4 Ways to Knock Out Fear at Work (and in Life) - Inspired By a Martial Artist

By Gabriela Matic

Madlen is a martial artist and has been one of my closest friends for the past 12 years. Everything I know about fighting I’ve learned from Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Jackie Chan movies. I’ve never been interested in learning how to fight because it honestly scares me. I never understood why it didn’t scare Madlen until I moved in with her last year and learned four incredibly useful lessons about fear and gratitude.

1 | Know that everyone is afraid.

It is entirely human to be scared of things. Some people are afraid of speaking in front of others, some are scared of sharks, and some are afraid to go after what they really want. The fear of failing is present in students, artists, entrepreneurs and pretty much everyone else and that’s normal. Even the ones that don’t seem afraid, probably are.

I’d argue that the fear of sharks is absolutely reasonable and doesn’t necessarily have to be explored, but when it gets to stage fright or starting a business, it’s a lot about how you deal with that fear. My friend is also nervous before fights, but she would never let that stop her.

2 | Get out of your comfort zone every day.

As a fighter or boxer, what gives you confidence before a fight, is training. The same goes for every other situation in life. If you get used to stepping outside your comfort zone every day, at least a little bit, you will get used to the feeling. Go and talk to that cute colleague, volunteer to lead that big project and show people your art, no matter how worried you are about what they might think.

3 | Go with it but don’t let it stop you.

Even if you try to push yourself every day, the fear will never go away completely. That’s okay. Accept it but don’t let it control you. Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Magic” addresses how to deal with fear, when it tries to take over the steering wheel. “Acknowledge your fear. Say: You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you’re not allowed to have a vote.”

Accept that fear will be a passenger on this crazy ride called life, but it has to sit in the back seat and it sure as hell cannot choose the radio station.

4 | Be grateful.

Before her very first Thai Boxing fight, my friend didn’t seem to be afraid at all. She was buzzing and more excited than I have ever seen her before. She couldn’t wait to get in the ring and fight. She wasn’t too worried about getting hurt or bothered about who would win the fight. All she wanted was to do it. She couldn’t wait to experience a real fight against an unknown opponent after all the training she’d been through. I asked her why she was so damn happy about maybe being punched in the face and her answer was perfect: “I’m happy because I want to fight. Six months ago, no trainer would have been confident enough to put me in a ring and let me fight. Now I’m good enough to do it, good enough to not be at risk of getting hurt easily. I’ve trained hard, and I’ve earned this.”

I believe this is what it’s all about.

That presentation you are scared of delivering and that business you are afraid of starting should drive you to do it anyway. You’ve earned it. Be brave and give it a shot.