“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.” — Rudyard Kipling
I’m sitting at my desk after another sleepless night. I’ve had a few in a row. My lack of sleep isn’t because of bad routine, diet, or a lack of physical activity during the day, but because of worry, fear.
My chest is pounding, my mind is racing, and my concerns are focused on a dozen variables, each of which are completely out of my control, but also very solvable.
I recently sold my house to move to a better area for where I am in life.
Useless questions like, Will my current house sell? What if this is the wrong move at the wrong time? What if business goes to shite after the move?, fill my brain when I know the answers to each.
Yes, my house will sell. I can make it the right move at the right time. And business thriving or dying is largely under my control, my effort and intelligence.
I know that these fears or worries are stupid, irrational, and counter-productive, and yet for the past few nights I haven’t been able to shake them.
There’s recently been a push to get rid of ‘toxic masculinity’, as if there is such a thing. They list attributes that make up this ‘form’ of masculinity, the problem is that these attributes are actually very helpful for a man who wants to succeed, to help his family, to protect his family, and to be a net positive on society.
They list aggression as a negative attribute.
My experience with aggression has to separate it from rage. Rage is a deep anger, while aggression is a forward and confident action.
I typically act with aggression. If you’re being threatened by someone or something, aggression is the best response to secure your survival.
It’s also the best response to fear.
To have fear dictate your actions and decisions and how you live is the absolute worst path a man can take. And while we all feel fear, when you respond to it with aggression you’re removing the cloud that fear lays over your path and you’re left with clarity.
“When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
I know these things that are keeping me up at night are silly, and I’ll overcome them today. But we let fear invade our decision-making process on a daily basis under the guise of ‘the smart move’ or the ‘safe bet’.
We choose safety over our potential. We choose safety over freedom and power and even meaning.
We create fictitious outcomes in our minds that rationalize inaction.
These fictitious outcomes also rationalize not sleeping at night, being stressed all day, being in a bad mood, even treating others unjustly, snapping at our friends, spouse, kids.
Fear or worry ends up acting very much like self-pity.
“If only this weren’t happening I’d be happy…”
Or thoughts of the like.
The better way to act is to see the various challenges we face as just that, challenges that we meet with aggression rather than being cautious and timid.
The way we do this is both by examining our past and moving with force in the face of any form of fear.
If you’ve been through some shite in your life you’ll know that things inevitably not only get better, but the darkness passes, and within that darkness was some blessing, some lesson, some toughness you got even if the darkness was completely unjust.
This allows you to see your current predicament in a rational light, without the fear of an outcome that you know you’ll not only be able to survive, but one that will in some way make you a better man.
“Too many people are thinking of security instead of opportunity. They seem to be more afraid of life than death.” — James F. Byrnes
Obviously these worries that have led to a few sleepless nights don’t deserve any thought. If the new house is wrong, sell it an move again. If my house doesn’t sell for a good price, lower the price and get rid of it. Work won’t go to shite because I’m working like a madman to ensure growth, and even if it did I’d climb from whatever pit I find myself in and I’ll be better off for it.
Too many people seek safety instead of adventure.
They manufacture problems where non exist. And by the time their life ends they realized they didn’t live at all.
They confined who they were to what they knew, what they knew they could achieve, what they knew they could withstand, rather than what they wanted deep down in the recesses of their soul.
The only way to live is to dare mightily, to march forward courageously, to meet fear with aggression.
“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.” — Seneca
Our imagination can be an ally, opening doors that we didn’t know existed, but it can also close doors that aren’t even there.
As humans, we tend to focus our imagination on negative outcomes as a way to protect ourselves from danger.
When we were cavemen, this made sense. Don’t check what’s in the bush because there’s a slim chance it may be a tiger waiting to eat you. Even if it isn’t, what’s the benefit?
Now, in our modern world where tigers aren’t hiding in bushes, we create these same negative outcomes with any risk, but life is risk. Any improvement, joy, adventure, happiness, will almost always come on the other side of risk.
So, by using our imagination to worry and be fearful, we’re removing ourselves from the opportunity to live well, to experience the thrills of adventure that create a euphoria that no drug can match.
These adventures that are risky make us feel alive. These risks that have a massive upside, but also a grand downside, make us feel alive, but they also open us up to a better life.
“Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”’ — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Much of the time we’re unaware of the fear or worry we’re placing on these unlikely future outcomes, or how they’re making us live smaller, less significant lives.
In my situation, I thought it was just the stress of buying a new house. It is, to an extent, but why? I was worried about negative outcomes that were unlikely and should be seen as challenges rather than obstacles.
Any worry should be seen as a useless fear. Any trepidation should be met with skepticism.
Life should be an adventure where our reach exceeds our grasp rather than something we navigate through safely and quietly.
In short, do things that scare you. Use fear as a compass, guiding where you’re going rather than what you’re avoiding.
Keep this in mind, always.