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It has been said that fear is a sign that something is important to you.


Ted Gonder, director of MoneyThink, a Chicago-based non-profit that teaches financial skills and entrepreneurial thinking to urban high school students, assures us, “If we think of fear as an accomplice rather than an enemy, then we can be free to lean into it, and pursue our dreams, ideas and projects freely.”

This counterintuitive mindset does actually make sense:  If the thing you are most afraid of is also the thing you really and truly want in your life, then you are actually a very lucky person.  You have a built-in guidance system that will tell you when you’re moving in the direction of your dreams.

(You’ll know you’re on the right road when your head tells you everything is just fine, but your stomach drops to the floor and you’re shaking very badly and there’s a no-no-no-no-no chant cycling in your head.)

If you are able to twist your head around enough so that you can see this, then a number of other ideas arise.  You begin to understand that:

  1.  Fear is a tool.
  2.  Fear is fuel.
  3.  Fear is to be partnered with.

You may even get the idea that you are going to have to walk into your fears and through them in order to get to where you really want to be.  You get to understanding that you have to want your dream more than you fear it and you’ll use the fears to help you keep on moving towards your dream.

GPS by Hernan Pinera via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]


Here’s a YouTube video by Eddie Pinedo, “The Other Side Of Fear” with another take on fear.   Pinedo is a sought-after motivational speaker who focuses on athletic performance.  He also writes a blog, “Your World Within” and publishes weekly You-Tube videos with almost 11 million views, it says here.  (They are excellent.)

So, how do we do that?  How do we get to the “other side of fear?”

Twyla Tharp, in her book, THE CREATIVE HABIT, suggests that you look at the things that make you shake and shiver and that shrivels you into a quaking nubbin, and think about answers or antidotes to them that work for you.

Here’s me doing yet another Un-Seeing exercise:

“I’m not sure how to do it.” 

 [Ummm….when has that ever stopped you?  Babe, you don’t know how to do lots of things.  The things you do know how to do happened because you started doing them and then just kept going with it until you got good.

We are not talking about building a dam across Maliko Gulch or something.  If you try and it doesn’t work, you can try a different way the next time.  And the time after that. And the time after that.  If you do something badly, you will learn one way not to do it and that’s a start towards learning how you do it right.]

“People will think less of me if I screw up.” 

 [Not the people who matter to you.  Your friends will hug you.  Your kids will still call you “mom.”  Your parakeet will still sing to you.  It’s all good….]

“People will laugh at me.”

[So?  Laughter is a kind of communication too.  And if the people are laughing with you rather than at you, isn’t that a good thing?]

“It may take too much time.” 

[Could be, might can.  Putting it off doesn’t make it happen faster.  If it’s something you want to do, then make the time.  Ho’omanawanui, bebe…make time big!]

“It’s going to cost money.”

[Just living costs money.  Is it something you really want to do?  That’s the question.  Think of it as an investment in yourself.  It never goes to waste.  Even the things that didn’t work the last time turns out to be useful for the next project.]

“Gawd!  It is SO self-indulgent.” 

[An’ den?  What’s your point?]

“Somebody has done it before.”

[Uh-huh.  It’s all been done before, hon.  Nothing’s really original and every idea ever thunk will be thought again.  You can join the line.  Get over yourself.]

“I have nothing to say.” 

 [Now, that one is a lie!  You have lots to say.  Maybe nobody wants to listen, but that is not relevant when you’re just starting out the gate.]

“I’m going to upset somebody I love if I do this….”

[That could happen.  You’re still a good person and you have good intentions.  Your loves will understand or not, and you’ll do what you need to do to make it right if you make a misstep. 

But, not doing something because maybe somebody important to you will be upset  is giving that person too much responsibility for you and your life.  Why are you piling on your regrets on somebody else’s back, silly git!]

“I know that when I do it, the thing is never going to be as good as this idea in my head is.” 

 [True.  Toughen up, baby girl.  It’s better to make an imperfect dome in Florence than build cathedrals in the sky.  A dream that has stepped out of your head and is real in the world has more weight than all the ones that are still floating around in your head. 

Plus, if it doesn’t work, you can always try again to get it right.  And if you keep trying to get it right, eventually there it’ll be and then you can go share it with your friends.  A cool thing….]

“If I do it well, somebody will copy it and I won’t get what I deserve for it.” 

 [Ack!  That is so disgusting, Netta!  The whole point of making stuff is to get people to like it, use it, do whatever.  So what if other nimnuls copy?  It’s not like it’s your one and only idea, f’r pity’s sake!]

