How Tim Ferriss Learnt to Tackle His Fears

“Typically, people don’t overcome their fears because the fears are nebulous and undefined.” ~ Tim Ferriss

Your mind is your greatest asset. Tom Ferriss’s mind has gone toe to toe with bipolar depression. Bipolar depression causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, thinking, and behavior. Having been to the center of darkness enough times to threaten his future, he chose to find a way to manage the extreme ups and downs.

For better or for worse. For richer or for poorer. In sickness and in health. Until death do we part, fear will forever be along for the ride. From the uber successful to those just starting out, there is no one, not a single human being, for whom fear has not manifested in one form or another.

Fear has its purpose. A purpose as old as the ages. That purpose is survival. Fear is why we exist today. Without a healthy dose of fear, our ancestors would have adopted all the carnivorous animals as pets and ended up as pet food. They would have eaten the poisonous berries because they were just too pretty to resist and hugged each and every person carrying a deathly contagious disease because to be human is to be socially inclined. Fear is part of our genetic inheritance.

What fear we don’t get from our genetics, we get from conditioning. Conditioning is why two people can have two extremely opposing views of the same experience.

Fear conditioning is a form of classical conditioning, the type of associative learning pioneered by Ivan Pavlov in the 1920s. It involves the repeated pairing of a non-threatening stimulus such as a light, called the conditioned stimulus, with a noxious stimulus such as a mild shock, called the unconditioned stimulus, until the animal shows a fear response not just to the shock but to the light alone, called a conditioned response.

Fear itself is not the enemy says, Seth Godin. Paralysis is. It is the paralytic effect of fear and the conditioned response to stressful events in one’s life that Tim Ferriss’s approach seeks to conquer.

Ferriss’s journey led him to Stoicism where the teachings of Seneca caught his attention. It started with the quote “We suffer more in imagination than in reality.” The quote led him to Seneca’s letters where he learned of the practice of “premeditatio malorum.” The premeditation of evils. The exercise involved detailed visualization of worst-case scenarios with the aim of taking action to overcome fear-induced paralysis.

Fear-setting, a simple yet powerful three-paged exercise was born of this journey.


Page 1 — What if I …?

The first page of the fear-setting exercise is titled What if I …? and is divided into three columns. Define, Prevent, Repair.

Define — List whatever you fear, whatever is causing you anxiety/tension, whatever you’re putting off/resisting.

Prevent — List what you could do to prevent or decrease the likelihood each of the fears you defined from happening.

Repair — List what you can do or who you can ask for assistance should the fears you defined actually come to life.

When working on this page, Ferriss reminds us to keep an important fact in mind. Our fears are not unique. Someone somewhere has experienced them and figured out how to prevent them and or repair them. If they can, so can you. Should you get stuck, seek them out for inspiration.

Page 2 — The Benefits of an Attempt or a Partial Success

The second page of the fear-setting exercise channels the power of positive thinking by reframing the fear.

I have written before on the brain’s bias for negativity which makes us more comfortable talking about all the bad things that could go wrong as a result of our actions. Fear-setting looks at the other side of the coin. The benefits of trying and of achieving a partial success.

Page 3 — The Cost of Inaction

The third and last page of the fear-setting exercise looks at the cost of doing nothing. Of maintaining the status quo.

On this page, you will list what all the ways, emotionally, financially, physically, mentally, spiritually, in a span of six months, 12 months, three years, what the price of staying as is would cost you.

When it comes to overcoming fear, exposure works better than avoidance. You can’t, however, expose yourself with any degree of success to something which you cannot clearly define. Fear-setting is an exercise in defining fear at its true source. The mind. Of identifying and breaking the invisible barriers of fears that are more yelp than bark or bite.

“You actually do live a fuller life when you face your fear,” says Dr. Srini Pillay, a Harvard psychiatrist. Ferriss says “I can trace all of my biggest wins and all of my biggest disasters averted back to doing fear-setting at least once a quarter.”

