How the World’s Most Successful People View Fear, with special guest Joe Gianni
Fear is something that all of us deal with in our lives, at some point in time. However, the question is: how can we use it to energize us and not debilitate us? Sean Johnson sits down with Joe Gianni, President and CEO of 2logical, to discuss fear and how it can lead us to success if we use it the right way. Fear is often viewed as a very complex concept, when in fact, it is quite simple. There are two main ways that people handle fear: they either let it energize them, or they let it debilitate them. Energizers of fear use it to help them grow and push them to reach outside of their comfort zone. People who let fear debilitate them use fear as a way to stop any sort of progress and are likely to stay in the same exact place, where they are comfortable!
While feeling comfortable may be easier for most of us, it is being uncomfortable and outside of your comfort zone that really pushes you to grow and change! Throughout this podcast episode, Joe and Sean discuss how learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable can completely change your mindset and help you reach your goals. “Most people go through life searching for a place to be comfortable. They want to be comfortable in relationships. They want to be comfortable in their work. They want to be comfortable in their finances. They want to be comfortable. But the truth of the matter is that we don’t achieve high levels of success in any of those areas of life or in any area of life, any aspect of life, without constantly having the emotion of fear being triggered,” says Joe. Want to learn how to transform fear from being your enemy to being your friend? Check out Episode 30: “How the World’s Most Successful People View Fear”. Let us know what you think and follow us on social media!
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Episode 30 – How the World’s Most Successful People View Fear, with special guest Joe Gianni
Sean Johnson: Alright, Joe, I wanted to kick off the year with a quick shot in the arm for everybody and talk about something that plays a big role in a lot of people’s lives. I think it’s something that’s often misunderstood and people don’t even realize necessarily how big of an impact it has on them…and that’s fear. To start off, I wanted to just throw this to you to talk about, what role does fear play in our lives?
Joe Gianni: [00:00:29] That’s excellent. You’re exactly right. It affects most people. The fact of the matter is that when you and I really look at fear and the role that it plays in life, it affects everybody’s life.
The key difference is that it doesn’t affect everybody’s life the same way. For some people, fear is an energizer. Fear is inspiring. Fear is something that enables them to find the next gear to push forward and to make big things happen in life. For other people, the emotion of fear is debilitating, it is the stopper. It is the thing that reduces their energy and their effort and never the two shall meet.
Sean Johnson: [00:01:10] Yeah. So, I want to dive into what makes the difference between fear being an energizer and fear being something that paralyzes. Before we jump into that though, I think it might be helpful to define fear. I’ve always really liked the way that you’ve talked about it. So, what is fear and where does it come from?
Joe Gianni: That’s a great question. The bottom line is, you’re right that the whole emotion and the whole concept of fear and emotion of fear is really probably one of the most misunderstood emotions that all humans have. Yet, the proper education of fear, what it is, what causes it, is really the key to unlocking people so that they can overcome their fears. Simply put, fear is really caused by the unknown. Anytime we as human beings come to something that we’re going to do or try, execute on, that we’ve never either personally done ourselves are maybe never seen anybody else do, it evokes the emotion of fear. Fear is caused by that unknown. The reason is if you go all the way back to prehistoric days, back in the caveman or cavewoman days, it’s what stopped us prior folks from stepping off of a cliff and killing ourselves. The caveman or cavewoman would be taking a stroll through the woods. They’d come to a cliff and they’d look over and there was an unknown. They’d never took a forward step onto air. So, it would evoke the emotion of fear and it would cause them to pause. So, again, it’s really driven by the unknown and innately built in all of us.
Sean Johnson: [00:02:49] It triggers that fight or flight kind of mechanism in the brain. So, I kind of want to break down, there’s two categories of how people seem to deal with fear. One is: fear is paralyzing. The other is: fear is energizing. So, what’s going on in the mind of somebody where fear is paralyzing? What’s going through their head? What are they thinking? What do they believe about themselves, about the world, whatever it is, what’s going through the mind of somebody where they feel the emotion of fear and they freeze up?
