Tag Archive for: facing your fears

Believing in Yourself: A Letter to My Daughters

08 Apr
April 8, 2014


Dear Kendall & Kaelyn,

I am writing this letter because I wanted to share some important thoughts with both of you- what I consider powerful life lessons that I hope both of you will be able to draw upon for the rest of your lives.

I’ve probably shared some of this advice with both of you here and there in the past, but likely in bits and pieces, and not in a more formal, meaningful way. But the things I want you both to understand are so much more important than that. So, I thought it might be helpful to write them down, so that both of you might be able to save and reference them from time to time, should either of you ever feel you might need to hear them again. I believe this is exactly the kind of information that all of us need to be reminded of over and over again, throughout our lives.

Both of you are embarking on exciting phases of your lives with unlimited opportunities right in front of you! And while these are exciting times, I know they can also be challenging.

Kendall, you are navigating your freshman year in high school, taking an extremely challenging schedule of honors courses (including a college-level class) and ramping up your ballet regimen, all at the same time.

Kaelyn, you are also facing a much more rigorous school schedule and have recently begun to pursue soccer at a very high competitive level for the first time.

So, here are a few things that you should both know. These are “secrets” that nearly all of the world’s most successful people understand- whether their successes are rooted in academics, athletics, wealth, family, career or all of these areas. And while you may have heard some of these ideas before, what you need to understand is they are not clichés. They are powerful, profound truths that can change your life if you simply embrace them fully.

The first and most important thing that both of you need to understand is that either of you can achieve anything you set your minds to. There are no limits to what the human spirit can achieve when you simply believe in yourself. We only limit ourselves when we begin to doubt and restrict ourselves with fear (fear of failure; fear of embarrassing ourselves; fear of looking silly; etc.). Understand that fear is a barrier for all things in life. It is what most often most prevents people from fulfilling their potential because they were too afraid to try something new; to speak up; to risk looking foolish… or to risk anything at all.

You may have heard the saying, “With great risk comes great reward”. Guess what? It’s true!

Now, does this mean that if we do take risks, that we’ll never fail? No!!! Everyone fails, sometimes! But we would never even know what was possible, if we didn’t take some calculated risks. And we can minimize those risks further by believing in ourselves and having confidence- knowing that we will succeed! This is the very nature of faith. God did not create us with any limits.

So does this mean that by simply believing, we can accomplish certain things? If I believed I could be a world champion surfer, could I beat Kelly Slater in a surf contest? Could I develop a cure for cancer simply because I believed I was capable? No! We have to work for success, and prepare for it. Success is never easy. Kelly’s been preparing his whole life for his success and people who do incredible things like discovering cures for diseases or winning Nobel prizes in literature or science have dedicated the same time and preparation in their academics. Success requires hard work and discipline.

Consider this: Even Jesus, before he began his ministry, had to prepare. God sent him into the wilderness for 40 days all by himself, especially for this purpose. He faced extreme challenges- loneliness, temptation… even Satan, himself! Why did God allow this? After all, he was God and could do anything, right? Because he was preparing Jesus for his life as a man- a human being like one of us, and for what he would face in his lifetime. He was strengthening him to be successful.

Believing is only the first step.

Once you believe in yourself, you begin to understand that you can achieve anything you set your mind to. This in turn gives you the confidence to realize that when you dedicate the time to working hard and preparing yourself, and then you proceed without fear- then you will be able to achieve whatever your goals are in life, with the only limitations being those you place upon yourself.

If you believe that you could never be as good a soccer player as this girl or that girl, then you won’t be. If you think to yourself, “I’ll never be as graceful as that dancer”, then you won’t be. If you believe, “I could never surf a wave that big”, then you never will. If you tell yourself, “I would never be brave enough to stand up in front of the class and do that” or “I could never get into that college”, then you won’t.

Conversely, if you believe that you can do all of these things, and you know that by putting in consistent work, you will move ever closer towards your goals, then you will be able to do all of these things- and more!  This is why they say, “life is a self-fulfilling prophecy”– because you get what you expect in life.

It is very important to me that both of you recognize and understand these profound life principles and that you commit yourselves to living by them. Both of you have your whole lives right in front of you! And your mom and I want you to dream big and understand that there is nothing limiting either of you- nothing holding you back from doing anything you want to do, or being anyone you want to be, other than those limits you choose to place upon yourselves.

I would encourage both of you to make a habit of setting your self-doubts aside, learning to recognize fear for what it is- only a false barrier and to believe in yourselves, unfailingly. Nothing is impossible! Recognize that hard work, self-discipline and a positive attitude will always allow you to accomplish anything you might desire in this life.

