How To Create Opportunity Out Of Uncertainty By Facing Your Fears

When I attended James Madison University, I was an International Business Major. It was a new discipline in the College of Business, and our class was the first to go through the entire curriculum.

There were two courses in the non-major portion of that curriculum that I would do anything to not ever have to see again. One was English- Writing ( which is amazing because I now write content every week) and the other was Philosophy.

To get out of my English class, I wrote a paper about why Paul McCartney should be viewed like some great classical composers such as Bach and Beethoven. I got a “C” for that paper, but it was good enough for me to opt out of further English classes and the commitment to my International Business curriculum.

To opt out of any further Humanitarian courses and meet the commitment I had to write a paper about “Reason.” That paper’s title was ” Fear Does the Work of Reason.” To be candid, I pulled an all-nighter to get it done as I didn’t know what or how I was going to do it but for the only time in my college career, I received an A+ for the paper. Looking back on that paper, I don’t know how I pulled it off but it was the last time I had to do a paper involving Philosophy.

Last week, I was asked a question about my new video, in which I speak about a way to create opportunity out of uncertainty, which is to “Face your Fears,” like when I went back into the Hudson River with the SEALS.

For some reason, I started to share some of the details from that Philosophy paper I wrote in 1979.

I shared some things from that paper and what I have learned since. I said that fear is a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to be paralyzing. You have to learn how to fear and use it as inspiration. Fear overcomes reason when you trust your fear more than your reason.

Fear will hold you back from having amazing experiences and growth. What happened after my TEDx talk, “Bouncing Back, PTGS ( Post Traumatic Growth Syndrome), is people would and still come to me sharing their traumatic life experiences and want to know, “How did you get back on a plane after you went through a plane crash?” I realized that many people still haven’t been able to grow from their fear or their experience and are in a downward spiral.

I’ve learned that what often holds people back is thinking that their ideas or dreams are “unreasonable” or “irrational.” But what I have found is that many people are just subconsciously afraid of taking a risk, and their“rational” mind says that they’re just being “reasonable” rather than afraid.

I’ve found that what they fear works within their conscience, and when they have to make a decision, many times one of the things that makes people fearful is their limiting beliefs.

In reality, sometimes people are just subconsciously afraid of taking a risk, and they rationalize it, telling themselves they are just being “reasonable” rather than fearful.

When I was considering going back into the Hudson River after not swimming regularly for over 40 years, I went against the opinion of the majority of my friends and team members. In the era in which I grew up, societal values would say to be “reasonable,” which most people interpret as “Don’t go against the status quo.”

However, I was fortunate to have parents and mentors who encouraged me to take risks. Sometimes, I suffered the consequences, physically and/or emotionally. But more times than not, I found the strength to overcome the fear and judgment, which helped build my “mindset muscle.”

I’ve learned that throughout history if people let fear do the work of reason, many of the technology or advances in the world would never have happened. If Henry Ford had let fear do the work of reason, would Henry Ford have invented the modern car? Would we have smartphones more powerful than computers from the past? Would the internet and self-driving cars even be an option?

In 1979, my dreams were bigger than my fear which was having to repeat English – Writing and that Philosophy class. I wrote and kept telling myself not to let my fear stop me from realizing my dreams. I didn’t know in 1979 what I wrote to get out of a class would come full circle on August 6, 2021 when I went back into the Hudson River with the Navy SEALS.

The moment when it came full circle was about 600 meters from New York City as my wingman, Suzanne, and I were slugging it out against the current from Ellis Island. I took a stroke and when I turned my head to breathe, I saw approximately where US Airways 1549 went down.

I had to pause for a second and say a prayer of gratitude. That was the moment when I realized that a way to face your fear and grow is to have gratitude for the opportunity to face whatever you fear and not let fear be the work of reason.

You never know what moment in your life will come full circle to help you in your most challenging time. I would have never thought that a paper I wrote to get out of Philosophy class in 1979 would turn out to have a lesson that would ultimately help me bounce back from a plane crash that could have taken my life and scarred me emotionally.

All the moments in your life matter. That moment, not letting fear being the work of reason, was key which freed me to be able to fulfill my mission, a promise to ” not let it die with me” and

Create opportunity out of uncertainty.