Joe Gianni: So, once again, first off, the basic concept of defining fear, it was a great question and it’s smart because it’s first important to just understand what evokes fear in all of us. This is in everybody. But the key is, it’s what people come to learn and believe about their fears that cause the flight or fight, that cause people to become energized and fired up about being afraid versus those that allow it to stop them or become debilitating or take their energy away and as such, take their dreams away. The difference in the beliefs really come down to folks that have the flight syndrome, they don’t understand one: what’s causing the fear, that it’s natural, that it’s part of anytime they’re going to grow, anytime they’re going to achieve, anytime they’re going to move their life forward, they’re going to need to move from the familiar to the unfamiliar.
They’re going to need to take risks. So, the emotion of fear is really kind of like the green light that I’m doing the right things. So, most people go through life searching for a place to be comfortable. They want to be comfortable in relationships. They want to be comfortable in their work. They want to be comfortable in their finances.
They want to be comfortable. But the truth of the matter is that we don’t achieve high levels of success in any of those areas of life or in any area of life, any aspect of life, without constantly having the emotion of fear being triggered. So, fear for the folks that move through life, through the state of fearlessness, it’s not so much that they’re not afraid, it’s just that they don’t interpret fear the same way. They see it as the path, the gateway that’s going to bring to them everything that they want in life. Some people are formally helped and trained to understand that through having proper coaches and teachers in their lives, parental upbringings, and influential adults to learn that early on. But some people go through their entire life thinking that fear is not okay. People that have fear that stops them, they actually believe that it’s not okay to be afraid, but nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that all people that have great accomplishments in anything, all have to go through the walls of fear in order to execute and do what they need to do to succeed.
Sean Johnson: It makes a lot of sense. I remember hearing, I think it was an interview with Bruce Springsteen and he talked about how he would feel butterflies backstage before a show. What he kind of said was that everybody feels butterflies, but to him he was saying, “The butterflies is how I know I’m ready to go.”
That’s the difference between somebody feeling those butterflies would say, “Oh, I’m nervous. That means I’m not ready.” As opposed to, “Once I feel that butterflies, that means I’m good to go.”
Joe Gianni: [00:06:20] Yes, that’s exactly right. It’s funny that you bring the butterfly thing up, it harkens me back to being a dad. My oldest son, Jordan, probably at the age of maybe four years old, I took him to a roller skating roller rink party and I put the roller skates on his feet and I picked him up and all the other kids were already out there. We showed up a few minutes late. So, I got his roller skates on and stood him up and I kind of moved him towards the opening where he could now join the big circle.
It was an exciting thing. I was really excited for him because he’d never roller skated before. As a child growing up, I had roller skated a lot and I knew what a thrill it was. I was so fired up. I bring him over to the opening. I go to help him get onto the floor and all of a sudden he stops and he’s stiff as a board and he looks up at me and goes, “Daddy!” So, I come back, I pull him back, I turn him around, I get on my knee, I go, “What’s up?” He goes, “Daddy, I’m afraid.” I just looked at him very calmly and of course, being educated in this, I knew it was a teaching moment, a big teaching moment.
I said to him, the first words out of my mouth, I said, “That’s okay, son. It’s okay to be afraid. Anytime you’re going to do anything for the first time in life, anything, you’re going to have those little butterflies. You get those little butterflies in your tummy.”
And he goes, “Yeah!” Just like that. I said, “Every time and anytime you go to do something for the first time, you’re going to have those little butterflies in your tummy. But daddy wants you to never to forget that those butterflies are not your enemy, they’re your friend.”
I said, and “Once you and I get up and we turn around and I’m going to help you get out on the floor, I’ll hold you up and we’ll go around, you’ll keep doing and doing and trying and trying until eventually you’ll be able to roller skate just like everybody else. Look at everybody roller skating out there. The first time they ever tried to roller skate, I assure you, they were just as afraid as you. They had just as many butterflies, but right now their butterflies are flying in formation. They know exactly how to roller skate and that’s what we’re going to do together.” So, I get him out on the floor and he’s slipping and falling, et cetera, et cetera.
But, he was pretty coordinated at four years old or five years old, whatever it was. After maybe five, eight minutes, ten minutes, he started to roller skate and he had the time of his life. But, in my mind, it was a very key opportunity to teach him about fear. That fear is not our enemy in life. Fear is always our friend.
