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What's Behind Your Largest Fear?

Jeremiah Rogers
Jeremiah Rogers
3 min read
What's Behind Your Largest Fear?

One of my favorite personal development techniques comes from a poster we had at Facebook in the early 2010s. The sign read, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

A meme went around the office to answer this question and post it for your coworkers to see. Mine was "Visit China."

I had long been fascinated by China but had never been to Asia. My desire to see the world was intense, but the thought of going so far from home and into a country so foreign made me uncomfortable.

Once the fear was written out and shown to my friends, I knew I had to do it. A few months later, I was on a flight to China, where I spent weeks living with my friend Mike and his wife.

Standing in Tienanmen Square, I was surprised that new desires arose: I wanted to see the rest of Asia, to live outside the USA for at least a year, and to get as far from the comfortable life I had grown up in as possible. I went and did all of that, too.

Every year since I have asked myself, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” The person I am today exists only because of this process.

This question is so good because every honest answer is right at the boundary between desire and fear:

  • The answer is something I want badly enough to acknowledge — “What would you do…”
  • But the answer is far enough outside of my comfort zone that I will only do it with a push — “… if you weren’t afraid?”

Listening to the answers and doing the thing I am afraid of has helped me stay at the edge of my personal growth. Even more important is that it has uncovered truths about myself that I would not otherwise know.

My best explanation of what happens is in the diagram below.

The things we are most afraid of create a boundary of awareness. We will never consider anything outside of this boundary until we conquer the fear. Once we conquer the fear, we understand new parts of life that we would also like to experience.

Moving through the fear of visiting China led to my openness to exploring the rest of Asia. Exploring Asia led me to my interest in hiking solo in the Alps, which led to my desire to ride a motorcycle across Vietnam. One adventure unlocked another.

Now having done these things, they don’t seem scary at all. My eye has turned to personal development. What scares me the most now is the continued process of shaping myself into the person I know I can become.

For you: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

The answer to this question contains a clue to who you can become. I hope to meet that person someday, and I am especially interested in what happens if you follow this process for years.

Take care,

P.S. Whenever you're ready, learn about working together.

ALSO - You might like this interview with Robert Greene, author of "The 48 Laws of Power." I appreciate Greene's approach to personal development after age 30 and his introduction to the topic of mastery. Mastery is a fascination of mine because I think it's largely missing in modern culture and that it's a path to durable happiness for people like me, many of my clients, and probably you since you are reading this. I hope you enjoy it.