Friday, April 8, 2011

Tame Fear, Mold Your Life, Evolve

I took a pretty big risk this week, leaving my safe, secure, six-figure job for the uncertain waters of entrepreneurship and writing. I'm not gonna lie, It was fucking scary. No matter how much I researched the decision, I couldn't shake those nagging fears. I had plenty of reasons to make the switch, and plenty of "signs" that it was time to leave, if you believe in that sort of thing, but I still was scared on a very primal level to actually make the leap. I mean, I have a good amount of money saved up, but who knows what the fuck is waiting around the next corner, right?

I was paralyzed by fear for two whole hours on Monday before I worked up the courage to walk in and give my notice. Here's a short timeline of events:

9:10 am: Arrive in my office. Plan to turn in my notice by 10:00.

9:30 am: Start reading inspirational blogs to help psych me up. Like this one. And this one. And especially this one.

9:40 am: Ex-girlfriend starts gchatting me to help with moral support/see what's shaking. I tell her I'm fucking terrified. Also tell her that the deadline is 10:00.

9:59 am: The deadline is now 10:30.

10:29 am: Still reading blogs, thinking of the enormity of the decision. Trying to pick out a casket for myself when I die homeless on the street. I inform the ex that the new deadline is 11:00.

10:59 am: Decide to take a two mile walk to "clear my head." Perfectly comfortable without a jacket in the beautiful 40 degree, rainy St. Louis weather.

11:25 am: Return from walk, straight to the elevators, straight to the managing partner's office. One of my buddies from softball sees me on the way. "You lost?" he asks as I round the corner to the managing partner's office. "Uh…[nervous laughter]…uh…yeah…you know it!"


The conversation with the managing partner actually wasn't bad at all—I told him my plans, and he agreed the time to do this sort of thing was before I was tied down with a family and whatnot. I thanked him for everything and moved on. I ended up taking the rest of the day to tell people face-to-face, because, let's face it, it's the honorable thing to do. Pretty much everyone was cool with it. You know, "sorry to see you go, but if this is what you want to do, then you should do it, excited for you but sad,"

The funny thing is, it turned out I didn't need that casket after all. At the end of the day, not only did I feel fine, but I had an odd sense of peace with my decision, like I was making the right move. This feeling carried over into the next day, where (and this is where I might lose some people), the sky seemed bluer (that's a word, right?). I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was finally taking steps toward living the life I want to live, and it felt fucking wonderful. Monday, I told people I was feeling anxious, excited, scared, and relieved simultaneously, which was absolutely true at the time. But the day after, the only feeling that truly came to mind was "at peace." I mean, sure, there were mental outbursts that wondered where the hell I'm going to get money in the near-term, but I believe in my ideas long-term, and I know that this decision will make me want to succeed even more than I wanted to before.

There were three steps in this process. I tamed my fear. I looked the ugly monster right in the face, cowered before it for a while, and finally decided to pick up the whip and force it into a part of my mind where it was a sideshow, not the main attraction. In short, I became Indiana Jones. The fear wasn't gone, but it was no longer ruling my decisions. I could disarm it with a pithy one-liner ("And I thought they smelled bad on the outside!"). It wasn't the terrifying monster I imagined it to be, just the bearded lady. Enough to keep me on edge, but not something with the power to control me.

Second, I molded my life. I finally took control of a major decision I wanted to make. I asked others for input, including family members, friends, and colleagues. But in the end, I made this decision, knowing fully that I would suffer the consequences of my actions, for good or ill. I know I preach about taking small steps toward concrete goals, but at some point, you have to make the giant leaps, too. It's like the original Mario Bros.—you can hold down the B button to sprint over a lot of the smaller pits, but at some point, Mario has to make a running jump to make it over a large chasm. Well, I made the leap, and I have to live with the consequences—and I am completely fine with that.

Third, I evolved. I've had some tough conversations with family members, colleagues, bosses, and management. I was terrified going into those conversations, but now that I've had them, I feel a new sense of peace about my life. I don't know if this is my new normal or just a "honeymoon" phase, but whatever it is, it feels fucking fantastic. Even if the feeling eventually goes away, I've done something that my friends and I thought I would never have the nuts to do. I know I have that capability in the future. After taking this big step, I feel like I can do anything. The confidence boost is unreal. We'll see how long it lasts and whether or not it carries over into other aspects of life, but I do think that I've been changed on some fundamental level.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Have any of you had similar experiences? Leave them in the comments.

Questions? Comments? Wondering why there are so many circus references in this post? E-mail me at Follow me on twitter @djgelner. Friend me on facebook here.



  1. This one time I was driving home along a road a few miles from my house. As I came up to this traffic light, maybe 50 or so yards away, it suddenly turned yellow. I can admit it now, but only because many months have passed since then: I was terrified. A YELLOW light! Everything in my life up to that point: my driving instructor; the local statutes; state law; socio-cultural norms...they were all telling me that I needed to stop! And a part of me wanted to. But a way bigger part knew that I NEEDED TO NOT STOP. In a split moment, I made the decision: I floored it. I went right through the light. AND IT FELT FUCKING WONDERFUL.

    So yeah, reading this post, I definitely know where you're coming from.

  2. Yes! Exactly what I'm talking about!


Get FREE Chapters