Last year I was asked to speak in front of a large group and afterwards several people congratulated me and told me how comfortable I looked up on stage. It was funny because my perception was that my voice was cracking, hands shaking, and I couldn't read my notes, so I was winging it. I also remember waiting behind a curtain with my heart racing and my feet stuck to the floor. It felt like an hour to muster the courage to walk out on the stage. I can’t even tell you what I was afraid of, this was a group of my peers, associates. Even the worst failure would not be earth shattering, yet the fear was real.
I heard a speech that I haven’t been able to forget. It pointed out that you don’t live your life needing to be courageous all the time, you only need to be courageous for 20 seconds at a time.
That 20 seconds at a time when you walk up to a circle of strangers and introduce yourself,
or pick up the phone to call a new prospect.
The 20 seconds to walk out on a stage.
The 20 seconds to dive off the cliff into the water below.
The 20 seconds before you have a tough conversation.
The 20 seconds before you know it’s time to let someone go
or that you need to say an unpopular NO.
That 20 seconds you ready yourself to jump out of the plane.
Each of those defining moments only takes 20 seconds of courage to break through the wall of fear. Fear is the anticipation of the experience, not the experience itself.
Take the example of jumping from an airplane. Seymour Epstein conducted an experiment where they monitored the heart rate of novice jumpers. Their heart rates would get faster and faster until they jumped and then once they jumped from the plane their heart rates lowered quickly back to normal. Now you would think the realty of free falling to earth would be get the heart pumping faster when it is the fear itself that makes our hearts race.
The next time you are facing something that scares you, try this. Take a deep breath, clear your mind, run straight at it and know that you will break the wall of fear in less than 20 seconds.
What will you accomplish when your fears can’t stop you?