Sean Johnson: [00:09:01] Yeah and I think one thing you spoke about it within the story, where Jordan’s eyes got wide when you said “Do you feel those butterflies in your stomach?” If you’re looking at it in two parts and the first step is just actually recognizing that you have it. I feel like a lot of people don’t even recognize it or they don’t recognize it when it’s there. They don’t recognize that it’s allowing and controlling what they’re going to do or not do. They’re kind of rationalizing away, why they’re going to do certain things or “I don’t want to do that.” What’s the best way for people to recognize fear when it comes up so that they can deal with it?
Joe Gianni: So, for the example there of Bruce Springsteen, then taking us over to a conversation about my son, Jordan, with a child, talking to them about their fear like that and the butterflies is very powerful for adults too, especially our listeners. It’s about really helping every one of us to understand comfort zones. You see, in the adult language, understanding our fears is to understand our comfort zones. As adults, we hear that word all the time.
We even kind of think we understand it, we know our comfort zone. “Oh, that’s outside my comfort zone,” you know? This is in all aspects of life. You see it in the workplace, you see it in terms of people’s personal relationships, maybe asking someone out on a date, there’s comfort zones. But, really what a comfort zone is, is the mental divide in a person’s mind’s eye between what they believe they’re capable and worthy of doing and what they have yet to realize that they’re capable and worthy of doing.
So, once again, a comfort zone, most people know the word, but very few people can define it. The definition is truly that imaginary line in every person’s mind’s eye that we all come to as we build our lives, we set new goals, we stretch ourselves and move forward in every aspect of life, to that mental place where we believe we’re capable and worthy of doing something or having something or achieving something and that line that goes over that says, “Well, maybe I’m not, maybe I can’t, maybe I shouldn’t.” Right at that moment, whatever that is, and it’s different for everybody, right at that moment, the mind evokes the emotion of fear. Again, without proper education, people accidentally use that to stop them.
Other folks see it just like Bruce Springsteen as, “Oh, I’m ready. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.” So, that kind of goes down the line of answering your question of, what is it? How do people recognize it? What do we do about it?
Sean Johnson: Well and I think that speaks a lot to something that you’ve taught me over the years is people will move either to enhance themselves or preserve themselves.
It seems like the people that are most successful, when they do feel that emotion of fear, they link it to, “This is going to enhance and this is going to help me grow. That’s how I know I’m growing or getting better at something, trying something new.” On the flip side of that, where I think, maybe more people go with the flight when the flight mechanism is the preserve mode, one of the things that really triggers that is people really underestimate their ability to get back to where they are, meaning if they view doing something new as a lot of risks that, “Maybe it won’t get to where I want to go and maybe I’ll even lose what I already have.” So, is there a good way for people to even just think about, “If everything goes wrong, how can I get back to where I am?” Does that help them deal with the fear?
Joe Gianni: [00:13:03] Yeah, that’s the power of taking the time to, especially as we goal set in life, taking the time to take a piece of paper out. Especially in those areas when we’re working on our lives and we’re building certain things, again, whether we’re building our careers or we’re building our relationships, all those different places where we have the emotion of fear that gets triggered, it is important to recognize and take the time to take a sheet of paper out and draw a “T”. On the left side, write down all the benefits, what is it going to mean to you and I to take this risk to move through that fear? How are we going to grow as a person? What are we going to gain in terms of experience? How are we going to react to fear in the future? So, we’d come up with a whole list of things. What are going to be the benefits for taking that risk? Really detailing those out. Then on the right side, taking the moment to really look at, what is the loss that is potentially driving that fear? What really will we lose? Most of the time we really don’t have almost anything to lose. It’s more imaginary in our mind’s eye, we blow it up in proportion that it’s devastating, but the only sale that’s never made, is the sale that you and I, say in sales and marketing, never attempt to take. The only marketing plan that doesn’t work is the one that we never try.
The only promotion we never get is the promotion we never put our hat in the ring for. The only date that we never go on is the date that we never asked for. Those are the certainties, but those are the certainties when people stop from taking action because of their fear controlling them, rather than them learning to control their fear.
