Our fears come in lots of packages, fear of failure, fear of heights, fear of the dark, fear of snakes, even fear of success. The list is endless. We can’t escape fear, but we can learn how to face our fears and even overcome them. Sometimes it is the faith and encouragement of others that help push us through our fears, and sometimes it is our own grit and determination, our own courage to have faith in ourselves that helps us conquer the unknown.
I have benefited from the faith of others who gave me the courage to push past my fears. Early in my career, the senior leader of the company I worked for had far more faith in me then I did. When he offered me the position as the new head of sales, what did I do? I let the fear of my inexperience take over. I told him there were people more qualified than me and asked if I could have time to think it over. Now, when I think back on my response that day, I just shake my head at the foolishness of my younger self and my inability to seize the moment despite my fears. My fears were real; I was, in fact, the youngest and most inexperienced leader on the team. But as I would soon learn, just because a fear is real, doesn’t mean it you should run from it. Here’s how the rest of the conversation unfolded.
“Brendan, do you really think that I don’t know that there are a lot of people with more years of experience than you?”
“No, of course not.” I stammered.
“What they don’t have is my faith in their ability to get the job done. People believe in you; you have the power to instill confidence in others. You are the right person. I have faith in you. Now go get some work done and make me look good for this decision.”
His faith in me gave me the courage to overcome my fears, seize my moment, and become a better leader.
If only every challenge in life, came with a coach pushing us to reach greater heights, but they don’t. Many challenges require us to dig deep and push ourselves past the doubts we have in our own abilities and overcome the fear of what our future holds. Some challenges require a level of courage and faith that we didn’t know we had in us: The courage and faith to create success from setback.
My colleague Amanda Rogers is no stranger to embracing courage and faith to conquer her fear of the unknown. As a high school athlete, Amanda didn’t shy away from leading her teammates on the field. In college, those developing leadership skills continued to flourish on the lacrosse field and began to take root in the classroom. Amanda found herself taking the lead on assignments and encouraging her peers throughout the process. Goals were being set and achieved on and off the field. Until they weren’t.
A serious concussion during a lacrosse game in her senior year of college caused Amanda’s world to come to a full stop. Forced to move back home and start her life over, Amanda struggled with memory loss and was unable to read anything or watch anything digital. These challenges led to what Amanda called a pity party for the first eight or nine months of her recovery. Her goals of a winning lacrosse season and college graduation in the spring had evaporated into thin air. With no one left to lead but herself, Amanda embarked on a self-leadership journey.
Inspired by the audio book The Power of One, Amanda embraced the basic premise of the book: the only thing that’s real is this moment. Anything we project into the future or the past, is simply our projection. The last thing Amanda wanted was to be spending her days sitting in the bookstore listening to audio books and people watching, but for the moment, that was her reality.
I realized that I needed to get into the present moment and be okay here so that I could heal. From that moment, my whole world opened up. I now saw my concussion as a unique opportunity to learn outside the scope of what I was learning in college.
With focus, commitment, and hard work, Amanda began to heal through the practice of meditation and mindfulness. With that healing came new opportunities. One of which was getting back on the lacrosse field. Not as a player but as a coach. A natural fit for a natural leader. That opportunity led to a bigger dream—founder of a girl’s lacrosse program. A program that today has more than 400 active participants, many with college commitments upon graduation from high school.
Amanda didn’t just overcome her concussion challenge. She motivated herself to grow in new ways because of it. Today, Amanda serves as vice president on the senior leadership team of a two-billion-dollar company.
Fearless Leadership isn’t about overcoming a challenge to get you back to where you were, it’s about finding the opportunity in the challenge to grow beyond that point.
Fighting my way back from my concussion, helped me rewire the neuropathways in my brain to become who I am today.
That’s the mindset of a truly Fearless Leader.
What fear will you conquer next? Or better yet, who will you coach through their fear? Who will you help reach greater heights?