Twyla says, “There’s nothing wrong with fear; the only mistake is to let it stop you in your tracks.”

So, what are your shadows?  What fears pop up every time you start dreaming a dream?  What would you say to them?  What might they say back to you? Play with it…and keep on walking.

Here’s a poem:




Fear it is that

Keeps us going back

To oracles and them,

And trying to make

Sense of a future

That’s obscure and dim.


The mists of time,

We think, hide monsters,

Even though we know

That probably they really

Aren’t under the bed.

Daddy said, Mommy said.


We have to see.

We want to know

How this thing or

That will flow, grow.

Desire, doubt and fear,

The three, stomping feet.


And we forget again

What we always knew:

Change is the rule,

And not the exception:

Up and down and

All around, it changes.


We go on despite…

We go on because…

‘As how…we go.

And change’s alchemy works

Its magic once again

And we go on.

by Netta Kanoho

Header Picture credit:  Signpost by Anthony via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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Twyla Tharp, in her book, THE CREATIVE HABIT:  Learn It and Use It For Life, says, “It’s not solitude that slays a creative person.  It’s all that solitude without a purpose.  You’re alone, you’re suffering, and you don’t have a good reason for putting yourself through that misery.  To build up your tolerance for solitude, you need a goal.”


“Alone” is a fact when there’s nobody else around.  “Lonely” is how you feel about it.  They are not the same thing.

Some people are actually autophobic (afraid to be alone).  They need people around them or they start feeling like they have disappeared.  They feel lost without at least one other person around to let them know they are not invisible.  The problem is, of course, that if you are not able to tolerate being alone, you will probably not be able to hear your own heartsong.  And if you can’t hear your own heartsong, how can you follow it?

In this YouTube Video, “How To Be Alone” was directed, shot, animated by hand and edited by filmmaker Andrea Dorfman.  The poem is performed by its Maker, Tanya Davis who is a poet, singer and songwriter.  It is a lovely piece of work.


Twyla suggests remembering how to daydream — just sitting in a room all by yourself and letting your thoughts wander wherever they will.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  When you were a kid you used to get into trouble doing this.  You’re a Big Person now; it’s allowed.

This is not the same thing as sitting meditation.  You’re not trying to empty out your mind.  You don’t want to sit restfully between thoughts.  What you’re doing is lying in wait, trying to capture the butterfly thoughts that come wandering out of your unconscious.  You’re trying to tease them forward until you can swoosh them up in your butterfly net so you can examine them more closely.

If you have problems with being alone, you have to build up your tolerance for solitude first.  Do this “quietness without loneliness” for a minute, Twyla says.  (Anybody can handle one minute of daydreaming.)  Work up to ten minutes a day of this mindless mental wondering.

Then start paying attention to your thoughts.  Try to see if a word or a picture or some other interesting thing surfaces out of all that blankness.  If not, keep on daydreaming, extending out the time until you find the length of time you need to stay in that space before something interesting pops into your head.

When an idea sneaks into your brain, get engaged with it.  Play with it, push it around.  You’ve acquired a goal to underpin this solitary activity.  You are not alone any more.  Your goal, your idea is your companion.

Says Twyla, “You are never lonely when your mind is engaged.”


Here’s a YouTube video posted by Big Think, “The Psychology of Solitude:  Being Alone Can Maximize Productivity.” In it, Scott Barry Kaufman, the co-author of WIRED TO CREATE:  Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, explains how solitude benefits and nurtures your propensity for Making.

Here’s a poem:


There are times when I must sit in the quiet by myself

Times I must be still and separate.

So many people swim through my days that

It is all I can do to keep myself intact.

Like sardines, we are packed together,

All our juices mingling as

Together we get all soft and mooshy,

Slowly falling apart.


It occurs to me that sardines

Flash in the stray sunbeams,

Cutting through the waters where they swim.

Could it be that solitude

Helps me find the oceans I can swim through,

Keeps me from drowning in other people’s needs?


Maybe that’s the Real:

Sardines congregate in crowds;

It’s just what they do.

They’re little fish, after all,

And there’s that “safety-in-numbers” thing.


“One-of-many” means chances are you can slip away

Before the big fish gets you.

(Your little-fish strategy’s success

Probably depends on placement and on happenstance:

Too close to the edge and the big guys can notice you;

Too close to the middle and a net can scoop you up.)


And, yet, in that big school of little guys

Each one swims alone,

Doing one-fish things,

Making one-fish moves.

It seems to me that solitude helps you remember that.

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Surf’s Up by K. Kendall via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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