Sean Johnson: So, I think that’s a great exercise for people to do. Look at how this thing that triggers that emotion of fear, how that will enhance your life and what’s really going to go wrong? What do you have to lose? A lot of times, I think you’re right. It’s so much less than we think. Even putting in place a plan of, even if all of this stuff does go wrong, how can I get back to where I am now? Even that piece of it is usually not very complicated or difficult.
Joe Gianni: I love what you said. It’s not that complicated or difficult and you’re right, because when we really think it through, we see that it’s just not that overwhelming. It’s when we don’t think it through. We have unknown. That’s the lesson about fear. The more unknown, the more that emotion keeps ringing. It’s our defense mechanism.
It’s our survival mechanism. It’s rooted right from our historic development. So, that’s why it’s so important. So, when the person slows down and really looks at “What are the demons in my mind’s eye? What really am I going to risk? If everything didn’t work out, how would I may be able to move myself and still succeed?” Maybe taking a little bit longer route, maybe having to lick some wounds, but that’s okay because that’s just how we succeed in life.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. Well, I think that’s a great point, we started off the conversation with you talking about how fear is caused by the unknown. I think particularly for bigger things in life, the way you can remove the fear is to remove the unknown. If you can think everything through, you know where all the options are, what all the possibilities are. You don’t really feel afraid anymore.
Joe Gianni: [00:16:54] Yeah. That’s a superb point. I’m talking about man and woman’s evolution throughout the centuries, from the caveman days, all the way until now. But in today’s modern society, when it comes to the overwhelming majority of the dreams and the ideas that you and I and the folks listening have in their minds eye, most, if not almost all of them, are things that other people have done.
Other people have achieved them. Other people have built great relationships or marriages. Other people have built great personal financial success. Other people have built great physical wellbeing. Other people have built phenomenal careers. Other people have built unbelievable friendships. Other people have traveled the world. Other people have achieved taking up hobbies and made them a great part of their life and excelled at them. All these different things that you and I can have in our mind’s eye that we want to do, have or achieve, many times other people have already done it. So, it’s a matter of us, if we want to help keep removing fear, to just become a student of the people who’ve been massively successful. When you and I understand that success is cause and effect and we realize that virtually most of the things that we have in our mind’s eye that we want to accomplish, other people have already done. We can simply read books about it, read articles about it, really break down how they’ve done it. Go reach out and ask them, “How did you do that?” Which, by the way, in my experience and people who I’ve talked to throughout the decades, an overwhelming majority of most people’s experience is if you go and you ask people who are extremely successful at something how they did it, they will actually slow down and tell you.
It is a myth that they won’t, they will. But, you have to ask. That means you have to overcome your fears, right? Yeah. So, all of those things are things in modern society that can really minimize our fears so that we don’t have our life robbed from us because of the inability to understand and master our fears.
Sean Johnson: [00:19:04] Yeah. So I think, to kind of tie up and summarize a lot of what we’re talking about, in terms of dealing with fear and overcoming it, it seems that there’s two portions of it. One is: since fear is caused by the unknown, remove the unknown. Think it through. Think through all the possibilities, do the homework, do your research.
Think everything through, what are all the things that could happen? How could this benefit me? What could go wrong and how could I get back? So, removing the unknown is a big part of it. The second thing is, you talked about how people’s perception of fear is different.
Some people view fear as something that’s debilitating and other people view fear as something that’s energizing. So, for that perspective side, what are some common affirmations or thoughts or ideas that people who feel like fear is energizing use, that maybe our listeners could use?
Joe Gianni: Yeah, so, me personally, I’ve affirmed for decades that fear is my friend. I talk about that all the time. I wrote a book and I talked in that part of the book about fear is not our enemy. Fear is our friend. What’s at the other end of the opportunities or the actions that we’re about to take?
We do not know, but the more we do it, the more we accomplish. So, fear energizes and excites me because I know behind each unknown lies my true key to my personal growth and my success. These are some personal affirmations that I’ve created throughout the decades of my own personal life to help me anytime I have the emotion of fear, to move myself back into a position of empowerment.
