Fear and Anxiety

I was recently listening to a podcast from the Professional Noticer” by Andy Andrews in which he talks about conquering fear. It really resonated with me as I feel my success was due to my ability to overcome fear. The years I was least productive and experienced the least amount of growth and progress were the years where I was living in fear. Fear is EXTREMELY crippling and I have experienced it far too many times and see it too often in the businesses and practices I mentor.

Andy Andrews describes our potential for success and the health of our minds using the analogy of swimming in a river with a strong current. He explains that all the riches are upstream and if you want to drink from the river, you had best drink upstream rather than downstream. A smart herdsman never drinks downstream of the cattle! Andy goes on to suggest.

We have 3 choices:

  • we can swim upstream, which is hard work, difficult, and, at times, very discouraging, but can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling
  • we can swim downstream and go with the current
  • we can simply tread water. But remember that if you simply tread water, you’re still moving downstream as that is where the water is going without you even knowing.

This podcast inspired me to write this newsletter. Words can hardly express how Andy Andrews’ illustration is so great. I think back on my life and how I have often complained that every success I have ever had always seemed so damned hard. Like, REALLY, REALLY hard. I don’t recall anything ever coming easy to me. For example, getting my CGA designation was brutally difficult just as starting and building the practice was really challenging. There were so many long, difficult hours that few will ever fully appreciate- unless of course, you too are going after the great rewards of life. Let’s be honest: in general, the world seems to be moving in the opposite direction to towards a place where everyone wants everything to be easy. Listen to the mainstream media: what direction are they flowing? What is it they’re teaching us? We are continually reminded that if you don’t buy what they’re saying, you’re naïve and probably a bad person, just another capitalist pig.

All my life, I’ve felt like I was swimming against the current. Every step of the way. So many times I felt it was a losing battle and, over and over, my mind and heart were filled with fear and anxiety. It often felt like I was trying to walk towards someone spraying me with a firehose! Would it ever end? Would it ever become easier?

The stream that Andy Andrew talks about can also represent how our mind works. We can wind up having to work really hard to keep our mind positive and healthy when the current of life is going in the opposite direction. Just as you will float downstream if you simply tread water, so will your mind if you don’t continually keep it occupied swimming upstream. And again, the media is full of bad news, destruction, etc. and is unbelievably culpable in pushing our minds to go downstream. Ideologies that convince us that nobody fails and everyone gets a trophy can be damaging to our positive outlook, as well. Too many of us are simply treading water, unaware of where the current is taking us and letting it influence our decisions and way of thinking without us even knowing. 

Control your mind.

So many times, I’ve heard motivational speakers talk about never giving in to fear; ‘keep control of your mind’, they say. “But how?” I keep asking myself because if I just let my mind go, just like the minds of most people, it will seek out drama. Oh, how the conscious mind loves drama!! I keep asking myself, how do I prevent my mind from simply floating downstream with the rest of the world? 

Well, I’m not going to pretend to have the absolute answer, but here is something you should consider.

I do believe that I cannot let my mind be idle. I have come to realize that I must keep it busy on healthy, productive projects. I must keep swimming or I will be controlled by the current and allow fear and anxiety to take control of me and my mind. This is why  “semi-retirement” has been a difficult transition for me. All my life, my mind has been far too busy to give way to what the world is saying, doing, or wanting me to believe. I knew what I wanted and I knew what I had to do to achieve my goals. 

On this note, I strongly recommend everyone read a really good book, written by the well-known business philosopher from many years ago, Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill. The book was written in 1937 but only published in the 1990s, having been considered too controversial for decades to publish. It was only after Napoleon and his wife had both passed away that the book published. Outwitting the Devil should be taught in every school as it talks about the dangers of drifting in life.

The Bottom Line

So, my question for you is: are you drifting and letting the current take you downstream or, worse yet, swimming with the current and repeating all the lies of the mainstream media? Or are you able to overcome fear and anxiety and do the hard work to seek out the riches only found upstream? 

To me, the answer is clear: you either keep your mind busy with positive and fulfilling projects or you give in to your fears and anxiety. The latter will leave you the victim as you’ll end up floating downstream to where the water is poor and vultures wait.

Looking back at my 30 years of building and leading my team, I can tell you that the water upstream really is cool and refreshing; it’s full of nutrients and great opportunities.  What I have learned, however, is that the current upstream is still quite strong and that I must accept that I need to keep swimming to continue enjoying the rewards offered by life. This is where I can feel the pride of what I have accomplished. 

Was this long difficult swim worth the effort? Oh God yes!

If you should visit a ship in port and ask the captain for his next port of call, he will tell you in a single sentence. Even though the captain cannot see his port, his destination for fully 99% of the voyage, he knows it is there. And then, barring an unforeseen and highly unlikely catastrophe, he will reach it. If someone asks you for your next port of call, your goal, could you tell him?

Earl Nightingale

Not having a major purpose for your life is like trying to navigate without a chart. You may eventually get somewhere you like, or you may drift aimlessly, always hoping to find — but never finding — the place where you would like to be.

Napoleon Hill