Melissa Laun
31 May


"Fear is the intelligence that something needs to be learned."

Ferriss, T. (2024). Greg McKeown and Diana Chapman — The Tim Ferriss Show. The Tim Ferriss Show. Retrieved May 31, 2024, from Quote by Diana Chapman.

THE MEAT (The Main Idea)

This quote has already had an impact on my professional life and thinking. Chapman takes the conventional view of fear and turns it on its head. Instead of seeing fear as a deterrent to an event, she suggests that fear is actually a signal from our intelligence system, pointing us toward areas where growth and learning are needed. 

As an educator, I want to champion this view. As a leader, I want to highlight how fear might emerge in situations of uncertainty, change, or challenge. By first simply recognizing fear as a guide, leaders can transform these moments into opportunities for growth and development. Reframing fear encourages a proactive approach to learning and problem-solving. 

THE CHEESE (Added Depth) 

To fully appreciate this perspective, it's important to first define fear. 

Fear is an emotional response to perceived threats or dangers. 

It activates our fight-or-flight response, preparing us to either confront or flee from the threat. While often associated with negative outcomes, fear also serves as an essential function by alerting us to potential risks. 

Let's apply this to an all-too-familiar situation leaders face, push-back. An area of change is identified, but when you, the leader try to implement the necessary changes, you're met with resistance. 

I see many leaders in this situation give into their fear and retract or flee. Other times, leaders will fight and force the change. Either way, it's uncomfortable and there are more than likely intense emotions of apprehension and/or dread. 

But how do I navigate through the fear? 


Start by recognizing when fear arises. This might show up as resistance, hesitation in making decisions, or a feeling of discomfort in unfamiliar situations. Acknowledge the fear without judgment. From now on, fear is just a natural response. We can choose to make the feeling of fear neutral- a signal. 


Be willing to embrace the discomfort of fear and reflect on its source. Be open to yourself and others about these reflections. This may sound like, "I'm afraid that if we don't implement this change, we'll be compromising our students' learning outcomes. However, I'm also afraid if we do proceed without everyone's support, we risk damaging our relationships and the success of the project." By acknowledging and vocalizing these fears, we create space for open dialogue and collaboration. 


Identify small, manageable steps you can take to address the source of your fear. Break down larger challenges into smaller, more manageable tasks. Approach the situation with a spirit of experimentation and curiosity. "I wonder if...," or "Wouldn't it be great if..." 


After taking action, what did you learn? What worked well? What could have been done differently? Celebrate successes and acknowledge areas of growth. 

By leaning into the discomfort or fear and getting curious about the opportunity, you can transform it from a hindrance to an advantage.

THE OLIVES (A Surprising Element) 

Fear often feels overwhelming at first, but by persevering through it, we learn that the reality is often less frightening than our anticipation of it. Each time we confront our fears, we build our muscles of resilience. Making it stronger and easier to face similar challenges in the future.  Consider these common scenarios where fear can teach resilience:  

Applying for a new job
  • "What if I'm not qualified enough?" 

  • What if I get rejected?"

New opportunities, professional growth, and skill expansion. 

Even unsuccessful applications improve confidence and interview skills.

Staying comfortable in your current position.

Potentially leading to stagnation and missed opportunities for advancement.
Facing rejections can build resilience and improve future job applications.

Stepping outside your comfort zone leads to personal growth and confidence.
Writing a book
  • "What if no one reads it?"

  • "What is it's not good enough?"
Fulfillment from a creative endeavor, sharing ideas with the world, and boosting confidence.Remaining in your comfort zone but possibly feeling unfulfilled and regretful for not pursuing your potential.Completing a book project can instill a sense of accomplishment and self-belief.

Overcoming self-doubt fosters resilience and strengthens determination.
Asking for a promotion
  • "What if I'm seen as too ambitious?" 

  • "What if I get turned down?" 
Career advancement, higher earnings, and recognition. Even if denied, you gain valuable feedback and demonstrate ambition.Avoiding the conversation, staying comfortable, but missing opportunities for career growth and job satisfaction.Receiving constructive feedback after asking for a promotion can aid in professional development.

Taking initiative demonstrates confidence and leadership potential.
Confronting a difficult conversation
  • "What if it leads to conflict? 

  • "What if I don’t handle it well?"
Resolution, stronger relationships, and improved communication skills. Each difficult conversation builds confidence in handling interpersonal challenges.Avoiding the conversation temporarily keeps peace but leads to unresolved issues, resentment, and a lack of trust.Navigating difficult conversations builds emotional intelligence and enhances conflict resolution skills.

Open communication fosters trust and strengthens relationships, even in challenging situations.

If we are willing to feel the fear, recognize it, name it, and act anyway, we stand to benefit exponentially more than if we retreated or did nothing. Each experience builds resilience, making it easier to confront similar challenges in the future. Embrace fear; allow it to guide and grow you, turning daunting tasks into achievable goals. 

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