I liken it also to The Wizard of Oz. If you remember The Wizard of Oz and the cowardly lion, he wanted courage and the great wizard said “I can’t give you courage. It’s inside you.” That was the whole theme of the entire movie. It is a great movie, by the way. But, I talked about that for 30 years, running seminars. Literally 30 years ago I would talk to people and I’d use that analogy. In other words, courage isn’t something that’s born to some and not to others. Courage is a manipulation of the mind.
Courage is the ability to do just what you’re saying, which is to really look at the things that we fear and invert them through affirmation, to see that those things that we fear, we really don’t have to fear because with more education, more thinking it through, there really is very little unknown.
The benefit so far outweighs the risk that people are able to move through it. Think about it for yourself and for those listening. Anytime you’ve been in a place in your life where you were really afraid to something, I mean, really afraid to do something or try something.
We’ve all been there. Every one of us, multiple times in our lives. If you stop and you think about it right, before you acted, right before you moved through that fear, if you really stop and kind of unpack it, you realize that your with your self-talk, you spoke yourself right through it. You were able to say to yourself the right things that minimize that you were able to say the right things that brought clarity.
You’re able to say the right things that got you to see that “Even if it doesn’t totally work out, I’m not going to die. It’s going to be okay.” If you think about it, that’s what the source of your courage has always meant. Those moments where we’ve had real courage in life to try something or do something, it is the same place that every one of our listeners have had in their lives.
The key in life is to recognize those moments in time from our history in our past. When we’ve had those moments where we’ve had enormous fear, but we persevered and overcame. It was not something that was divine at that moment in time versus not. It was because of a mental manipulation.
That’s the secret. That’s the key. As I look at people throughout the decades, I’ve watched more people’s lives get extraordinarily crippled and stilted because of their inability to understand fear and how to overcome it quickly and consistently. It is a matter of just what we’re talking about, understanding what it is, what causes it, and understanding that you and I through proper mindset, proper thinking can move through it.
Over time we can move through it extraordinarily quickly. When I observe successful people, they almost act and move every day. People say, “Oh, she’s fearless,” but it’s not so much that they’re fearless. That’s a little bit misleading. What it is, is that they have fear, but they’ve learned in life how to be comfortable being extraordinarily uncomfortable.
The greatest riches in life for you, me and for all people, lie not in being comfortable. It lies in being uncomfortable. The more uncomfortable we are every day, the more we’re growing. The more comfortable we are, the less we’re growing. In order for us to have the bigger things that we want in our life, we cannot have the bigger things without becoming a bigger person.
So, in order for us to become a bigger person, we have to move and live every day with fear. If our heart’s not in our throat three, four times a day, we’re not living. If you’re not stretching and taking risks in your relationships, you’re not living. If you’re not stretching and taking risks in your career, you’re not living.
If you’re not stretching and taking risks in every aspect of life, then we’re not living. Not because that’s a nice thing to say, but because we’re not growing if we’re not. Every time we’re growing, we’re moving from familiar to unfamiliar. So, every single day should be a day filled in seeking being uncomfortable. How’s that for a little bit of a paradigm shift?
Sean Johnson: I like it. I think there’s a lot of truth in that. I’m a big believer that if you’re not growing, you’re dying and the emotion of fear is what tells you that you’re growing. So, my golden nuggets from this conversation are kind of two fold.
The way to overcome fear is to remove the unknown and to affirm that fear is exciting. I think that it puts in perspective a lot of what can be an overwhelming topic for people. So, as we wrap up, is there any final thoughts or anything that you want to share?
Joe Gianni: [00:25:54] I think a couple of things. First off, if you’re afraid, great. I think that if you’re unsure, fantastic. I think that, in closing, always remember and never forget, fear is not your or my enemy in life. Fear is your or my friend.
Sean Johnson: Thanks, Joe.
Joe Gianni: You got it.
*episode transcription edited for clarity
00:01:10- Where Does Fear Come From?
00:02:49- How Do People Deal With Fear?
00:06:20- Feeling Butterflies
00:09:01- The Best Way To Recognize Fear
00:13:03- Breaking Down Fear
00:16:54- Understanding The Possibilities And Outcomes
00:19:04- Affirmations When Using Fear To Energize
00:25:54- Golden Nuggets And Closing Thoughts