I was a fearful child.
I’ve been a fearful man.
I’ve rarely felt worthy.
And I’ve spent much of my life covering it up by doing all I can to look confident on the outside, whilst feeling deeply insecure on the inside.
I’m driven by the question: Who are you? Who are you to be a leader… to be successful… to be powerful… to be respected… to make a lot of money… to live a great life… to have an amazing relationship…?
I’ve spent my life playing Robin, looking for Batman.
I’ve sought out powerful leaders. I’ve assumed others were far more powerful than me. I relentlessly compare myself to others and feel less than. I’ve tried to emulate great leaders and lost myself in the process. And then I secretly looked for ways to pull these leaders off the very pedestal I’d put them on.
I crave success but each time I achieve my next level of success, I barely allow a moment of celebration, before I begin judging myself for not doing things better, bigger, or bolder…
All I ever wanted has been for my dad to be proud of me. I once got off a call to my dad and it was two hours later that I realized he’d told me how proud he was of me. And then it struck me. How many times, over the years, had I found a way to filter out what I craved the most?
I’m a people pleaser.
I’m driven by a belief that if only I look good enough, then you’ll like me. I’m afraid of speaking truth to power. I’m often afraid of speaking my truth to my partner for fear that she’ll leave me. I’ve done whatever it took to fit in – losing ‘me’ in the process.
I was scared to father a boy because what did I know about being a man?
I’m extremely good at putting other people’s needs ahead of my own.
I’m afraid to ask for what I really, really, really want. I care so much about what everyone else might think – there’s often no space left for what I think. I hate to look silly, or messy, or like I don’t know.
I find it hard to make friends.
I can feel lonely in the middle of a crowd. I hide. I say, I don’t need help – when, actually, I’m craving support. I say, I don’t need help – because I don’t know how to ask. I pretend I don’t need help – because I imagine I’ll be weak for needing it. And you’ll judge me for accepting it.
I’ve been afraid to put my stake in the ground. I’ve been afraid to take a stand. I’ve been afraid to be ME.
A timeline of fear
- At 6 years old, I’d hide in the school toilet during lunch hour because I was scared to tell the teachers I hated school lunches.
- At 11 years old, I joined the Boy Scouts because it meant I didn’t have to play soccer at school – I was afraid of such a physical game.
- At 12 years old, in an all boys school, I auditioned for the school play. I loved drama. But I was mortified when the teacher cast me in the role of Titania, Queen of the Fairies. I cried myself to sleep, night after night, for weeks. But I was terrified to say NO.
- At 17, I was really good at having girl “friends” but I had no clue how to have a “girl-friend”. I was scared to ask anyone on a date.
- At 21, my first real girlfriend cheated on me and I stayed with her because I was afraid to ‘lose’ her.
- At 22, I was so afraid of losing my first job that I let myself be ‘bullied’ by a woman who was just a year older than me.
- At 30, my teaching colleagues told me I was so ambitious they thought I loved promotions more than I loved the kids I taught.
- At 37, when I was fired from a job I didn’t even like, I cried and begged my boss not to let me go. I ran away from leadership for years because I was so humiliated by that experience.
I’m still afraid
I’m afraid of not being liked, of running out of money, of dying before I see my kids grow up, of telling Monique what I really, really want, of aiming too high, of failing, of looking bad, of getting NOs…
Is fear your driver or your compass?
A leader I admire thanked me for sharing her work. I told her that I was secretly afraid to share her material because I believed that if people see how great she is they won’t want to learn from me. I was afraid that I’d lose clients and lose business. And THAT is why I did it.
Six years ago, I was invited to travel to Liberia to lead a group of coaches and to train a group of teachers. I knew immediately that I wanted to go because I’ve had a long-held passion for education, especially in Africa. But I was afraid. Afraid of Ebola, afraid I may not see my little babies again, afraid of the unknown. And THAT is why I went.
Seven years ago, Vishen Lakhiani asked me to partner with Mindvalley, one of the world’s best personal growth companies. I was afraid. I’d written a book for coaches about how to build a practice by invitation and referral only – no marketing needed. What would it mean about me if I partnered with Mindvalley and we ‘marketed’ this message? What would people think of me? What if they judged me? What if they didn’t like me? And THAT is why I said yes.
Several years back, my mentor and coach told me he couldn’t participate in an event we were planning to run together. I was afraid. Could I do it alone? Who would come if it was just me leading? What would I teach? What if no one showed up? And THAT is why I did it.
On a regular basis, I put the members of 4PC – my group of world-class coaches – center stage. I share their stories and their books and I showcase their magic. It’s scary for me to do this. I’m human—I’d much rather get acknowledgements than give them. But THIS is why I do it.
I sometimes need help to catch the fear. When I’m in it, I’m usually overwhelmed.
One morning, in March of this year, Monique said that she’d almost never seen me acting so afraid. I was scared of COVID-19, of the lockdown, of the food shortages, of having to homeschool and run a business.
And when Monique pointed out my fear, I lashed out. “I’m not afraid!”
It took an hour or so before the truth dawned on me.
I was waiting for someone to save me.
So, instead, I started to take action. I created an online group for coaches. I ran weekly support calls for all of my clients. I got super creative and launched several new programs.
What I didn’t let myself do is to really feel my fears.
My MO is to freeze, or to take care of others, when I’m afraid. But what I rarely do is truly feel my fears by breathing into them. It’s literally scary to acknowledge that I’m scared.
Fear is a mask for desire
When a client asks me to help them get rid of a fear, I’m far more interested to find out what they really, really want. Underneath fear is desire. It’s what their fear is holding them back from.
Fear is the voice of your ancestors whispering to you, across the ages. Don’t do it. Stay safe. Don’t take a risk. You might get hurt. You might die. Don’t do it…
That voice is part of what makes us human. It’s designed to keep us ‘safe.’ And that’s a problem…
What seems safe is often the most dangerous because with safety comes stagnation. And without risk there’s no growth.
Fear is a sign that you’re dreaming big enough that there’s something scary out there.
When something scares you, you have two options: (1) You can let fear drive you/stop you in your tracks, or (2) You can have fear become your compass. Make fear the clue that you’re doing something worth doing.
Find out what scares you and lean in
I was scared to write this article.
I’m scared to speak my truth.
But the truth is actually what high-level leaders crave. My clients invest a lot of money in my truth-telling.
The more successful, wealthy or well-known my clients are, the more they have become surrounded by people who say yes to everything they ask and agree with everything they say.
Successful, wealthy, well-known people don’t want another yes-person in their world.
If you want to work with top-performers at the highest levels of excellence, don’t hide, don’t hold back, and for pity’s sake don’t try to please them.
Powerful coaches are willing to serve, not please their clients. Clients are attracted to coaches who are honest and direct, even (especially) if it might jeopardise the relationship.
Powerful coaches are willing to ask ‘dumb’ and ‘obvious’ questions. They readily admit what they don’t know and are quick to celebrate their mistakes because they don’t need to look good.
Powerful coaches aren’t concerned about preserving their sense of importance or social standing relative to a client. Which is ironically why their clients trust and respect them more.
HIDE NOTHING, HOLD NOTHING BACK, SERVE DON’T PLEASE, SPEAK YOUR TRUTH.
It’s not comfortable.
It’s not easy.
It’s not always fun. (Although it can be!)
Often I hate it. Often it scares the hell out of me.
And it’s my path.
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