Being afraid isn’t failure.

Sometimes, people ask me, “When did you stop being afraid?”

My answer is always the same, “I’ll let you know when it happens.”

Thus far it hasn’t, but I have learned a valuable lesson. There’s a big difference between being afraid and staying afraid.

Most times, fear isn’t a choice. It shows up like a surprise package on the doorstep of your life. Often unexpected, always unwanted, it is a spider in a shoe that yesterday had none. This is what it means to be afraid.

Staying afraid is different. Staying afraid is a choice. It’s a lifestyle, a scratchy comforter you pull over your head in the hope that it will protect you from worse things. Maybe you got hurt before, by a relationship, by a job, by an anything. You’d rather not expose yourself to more hurt, so instead, you choose fear. Better to shut out the world than experience the vulnerability of bravery.

That’s the great irony of courage. We think it is a shield, it is not. Courage is the laying down of all our weapons. Courage is removing the armor that would stop us from feeling an often unfeeling world. Courage is an act of vulnerability.

You might be afraid today. That’s OK, but don’t stay afraid. Trading the risk of the unknown day for the familiarity of the known fear is a horrible bargain.

Be afraid. Do things that are terrifying. Let fear fall down like rain. But kick the puddles. Stomp the water from the gutters. Don’t the rain keep you inside a fear.

Being afraid isn’t failure. Staying afraid is.

  • Zechariah
    Posted at 09:44h, 21 March Reply

    Great post! Fear reduces with action. Staying afraid is inaction. Really connected with this post Jon.

  • Nick
    Posted at 09:45h, 21 March Reply

    Totally. I’m as hungry as I am afraid. And when I do things that are scary I almost always find that there was much less to be afraid of than I thought.

  • teea
    Posted at 10:42h, 21 March Reply

    I needed this today…thanks!

  • Leslie
    Posted at 10:45h, 21 March Reply

    I was so proud of my daughter recently, she is 8. She won 1st place at a UIL meet for storytelling, she had to retell a story she just heard for the first time, competing against 11 other students her age. She had to stand before 3 judges. After winning, her principal asked her to come to a school board meeting to show off her skills. She was so excited. When we got there, it wasn’t anything that she expected… she became very scared and started to cry a bit. I really thought, “She isn’t going to be able to do this, she is too scared!” I prayed over her to have courage, which we have talked about before (courage means doing things when you are scared, not when you feel strong). She calmed down, though still shaky, stood up tall and stared right at me the whole time, she told her story, which took about 5 mins, and everyone laughed at the jokes and clapped at the end. I was just so proud of her and you can believe that I will remember that the next time I’m scared… and even better, she will know for the rest of her life, that fear doesn’t have to hold her back, if anything, it can propel her!!!

    • Renee
      Posted at 12:45h, 24 March Reply

      What an amazing example and your daughter has learned something that will help her the rest of her life!

  • Jon Skelly
    Posted at 11:31h, 21 March Reply

    Fantastic stuff! Slowly realizing that moving past my fear of failure isn’t about ignoring or embracing it. It’s about doing awesome right next to it.

  • Ed Staib
    Posted at 12:48h, 21 March Reply

    Fear of further rejection has kept me in limbo for over four years. I agree that to stay in that fear is a choice but it also throws into question your own abilities-can I do what I want to do well? Have I missed the boat being 47? If not, then should I try something else? If I try something else then what? These questions besides my inaction keep me from moving forward. I feel like the choices I made in the past were wrong ones-or were they? I don’t know. Can I overcome the personality that I have? Can I learn to to be more assertive and sell myself? If looking at my past up to this point the answer is no. So then what? That’s the big question. Not only am I not ready to START I don’t know where I’m going. It’s just a vicious circle getting nowhere.

    • Renee
      Posted at 12:52h, 24 March Reply

      I am right where you are at 46 except that I am ready to start but like you don’t know where I am going. I am a great planner just not great at the follow through. I’ve felt like I have made so many mistakes which have lead me right where I am but to get out is going to take so much more work and I don’t even know if I will get out. I might just be continuing in that vicious circle! It’s very frustrating. So what am I doing? I’m trying everything I can think of to get out of this rut. I’m doing more than reading books, I am actually following the action plans. I’m trying to step out and conquer my fears. This can’t be the end but it can be the beginning of something new and great, for me and for you. We’ve only failed when we quit trying.

  • Samantha Kitchenman
    Posted at 12:50h, 21 March Reply

    I so needed this today Jon! I am so afraid and lately I have been paralyzed by the fear. But today, I start to make decisions!

  • Jen J
    Posted at 19:11h, 21 March Reply

    Thank you. Sometimes we take the torture of what we know to avoid the perceived terror of a new path. Your post is so very true. Thank you for being so transparent and encouraging other on the journey.

  • Stephanie
    Posted at 13:39h, 23 March Reply

    Love this Jon! I’m punching fear in the face by doing my first program launch soon!

    I say often on my podcast and to my clients that being fearless is not to be without fear. It is to fear LESS. It means to give fear less power than you used to allow it to have over you.

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