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Being Scared

Are you scared? I am.

I feel fearful multiple times every week.

To feel fear it to be human, and yet we have this sense that somehow we should be able to rid ourselves of it. In popular culture, our heroes tend to be brave individuals purposely running into dangerous situations without regard for their own wellbeing. Another common hero archetype is the musician who stands on the stage in perfect confidence with an audience of thousands mesmerised.

These people are fearless... or so we think.

My favourite book of all time, which I've read countless times because I need to keep reminding myself of the principles, is a book called "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield. In essence, it's a book about engaging with fear/resistance and leaving your unique mark on the world.

In his book, Steven tells the story about how Henry Fonda was still throwing up before each stage performance, even when he was seventy-five. When I read this the first time, I did a double take. After all of that experience, how could it be that such an accomplished actor still felt fear? Was there something wrong with him?

Steven Pressfield speaks about art as anything which you create which pushes you to give more of yourself, and tap into your unique potential/contribution. This could be creating a painted canvas, it could be creating a round up video, it could be creating a new Learning Design Plan, an infographic, a tech integration, speaking at a company gathering etc...

It turns out that one of the reasons Henry Fonda was so accomplished was because he kept on pushing himself to go deeper, to access more, and to give more, to his audience. The prospect of this level of vulnerability was frightening, and he threw up before every performance. He kept pushing right until the end of his career.

To quote Steven Pressfield:

"In other words, fear doesn't go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day."

I find this thought utterly liberating. We can stop running away from fear and trying to avoid situations in which it might arise, and welcome it every time we find it. One way of thinking about it is that fear is a compass. When you come across it, you know that there is space for you to grow in that direction.

If we feel fear, then you can bet your bottom dollar that our students feel it too. Can we lead by example with our students, and create an environment which allows them to gradually embrace their fears? We had one student who wouldn't turn her camera on for the first week during live sessions because she was desperately shy, but with the support of her teachers and mentor she eventually came up with a creative solution to add digital bunny ears and a nose to her face on screen, which has given her the confidence to turn her camera on.

One brave engagement with fear at a time.

“The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome.”


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