I hope that you will take these ideas to heart, live by them and share them with those around you. Remember that the only thing greater than understanding the power of these principles is helping others learn to recognize and apply them, as well.



Safe is Risky: The Rewards of Facing Your Fears

04 Dec
December 4, 2010

"Safe" is Risky: The Rewards of Facing Your Fears

The 2010 Winter Olympics are behind us and I for one am sad to see them go. There were so many compelling moments that defined the Vancouver Games for me, from snowboarder Shaun White’s incredible Double McTwist 1260 in the half-pipe (a trick only he can perform); to Apolo Ohno passing the Chinese team in the anchor lap of the 5000 meter short track relay to become the most decorated American in Winter Olympic history; to the final frantic seconds of regulation and overtime in the US–Canada gold medal hockey game. But nothing brought me to edge of my seat like Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller’s exhilarating performances in the men’s and women’s downhill.

What I love so much about all of our Olympic Athletes and find so well-exemplified in these two in this event, is their absolute understanding and embracement of a simple, but profound principle, one I believe creatives should never forget: That distinguishing achievement often requires more than talent and training; more than skill and desire; more than preparation or luck. It most often requires exceptional courage and a willingness to take extraordinary risks. And that’s not easy or natural for anyone.

Consider that when Vonn raced, in addition to a badly bruised leg, she also faced the pressures of a spectacular run by teammate Julia Mancuso, just moments earlier. Vonn was rattled. But rather than downplay the moment, Lindsey’s husband and coach, Thomas, who had just finished watching Mancuso’s blazing finish from his position at the bottom of the hill, radioed up to his wife, who was nervously fidgeting at the starting gate, specifically to confirm for her that Mancuso had just completed a “special run”; and to relate, “You’re going to have to be perfect to win.”

Vonn would later state that this simple, strategically calculated message from her husband allowed her to “focus on that challenge” and “let go of her fears”. She subsequently took the most aggressive lines all the way down the mountain, coming perilously close to wiping out at nearly every turn. The result: she beat Mancuso’s “sepcial run” by over a full half-second.

Likewise, ignoring treacherous course conditions resulting from warm weather and light snow, Bode Miller attacked the downhill course with reckless abandon to become the first American men’s skier to stand on the podium for that event since Tommy Moe, sixteen years ago. His bronze medal time was 1:54.40, only nine one-hundredths of a second behind gold medalist, Didier Defago, the smallest differential ever between gold and bronze in Olympic history. Said Miller of his and the American team’s performance: “We went after it. We weren’t scared. We were always aggressive.”

Of course, while a willingness to lay it all on the line can pay huge dividends as it did in both of these instances, it never guarantees success, and often sets the stage for spectacular failure. Later, attempting to go 5 for 5 in Olympic events in the slalom –the one event for which he had not won an Olympic medal– on a challenging course of sticky, wet snow that was proving difficult for many of the racers, Miller did not change his approach. The consequence: he ran into trouble almost right out of the gate. Said Miller,  “It’s unfortunate to go out so early, but you have to take risks… and I did.”

I believe creatives from designers, to copywriters, to marketing strategists should take the same approach as Miller, Vonn and others and not allow themselves to be constrained by fear. I appreciate creatives who are willing to explore their most conceptual ideas, even if it results in more misses than hits. I know that doing so will give them their best chance to come up with something great, which is the only thing I ever want to present to a client.Great creative work must always take a point of view. It has to have “something to say” to be memorable. Remember that people respond to “different” and “unpredictable”. In this sense, “safe” is risky. The real problems begin when fear- the fear of mistakes, the fear of looking foolish, the fear that someone won’t “get” your idea, prevents you from saying anything at all.

I once heard Jeff Kling, ECD of Euro RSCG put it this way: “Screw-ups are tools of evolution. They help us survive.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that statement. Remember also that in the business of marketing and advertising, we’re not looking to connect with the 80% of people who may not “get”, like, or even care about our creative, but rather the 20% who do and are inspired to act upon it.

So the next time you’re faced with a daunting creative challenge (or business challenge, or life challenge), don’t allow yourself to become compromised by fear. Rather, recognize that most of life’s rewards do not come without risk; that we all fall down sometimes; and that even those instances leave us better prepared to make some truly extraordinary runs in the future.

If nothing else, we’ll put people on the edge of their seats. At least for marketers, that’s our job.

Find us on Google+