I Let Fear Stop Me

A few weeks ago I attended a workshop called “Ruckusmakers” led by Seth Godin. Eighty energetic and passionate world-changers gathered at a place called “The Purple Crayon” to learn from Seth and each other. We were there to be challenged, shaken.


(c) Seth Godin/Ruckusmakers

Made uncomfortable.

I was prepared for this. I’ve read many of Seth’s books and seen him in action before. He is so passionate about helping others “make a ruckus” that he presses hard. He digs deep so we can go deeper. See if we have the commitment it takes to persist through the inevitable dip.

I read everyone’s bios before I went. I was somewhat intimidated, but still believed I had been chosen for a reason. So I went believing I could learn and grow and also serve others while I was there. I hoped to build relationships, too.

I arrived, and felt at home right away. I met some people when I walked in the door and struck up a conversation. I fully participated in the marshmallow tower challenge. It was exhilarating, creative, and fun.

(c) Seth Godin

(c) Seth Godin/Ruckusmakers

The first evening Seth told us to dance with our fear and “be naked” with each other. He said that was how we would get the most and give the most. I was ready. I was all-in.

And then the next morning came. When there were opportunities to share and ask questions, others were bold. Assertive. So quick to jump in. When I am processing something that deep, it takes me a while to let it noodle around in my head. I didn’t have questions formulated right away. It all went so fast. I began to feel intimidated. I didn’t raise my hand. I was afraid.

The day went on and it was more of the same. I learned a lot. I took a lot in. When we broke into small groups, I participated. But I couldn’t bring myself to share in the larger group. A few times I raised my hand, but it was only halfway, and Seth didn’t notice it.

(c) Seth Godin/Ruckusmakers

(c) Seth Godin/Ruckusmakers

I was afraid to talk with him between sessions too. I couldn’t understand why. He was so approachable. Plenty of others asked him all kinds of questions. Why couldn’t I?

When I went back to my room that night I asked myself that question. Why was I afraid? After all, I’ve experienced the death of my husband, a motorcycle accident on the New York Thruway, and a serious health crisis. What is there left to be afraid of?

I decided that it wasn’t fear, but rather that I didn’t know what to ask. So I prepared questions and prepared myself to talk about my project. I wrote notes to bring with me. I was all set.

And then I got there and still couldn’t speak up. I never once spoke up in the full group. I had a wonderful experience, learned a lot, participated in the small group discussions, and met some wonderful people. But I cheated myself of what could have been an even richer experience. By letting fear stop me, I missed the opportunity to have Seth Godin help me with my project.

And I didn’t just cheat myself. I deprived everyone else in the group of the opportunity to learn from my interaction with Seth. I learned much from theirs; they would have learned from me as well.

As I drove home, I tried to understand the source of that fear. As I reflected I realized that I was afraid my dream wouldn’t stand up when subjected to the light of day, to Seth’s questioning. And I didn’t want to hear that. I didn’t want another loss. So it felt safer to hide.

Let’s assume for a minute that my project wouldn’t stand up. That my fears were true. Wouldn’t it be better to know that now while I’m still at the beginning? And wouldn’t it be possible that a small change could make it viable? And wouldn’t I benefit greatly from Seth’s wisdom? Yes, yes, and yes.

It’s also possible that speaking it aloud would have validated that I was onto something powerful and good, and have clarified my thinking. But I’ll never know because I was afraid.

So often the root cause of our fear is that we will be “found out”, recognized as a fraud. We don’t have confidence in ourselves or trust in God. We fear looking or sounding foolish. Ultimately, our fear is selfish. We are so focused on ourselves and how we look to others. We don’t see that we are robbing others of opportunities to get closer, or help us. Our fear keeps the distance between us.

My fear cheated me, the other Ruckusmakers, and possibly you. Who knows what I might have discovered that could have helped you as well? We’ll never know because I was afraid.

What are you afraid of? How have you missed opportunities because of fear? When you subject fear to the light of day, it loses its power. Let’s agree together to see our fears, look them in the eye, and dance with them. And don’t let them stop us. You can start by naming your fear and sharing here.

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  • Kathleen, I am afraid that I have run out of excuses for my english/spanish discipleship site. I am afraid I will not be able to market it once it’s created/. I am afraid of teh two books I so desperately want to write because I am afraid I will fail drastically. yet these projects and so much more are need out there. There are so many people that NEED THIS, not me but what I have to say. One solution I have found, is to get a an accountability partner that will not be afraid to cal you out when needed. I believe I found one. I will be committing to a meeting with him as soon as I am done writing this post. Thanks for sharing your feelings.

    • Edwin, an accountability partner is such a great idea. And sharing your fears is the first step toward not letting them stop you. Bravo! And let me know how it’s going.

  • Kathleen, you are a brave and powerful soul. I think all of us, at one time or another, have been in this situation and found ourselves perplexingly frozen, held back from doing the thing we most want to do. But you are the only one I know who chose to share the common “secret” fear, detail your experience, and generously provide insight and wisdom to all the rest of us. Bravo!

    • Thanks, Ray. I didn’t see this post as particularly brave. Just sharing so others can learn from my experience. I guess there’s power in the truth that I hadn’t realized.

  • Fantastic post Kathleen. I know the feeling well. I feel this fear every day and most days it holds me back. I feel most people know me as a certain Chris Spurvey… it is the Chris Spurvey I have put out there in an effort to deal with my own inner insecurities. Fast forward to today I want to be the real Chris Spurvey – vulnerable, some days making it, some days faking it etc… But, I am afraid to put myself out there. BUT, I will suggest I am stretching a little more and more every day. In a year or so I envision the world knowing the real me :)

    • I’m glad you’re pursuing that, Chris. As you can tell from this post, it isn’t easy to do, but is so much more real. And in this world where false connections are everywhere, a true connection from the heart is that much more precious.