Become the person you’ve always dreamed about in your bold and wild mind. Use Ferriss’s fear-setting exercise to train your mind to act more courageously in everyday life. Not to eliminate fear in the hopes of becoming fearless but with the goal of fearing less and boldly acting when you should act.

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Fear Must be Questioned

 I’m not one for titles but this weekend I almost lost one I truly treasure. World’s Greatest Aunty. The scene – The grandparents home. The actors – Four nephews aged three, five, nine and ten years old. Two dogs, one of which was a puppy. And yours truly.

The puppy is still very much afraid of humans so let’s just make him an observer. This leaves his dad. A very friendly dog. He loves  He’s good with people of all ages.

Unfortunately, dogs are locked up when visitors are around. This unfairly adds to the ‘the dogs are not friendly’ label they’ve inherited.  I being the rebel, we all love, decided to set them free.

It was a good and bad idea.

I learned that when it comes to dogs, my ten-year-old nephew is a rock star. Except when they pee. My three and five-year-old nephews are on the precipice. They are more curious than afraid. However, should the trusted adults in their inner circle show fear, then they too shall adopt a similar approach.

My nine-year-old nephew was the epitome of what happens when fear is left to run unchecked. There was a fear induced temporary paralysis. There were tears. Tears that fell in rapid succession eventually becoming an unbroken stream. His eyes got tinted the saddest rosy pink. His screams are forever etched in my eardrums. Blood-curdling screams that sent his cousins, my three and five-year-old nephews, scurrying for higher ground.

The dog party was cut short. They were returned to their kennel. I took my nephew through some breathing exercises to calm his breathing and then we had a short talk about fear. Definitely one of many to come.


“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance…”

~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Fear is natural. A biological reaction towards things that could harm you. you.

Fear is very much a part of the human experience. Wishing for it to be gone is to embark on a fool’s errand.

While fear is natural, being afraid is a choice.


Your fear is never about what has happened. It is always about what may happen. It is always about the future. The future is yet to happen. It has not yet happened. That means, it is not in existence. So, being fearful means you are suffering that which does not exist.

You can plan your tomorrow but you cannot live in your tomorrow.



“Fear is temporary, Regret is forever.”

~ Unknown

Psychologists Tom Gilovich and Vicky Medvec, in a study of regret, have confirmed the words attributed to Mark Twain. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

In their own words  “In the long run, people of every age and in every walk of life seem to regret not having done things much more than they regret things they did.” 


“We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”

~ Richard Rohr

Fear prevents action. Fear prevents living.

To change your life, you have to change your thoughts. What is guaranteed to change your thoughts? Action. Action is confirmation. Action is confirmation that not all your fears are keeping you safe.

So when fear strikes, take action. Recognize it. Become actively aware of the havoc those fears are having on your life. Express it. Make it visible. Explore it.

Fear Must be Questioned

“Fear is a question. What are you afraid of and why? Our fears are a treasure house of self-knowledge if we explore them.”

~ Marilyn French

Questions are a great way to steady your ‘fear-ship’. They can help you narrow down on what thoughts generate your fears. Where do you feel the fear? And how do you react to it? The goal for your questions is to go deep. Beyond skin deep to bone deep. “Where there is fear – there is power” so get help if you must, to get to the root of your fears.

Ask yourself – Why am I afraid of this? What is the worst that could happen? If that does happen will that be the end? What is the cost of not pushing through this fear? Is it real or imaginary?

Overcoming fear is a skill. You can master it but it will take time.

If you are going to do important work in this world, you must use fear before it uses you.

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Monday’s Motivational Mantra: Use Fear as Fuel

“Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear.”
~ Anthony Robbins

Gustave Eiffel, the designer of the famed Eiffel Tower, was terrified of heights. Johnny Depp is terrified of clowns. Walt Disney, who gave the world Mickey Mouse, was afraid of mice.

Fear is a natural part of the human experience. In small doses, it can protect you from peril. In excess, it has a paralytic effect on forward motion. 

