Giving Fear the Middle Finger

I recently tweeted “Fear is useless,” and got a mix of responses. There were some favorites, a direct message about different kinds of fear, and friends who disagreed. I’m glad they thought differently, because it made me think about fear a little more in-depth. 

I wrote “Fear is useless” because I was frozen about starting a two-week project over smack dab in the middle. I had been working in one direction, and then was presented with compelling reasons to change my approach. I was under pressure, and I really, really wanted this client presentation to go well. I wanted to succeed so strongly that I was afraid of failure.

Being scared of fucking up was keeping me from getting my hands dirty, from doing the work I knew I needed to do. In that moment, sitting at my computer worrying about how to do what I needed to do, fear was hurting more than helping. Sending that little message to the world was my moment of resolve, giving the middle finger to the silly human feelings that were keeping me from doing a good job. After that, I signed out of Twitter, rolled my sleeves up, and dedicated myself to working out the problem.

What I learned–or what I remembered–is that fear is useful, depending on what you’re scared of and why. I’m scared of being a boring person. I’m scared of dying a boring person. On my tombstone they would write nothing, because I gave nothing. So I work hard, and I make things with my hands that feel important to me. Lots of people feel this way.

Stephen DeStaebler says this more eloquently than me:

“Artists don’t get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working.”

If you haven’t already, go read Art and Fear. When I follow the authors’ advice closely, I have a greater chance of conquering fear.

What are you scared of? How does it hurt you?  How does it help you?