prison, if you got just enough food and water and if you didn’t go insane, the body would figure everything out. In my case “And if the mind doesn’t go” meant I’d have to resist the temptation of returning to a job when things got tough.

It would be up to me to keep my mind from giving up and then giving into a job.

I resolved to take having a J. O. B. off the table. I figured it would be tough, even tougher than I was prepared for, but I knew my destiny laid beyond that struggle. If I was going to get to where I wanted to be in life, I’d have to endure whatever my decision, not to have a job, threw at me. Resisting a job was going to be the key. I knew I’d always be able to muster food and water was a given! The trick would be to push my body out of a job until it had no other choice but to figure it out.

I knew I was going to hit bottom. I knew I was probably going to be embarrassing. I knew I’d have to go it alone for awhile and forget about a relationship with the opposite sex. I knew it was going to be lonely. I knew it was going to be tough. I had no wife and I had no children so I was making the decision solely for myself. I prepared myself for the long cold war. My mantra became, “They can’t eat me!”

FYI – I never hit the worst case scenario because I work too hard. Having a little fear is good. It gets you up and out the door in the morning!

“90% of all things we worry about never come to pass.”

In the second phase of overcoming fear I started creating an environment where I could fail without collapsing. Failure was figured into the pan upfront. Failure wasn’t figured in because of a lack of confidence or optimism. Failure was figured in because inevitably failure seems to find its way into the resume of every successful and ultra successful person I’ve ever known or red about. So why not plan for it? Thus, “The Moat Theory” was born.

In short, in The Moat Theory, we plan for the worst case scenario and then give ourselves permission to try and fail under two conditions;

  • #1. We build a modest cash flow income stream that covers our basic needs.

  • #2. We never risk that cash flow income stream when we aspire for more.

Be aware that fear is holding you back or somehow detrimental in your life is the first step. Once you realize you are actual afraid and this is affecting your decision making processes, you can set out to overcome your fear.

Recognize fear can be a good thing. Fear can work for you!  It can cause determination and perseverance. For example, if you are afraid of getting old without an income, the fear of poverty could drive you to become financial independent. Without fear we would not act.

Fear is also good in that, without fear, life would have less highs and lows…and living flat would be unfulfilling or boring. Conquering that which we are fearful of can be exhilarating!

Identifying exactly what you are afraid of is critical. If you know exactly what you are afraid of, you can get more specific as to how to conquer that fear. For example, if you’re afraid to quit your job because you’re not going to be able to pay your bills, perhaps you should work part-time to create an income stream to cover your bills before you quit your job.

Prepare for failure whenever possible. Having a good plan “B” can go a long ways towards thwarting fear. In my first phase of facing fear I’d prepare for failure; I’d either come up with an alternative plan for if I failed, or I’d deduce the worst case scenario and if I could live with that scenario then I’d proceed on.

If you fear something big, try breaking it down. Sometime the magnitude of the situation is what makes us fearful. Try cutting the problem down into segments and tackle the most logical or minimal segments first. By reducing a big problem into several smaller portions, we start to see how the entire situation can be overcome.

Have a worthy goal.  When your “Why” is bigger than your “Fear” things start getting done. A strong why keeps you focused and keeps you moving you through the challenging times. Having a good reason helps us conquer fear.

Fear is conquered by massive action. So what if you’re in a fearful state right now? Perhaps you’re out of work or something unimaginable happened. How do you handle fear when you’re swallowed up by it? Go on the attack. Engage! If you are busy fighting you won’t have time for fear. You’ll probably find the giant you are fighting isn’t as enormous as you first thought. When you start to gain on the things you fear the most, your fear will start to reduce exponentially, and a certain momentum starts to grow in your favor.  

One of the most rewarding things you can do in life is to conquer your fears. Taking on your fears and overcoming them can open up new doors and present new horizons. It can lead to choices previously unavailable and paths previously inaccessible. So the next time you realize that fear is keeping you from accomplishing more in your life, try to remember these key points about fear;

  • Be aware…………………that fear is holding you back.

  • Recognize……………..…that fear can be good.

  • Identify…………………… your exact fear.

  • Prepare……………………for failure whenever possible.

  • Breakdown………………..your fears into smaller pieces.

  • Have a great WHY……….and read your goals often.

  • Take Massive Action…….and become too busy to be afraid.

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-Mitch

 

Take the next step…

Mitch Stephen is author of the book “My Life & 1, 000 Houses.

He specializes in a real estate investing technique called Owner Financing

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