I’ve just come up with a cool business idea.
The Fear Store.
Buy your fears here. Learn how to be scared in new and more interesting ways. Then buy some fears to give to your loved ones for Christmas.
Think it’ll work?
Sigh. Well, it was fun dreaming.
Most of us don’t have a shortage of fear. It’s not a highly priced commodity. We won’t pay to get some when we run out, because, incredibly, it seems to reproduce itself with amazing consistency.
Every. Blasted. Day.
Like ants, if you’ve ever made the mistake of spilling sugar in the kitchen, and not sweeping and mopping it up. The Fear Ants appear out of nowhere, and seem to sense when they’re at risk of dying out. They reproduce quickly.
Nope, in fact, we’ll pay good money to insulate ourselves from our fears. Aha! That’s where I went wrong! The ANTI-Fear Store. For $47 per month, we’ll be scared on your behalf, while you go on your merry way.
Actually, I don’t think that’ll work either. I think I’ll have a problem recruiting enough scaredy-cats to do the feel-fearing. Fear-feeling? Fearing-feel? . . . . . oh, never mind.
Bottom line: Fear is to the human mind what dragons were to knights and damsels in distress in ancient times. Both your curse, and your mission.
Your purpose in life, every single day, is to identify what terrifies you, and enter the lair of the dragon to do battle.
Steven Pressfield does this magnificent justice in his War of Art, and Do the Work. I’m not going to even try to best him.
I am, however, going to suggest that not all fears are created equal.
The 80/20 Principle applies to fears. And dragons.
Some are pretty small. One quick flick of the light sabre, and they’re done. Gonzo.
These ones are not worth your time. Just steer clear of them. Avoid where they lurk, knowing that you can down them when necessary.
For me, that means I avoid shopping malls, and shopping in general. Sorry ladies, I’m a stereotypical male in this regard.
Crowds, and crowded places. I’m getting old. Hence the shoppng malls, but also airports, train stations, restaurants, trade shows, places of worship, etc. I’ll always pick smaller ones given a choice. Don’t get me started on Heathrow.
Interruptions. This is probably my most common fear. I’m an introvert. I live very much in my own head. Time to myself, left to muse, reflect, read, and scribble posts like this one, is a precious commodity. I never seem to have enough of it. And I live in constant dread of someone bringing it to an end.
Tim Ferriss put it well in his Four-Hour Workweek: Email is someone else’s agenda for your time. The same is true of text messages, phone calls, and any conversation generally.
All interruptions are instances of someone else deciding that their agenda for your time is more important than yours. They are an unavoidable and necessary evil. Interruptions are the price I pay for participating in loving and valuable relationships with family and friends.
All of these are small dragons that I can successfully engage when required. And sometimes they are required.
Other dragons are not so small. They have you quaking in your boots, sweating and vomiting.
Most of us go through our daily lives engaging daily with the little dragons, and studiously avoiding Smaug.
If that’s you, you’ve got it backwards.
Avoid the little ones. Take on Smaug, every single day.
There is no joy, no satisfaction, in slaying little dragons. You’ll never get rid of them, but they also will never grow any bigger, and you’ll never lose your ability to handle them. They’re the necessary housework of life.
Big dragons, on the other hand, are your purpose. Sauron was a big nasty dude, but he sure gave Sam and Frodo a reason to get up in the morning.
Big dragons don’t go down quickly. Big dragons don’t have just one opponent, but millions. Big dragons will bloody you. You will need bandages at the end of the day, not just a shower.
Big dragons may even outlast you.
The worst big dragon, of course, is the one that lives in your own head.
But if you fail to engage, if you fail to pick up your light sabre and go back into the fray, if you decide to just knock off a few lizards instead . . . .
. . . . you don’t just let the other warriors down.
You let yourself down.
And to borrow from Smokin’ Joe Frazier, a warrior if ever there was one:
YOU are the last person you want to let down.