Controlling Fear

Fear - Way of the Warrior KidFear is normal. It is a protective reaction to the unknown and uncertain. It is healthy. Yet, it can also hold us back. Both mentally and often physically it keeps us frozen in place, unable to move … to grow.

"Fear is normal. In fact, fear is good. Fear is what warns you when things are dangerous. Fear is what makes you prepare. Fear keeps us out of a lot of trouble. So there is nothing wrong with fear. But fear can also be overwhelming. It can be unreasonable. It can cause you to freeze up and make bad decisions or hesitate when you need to act. So you have to learn to control fear." - page 153, Way of the Warrior Kid.

Jocko Willink talks about preparation being the first step in controlling your fears, including training, studying, and planning. For me, part of that studying and planning revolves around the analysis of the worst things that could happen. Astronaut Chris Hadfield, in his book he discusses this mental preparation by always looking for “what could kill him next”. Often this alone puts your fears into perspective. What could happen? How would it be handled? and what (if anything) could be done about it? Then, as Jocko says in his book, you just need to “go” – in other words ‘take action’. You can continue or turn back. Enter the ring or leave the arena. This ends up being a choice you make. Control your fear, don’t let it control you!

"Once you go - once you start - you won't be afraid anymore. You overcome the fear by going - and it is the same in many aspects of life. Parachuting. Talking in front of a crowd. Taking a test. Running a race. Competing in jiu-jitsu. The fear is in the waiting. So. Once you have prepared and trained and studied and planned, there is only one thing left to do: go." - page 156, Way of the Warrior Kid.

Lessons from the nighttime family reading session of…
“Way of the Warrior Kid” by Jocko Willink

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Taking the day off

rock wallIt is difficult being a single parent. Stressful to deal with with school schedules, extracurricular activities, and then attempting to manage your own life. So, co-parenting to lend a break in the schedule and allow you time to focus on you. Extended breaks due to vacations and holidays can be nice to, giving a parent that day-off to focus on themselves can be incredibly powerful. Christmas is more difficult emotionally, it is culturally defined as family time so when you are not with your family it can be incredibly hard.

This year was just one of those years where I saw less of my kids over the Christmas break. So when I got a call that I had the opportunity to take my boys while my wife had to work I jumped at the chance. This meant that I had to take the day off, something that is not typically in my nature. Yet, after not getting much of a holiday with them it was just “what was going to happen”. There was no question in my mind.

My past is littered with cases where I chose work over family. Vacations were spent with me checking emails, coordinating from my phone, or actually working the code remotely. At home I would often work into the evenings, be late or completely miss family events, and neglect the need and desire for both a father and a husband. I am now paying for many of those choices.

Today work remains important to me, but it no longer defines who I am. I define who I am – I do that through my actions. That action, was to take the day off and enjoy it with my boys. It was just a few hours, but it is about quality over quantity – it is about the experience.

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A Fresh Start Begins with a Vision

Each new year starts with grand motivations. Desires to sweep away the past and start anew. Grand ambitions, resolutions, and intentions to make this coming year better than the previous one. A chance to change our lives. The best way to do that is create a vision of yourself and write it down.

As I mentioned previously, instead of a list of resolutions and promises to myself that will inevitably be broken, I defined a list of values. Building a vision statement much like the one Brandon Webb describes in his New Years goal setting episode, I took these values a wrote out a short paragraph that I can review frequently throughout the year. It forms a foundation for how I see the person I want to be in 2018. I can then use it as the grounding point for the choices I will face over the year.

As a single father in my early 40’s, my primary focus is raising my two boys as happy and healthy young men. I am active and healthy, defining my life through my experiences. A constant learner, I am always looking to grow and become better at everything I do. I am focused and intentional. I use failure as my friend, providing me critical feedback as I continue to try new things. I value the struggle, always pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. I strive to be a valuable resource for others looking to improve themselves by providing leadership, guidance, and inspiration by setting a positive example at all times and in all things. Above all I value my friends and family.

A life of experiences

I had defined 2017 as my ‘year of exploration’. I focused a lot on new experiences and this served me well. I made new friends and confronted many of my fears which allowed me to move past a lot of the road blocks I had put up. As I reviewed the events of this past year I came to realize this was an aspect of my life I wanted to continue. To ensure this theme continues I made sure I continued to define myself through my experiences, to identify my relationships with friends and family as a core value, and to highlight learning and continuous growth as a part of my essence.

The year of focus and intention

After slowly putting myself back together over 2015 and 2016 I knew I needed to push myself to grow. From my notes earlier in the year I identified social, travel, experiences, engagements, and passions as aspects of life I wanted to highlight. As I sit here and review my year I can see how this theme underscored almost everything I did over the year. It was clear that providing myself a theme, and revisiting it regularly, guided my choices. The year opened my mind and I was once again filled with new ideas and inspirations, a part of me that had been repressed for sometime.

However, by the end of the year I was engaged in several new projects, investigating others, cultivating new friendships, all while still fulfilling my existing obligations. 2018 I am defining as “The year of focus and intention”. I listed out all my main ideas and moved several off my main plate for this year, and highlighted the one that most fit with my objectives both in the short and long term. I also highlighted a couple that I wanted to cultivate as passion projects. While this meant that some of my ideas, some good ideas, had to be moved aside. This was hard as I felt a few of these were really good and fit my long term objective, but represented too much needed time, money and attention. Less is more.

A growth mindset

During 2017 I was introduced to the concept of a growth mindset. A belief that my talents are not predefined and can be developed and improved through intentional effort. As I move into 2018 I know that I am in full control of my life. As Charles Swindoll said, “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% of how you react to it.” While failures and setbacks will continue to be a part of my life, I am taking a page from Jim Kwik and choosing to treat them as feedback that I can learn from.

You only fail if you fail to learn. Everything else is just feedback.

– Jim Kwik

However, the biggest thing as I start this new year is the knowledge that everyday starts anew. Life is as fluid as the ocean, constantly changing and presenting new opportunities. I will have good days and bad days, make good and bad decisions. By defining a vision and identifying a theme I am providing myself with the tools to re-adjust to the changing tides.

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2018.

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