FDR Was Right
When I told the story of my mom yesterday, friends and colleagues commented on my courage — courage in telling my mother’s story, courage in putting down my cigarettes, courage in sharing out loud what might be choices that other folks don’t see as I do. I wasn’t afraid to tell the story. I had already lived it. It was true.
The thought kept occurring to me that every time people have accused me of courage has been a time when in my mind I saw no other option, a time when my answer to act was the only right answer I could see.
I don’t know that I know much about courage. Rare has been the moment that I had to muster up the nervous energy to take on a cause that I didn’t believe or to face a giant who would crush me to smithereens.
What I know about in these years of taking on the responsibilities of a family, a mortgage, a business, and decisions that would affect other people’s incomes is more what I’ve learned about fear.
And what I’ve learned about fear is that FDR was right.
And that understanding fear is the key to success in business and in life.
Be Irresistible and Fear-Less
We’re facing times not unlike those that followed the Great American Depression. If history repeats itself, it’s worth paying attention to what happened then, when my dad started his business, when FDR gave his First Inaugural Address and said …
This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itselfânameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
FDR’s words resonate for me. In times of learning to build a business, in past worries of whether I’d be able to pay the rent, fear was the enemy that tried to undo me.
Fear of failure.
Fear of losing.
Fear of doing nothing and doing the wrong thing.
Fear that I might spend a life telling the truth to everyone, but lying to myself.
Fear of finding my best efforts not enough paralyzed me. Fear of commitment enticed me into procrastination. Fear that the world I believed in and the person I was might not exist confused all of my decisions.
Carrying that fear wherever I went was a burden bigger than any one person could manage.
Slowly that fear broke down the integrity of the person carrying it.
Fear made me give away what I valued as if it were worthless.
Fear made me think that givers never get and getters forget.
Survival instinct says if the situation isn’t paying off, it’s a good time to move.
Fear wasn’t getting me anywhere.
I didn’t like where I was or what I saw around me.
I didn’t like the kind of people my fear attracted.
I didn’t much like myself.
I sat down and did the math.
I figured out that fear and trust don’t exist in the same space.
I looked my fear in the face and waited for it to devour me, crush me, embarrass me, or shun me.
I studied my successes. I saw that I’d never carried fear into my success. I’d always gone in knowing I would be, do, and achieve what was needed to finish ahead. It wasn’t that I was stronger, better, or particularly more clever. It was that it crossed my mind that another option existed, except to come out ahead.
I calmly decided I was better than any fear I could dream up.
I knew that I could out breathe any fear and build something better instead.
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
— the Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert’s Book Dune:
I don’t know much about courage.
I know enough about fear to watch it, learn from it, and let it pass.
Like the litany says I let it pass over me and through me until only I remain.
Fear can’t stop me from telling the hard truth gently, pursuing a quest I believe in, or trusting in myself.
And I’ve learned to recognize my friends by how fearlessly they won’t allow me to fail.
If “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes” has become a problem in your business or your life, breathe deep. Speak the truth. Trust your instincts. Believe in who you are. And surround yourself with people who will fight you for the right to not let you fail.
Be irresistible. Be fear-less.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!