Take a moment to look at your life. Look at the things you’ve done and things you’ve opted not to do. If you’re like most people, you’ve built your entire life around avoiding one fear or another.

Your ability to reach your full potential is determined by the degree to which you can overcome your fears. You can’t rid yourself of fear, but you can use it as fuel.

The key with fear is how you “frame” it. If you think of fear as “bad” and something that will cause you failure, then it will be so. If on the other hand, you see fear as something that can focus your attention and energies, then you will be able to use it as fuel to propel you forward.

Remember, life is about being afraid and doing it anyway, so focus on where you want to go, and not on what you fear.

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Scar Tissue is Stronger than Regular Tissue

“Do you want more out of life?”

“Do you know that there’s more out there for you?”

“Do you agree that this is not how your story is going to end?”

If your answer is yes to any or all of the above – be it with a hesitant whisper or a thunderous roar – then you owe it to yourself to harness every kilowatt of courage that is being camouflaged by fear, plug it into a leap of faith and jump.

Jumping will close the gap between where you stand currently and where you want to end up in life.

Will you get banged up on the way down? Most definitely. But remember “Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue.”

With every jump, your courage will be reinforced and your knowledge multiplied. With every jump, the volume of your fears will be reduced to an inconsistent peep while your accomplishments will begin to threaten the sound barrier.

Life is waiting for the opportunity to mount you with wings like an eagle and watch you soar. Put yourself out there.

If it’s inspiration that you seek, remember this. Inspiration is a temperamental mistress. It must find you working. At the cliffs edge, inspiration is a hit and miss affair but the moment you decide to jump, her royal highness will rush up to meet you because there is nothing like discomfort to spur on inspiration.

If you want to do what you’ve never done before.

If you want to be what you’ve never been before.

If you want to have what you’ve never had before.

If you want to feel what you’ve never felt before.

Take life up on this opportunity that it presents in every moment of every day and … JUMP!

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11 Powerful Quotes For When You Are Next Afraid

Fear is neither good nor bad.

Fear makes us aware that something is different.

Fear makes us pay attention.

Here are 11 powerful quotes for when fear slides up to bat.

1. “Fears and insecurities are unconsciously created by you. If you do not create them, they do not exist.” ~ Sadhguru

2. “There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.” ~ Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

3. “It’s not up to you how you fall. It’s up to you how far you let yourself fall and how long it takes you to get back up and stand on your own two feet.” ~ Sr. Tac Jeffrey Mitchell

4. “You cannot dream yourself into a character: you must hammer and forge yourself into one. Every successful person did, what no one else was willing to do!”  ~ Unknown

5. “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” ~ Aristotle

6. “Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” ~ Goethe

7. “Whatever we are afraid of, we hold the power within ourselves to deal with it if we decide to.” ~ Frank Arrigazzi

8. “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” ~ Francis Chan

9. “Without fear, there cannot be courage.” ~ Christopher Paolini

10. “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” ~ Dorothy Bernard

11. “If we let things terrify us, life will not be worth living.” ~ Seneca

Use the fear to propel you into action.

Be bold. Live bold

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The Disease That Infects Us All

We always opt for easy.

We opt to cry, after the fact.

We opt to speak up, after the fact.

We opt to march, after the fact.

We opt to attack, after the fact.

We opt to point fingers, after the fact.

We opt to strategize, after the fact.

We opt to align, after the fact.

We opt to mend fences, after the fact.

We opt to lament, after the fact.

We opt to declare war, after the fact.

We opt to care about what is going on, after the fact.

We opt to ask, after the fact.

We opt to qualify human worth, after the fact

We opt to remember our humanity, after the fact.

We opt to sacrifice, after the fact.

A question: What in the name of all that is worth remembering, has easy ever done for you?

Easy will be the hammer and the nail that stabs you in the back. Straight through to the heart. All while smiling in your face.

Easy will be the tears you shed tonight. Knowing. You should have. You could have. But you didn’t.

