In Defense of Fear: The Musings of a Serial Overthinker

Fear is a strong emotion; one we tend to avoid or, at the very least, one we do our best to rid ourselves of when its presence is felt. Fear can often be debilitating for some, stress-inducing for many more, and a major source of anxiety for most, if not all. It’s easy to justify why we would want to limit our encounters with fear; however, over the years of dealing with my fair share of fears, particularly as it pertains to my career, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a lot wrong with how we perceive it as an emotion.

The reason I say that is simple: Fear makes us better! Biologically, fear heightens our senses, elevates brain function, and prepares us to act. It has helped us survive as a species. When it comes to my own path, embracing, even befriending my fears, has given me a better understanding of who I am. It forces me to break out of my comfort zone and take more risks, which in-turn has led to an improvement in my work.

With this in mind, I felt like the idea was something worth sharing, so I recently introduced my first talk on this subject, “In Defense of Fear: The Musings of a Serial Overthinker”, which will be debuted publicly at this year’s DrupalCon in Baltimore, as part of the Being Human Track. In the time spent developing this talk, I came across numerous resources that have been instrumental in helping to shift my perceptions of fear. While my full talk will have to wait until after DrupalCon to be shared here, I do want to take a few moments to share these resources to shed some light on new perspectives.

1. Paula Scher: Great Design is Serious, Not Solemn

Paula is one of my favorite designers, not only does she have a great repertoire of work in her wake—seriously, the CitiBank, Shake Shack, and CNN branding are just scratching the surface of her legacy—she’s also a brilliant speaker with some great ideas on the value of creatives taking a serious mentality of play to their work. In this TED talk, she shares her own experiences with finding opportunities to be at play in her work, and how being out of her design comfort zones has helped her create some of her best work along the way.

2. Debbie Millman: Why Creative Leaders Need Courage More Than Fear

Debbie is another brilliant design mind, and one whom I’ve had the pleasure of spending some time with, and every time I get a chance to be around her, she shares what can only be described as a gem of an idea. One such idea is that courage is more important that fear. This idea that the initial expectation of confidence is a misnomer, and that courage (i.e. the willingness to pursue a goal even when the confidence isn’t there) is much more advantageous than pretending to be confident when it’s not real. The bottom line: it takes courage to gain true confidence.

3. Debbie Millman: On the Courage to Fail at Doing What You Love

Like I said, she’s got some clever ideas! In this visual essay, she shares her ideas on how fear of failure shaped her early career and how she gained the courage to stop looking for stability and safety. 

4. Book: Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You: A Journal

This book was recently introduced to me, but it’s such a great concept that I wish I had known about it earlier! Essentially, the book challenges you to look your fears in the face by doing random acts of bravery, such as: singing out loud, asking for help, failing spectacularly, and a number of other ideas.

5. Book: The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence

While this book takes a slightly darker approach to the acceptance of fear, it touches on a rather salient point: Fear is not our enemy. Fear is ultimately there to help, and when avoided, dismissed, or left unacknowledged, it can be detrimental.

Hopefully, these resources surface a new way of thinking about fear. If you’re at DrupalCon ’17, you will find my talk “In Defense of Fear: The Musings of a Serial Overthinker” on Wednesday April 26th from 2:45 PM – 3:15 PM in the Community Stage - Exhibit Hall. Stop by and share your thoughts and experiences.