Easy will be the common denominator of our shattered dreams. Our tear-drenched faces. Our castrated hearts.

Easy will be the blanket you wrap yourself with tonight. That provides no security nor warmth.

Easy will be the excuses made. The words not said. The fears not faced. The feathers not ruffled. The wandering eye not met.

Easy will be the privilege we forget to temper our advantages with.

Easy will be the hand that suffocates our breath.

Easy will be the soul that doesn’t get to go home tonight.

It’s time for easy to be kicked off center stage!


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Lifeisms In A Nutshell – #58 – The Fear of Success

1*xHIt358VBCxgcJW-2ooNXAA 9-year old girl created a business plan. Her name is Rylee. Her business – dog walking. Her business plan has 7 steps. The 7th step; Success. She’s prepared to do the work. She’s prepared to win.

Then there is you. Let’s give you a purpose. Creative expression through lyrical prose. Commitment has nothing on you. You have been intertwined with your craft for as long as you can remember. Success has been shy to show its face. Quitting always not too far away. But you held on. You put in the work. You sacrificed.

You receive the call. From your manager or your agent. Or from mom, who is both manager and agent. You did it. You got nominated. Your odds of winning. 1 in 5. You book your flight. First class all the way. You recognize this moment. For we all dream in gold.

For we all dream in gold.

Bon voyage. See you at the ceremony.

You arrive. Pomp and circumstance fully engaged. A red carpet. The first of many. But you don’t know that yet. You take your seat. Let the festivities begin.

Your category is up. They announce your name. One amongst five. Five great. Five in the league of extraordinary. Five forever changing the game. They open the envelope. You hear but don’t hear. It’s you. You have won. You of the humble beginnings. Of early mornings and later nights. Of sleeping in cars. Of nearly crushed dreams. You, the recipient of overly generous rejections. You have won.

You get on stage and say. “I was not expecting this”. Fair enough. You are recognizing the other giants in your category.

You then say. “I have no speech prepared.”

I’m sorry , please repeat. What do you mean you have no speech prepared. No vote of thanks. No  ‘because of you mom, part agent, part manager, I am …’. Did you not prepare for success?

It then becomes clear. It is was never about failure. It was the fear of success. The fear of selling out. The fear of not being able to cope. The fear of becoming different. The fear of  surpassing your potential.

However you define success. Prepare for it.

Prepare for wild and unchartered territory. No two successes are alike.

Prepare for the new. For the exciting.

Prepare to feel the fear rise.

Prepare to watch your dreams take flight.

Prepare for the tidal wave of overnight success. That took 20 years to get here. For that, without a doubt, will require you to be strapped in for one heck of a ride.

Prepare for the call.

Write the speech….. I look forward to hearing it.

Thanks for reading. Help prepare the ones you know for success so that you may keep each other company when you get there.
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I Have Declared War Against My Lizard Brain

The lizard brain is the reason you’re afraid, …The lizard brain is the source of the resistance.” ~ Seth Godin

Lizard Brain, you have some explaining to do.

I keep freezing when I should fly and I keep flying when I should freeze. This is starting to be a problem. War is imminent.

Continue reading “I Have Declared War Against My Lizard Brain”

Two Four Letter Words You Need To Differentiate

What are you plagued by? I can’t or I won’t.

“I can’t” stems from a lack of skill. An expression of inability, incapacity, or impossibility.

“I won’t” stems from a lack of will. A deliberate choice not to act.

“I can’t” is rooted in helplessness.

“I won’t” is rooted in responsibility.

We choose to use the word “can’tto make excuses. Especially when what we have to face is courting our fears, inconveniencing our habits, or calling for a sacrifice that we are unwilling to endure.

With every “I can’t” we sell ourselves short. We create a habit of negative thinking and failure. Straddling ourselves with “I can’t” ensures that our success will be doomed before it gets a chance to start.

The question isn’t whether you can succeed, the question is whether you will choose to succeed.

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