Embracing Fear and Bossing Up
Updated: Jun 16
We are taught that in order to be brave, we must be fearless. But what if fear is actually the one thing that will push us to be our best, most successful self?
In the kickoff episode of my brand new podcast, Dare to Interrupt, I interview Judi Holler, author of the best-selling book Fear Is My Homeboy and CEO of HOLLA! Productions. Judi shares how leaning into fear can bring you to levels of achievement that you only dream of. Listen now to experience the full episode!
Read on to explore a few of my favorite pieces of advice, insight and wisdom from our conversation:
Judi, have you always been comfortable with facing fear or getting back up if you failed?
You know, I’m scared most days. I always joke that I’m a big old fraidy cat. The difference between me and other fraidy cats is that I keep going. I don't let the fear stop me and, in our community, we come to build this beautiful community around the ideas in the book Fear Is My Homeboy, and we call ourselves “fear bosses”.
And in this community, we have chosen to be the boss of our fear. It doesn’t mean we’re not afraid. It means we’re brave. And I really challenge this notion of fearless. I mean, the world is telling us all to go be fearless, right? Fearless t-shirts and jewelry, bumper stickers, all this stuff. And I think that’s why we’re confused. I don’t believe that we should be fearless.
I think it’s an unrealistic notion. I mean, if you were really fearless, think about it. You would do all kinds of crazy stuff. You would never pay your taxes. You would never go to a doctor; you would get on elevators at three in the morning with crazy people. You’d walk down dark alleys alone at night by yourself. And there’s this book called Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. If you’re listening and you haven’t read that book, and want to think differently about your fear, specifically if you’re creative, run and get it.
But in that book, Elizabeth Gilbert writes, “The only fearless people I know are five-year-olds and sociopaths.” And I don’t think we want to be either one of those, right? So, the goal should never be fearless. It should be brave. It should be figuring out how to fear our less.
How would you encourage people to get out of their comfort zone and to really get to know new people and to ask for what they actually deserve and want?
I’m going to advise everyone, introvert or extrovert—because I’m an ambivert, I kind of live in the middle of the spectrum—I get my energy through my quiet creative spaces, but I love to be with people. I kind of am in the middle of the spectrum there.
So, whether you’re an introvert, an ambivert, or an extrovert, this will apply. I’m going to challenge everyone listening to become a fear scientist. And this means that you will begin to experiment with your fear, and you’re going to start small. So, fear experiments can look like just making it a game.
Just sit in the front row of every meeting you attend, making it a game with yourself to raise your hand first in the meeting or to speak up first on the conference call to say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to lead the sales meeting or I’m going to take a selfie in public to get better at not caring what other people think about me. Yeah, I’m going to start the Instagram account. Or maybe I take a different drive home from work or I swapped my coffee for tea or maybe tomorrow I’m going to take a cold shower.’ You see what I’m saying?
You don’t need to jump out of a plane or climb Mount Everest to be brave. You can do small everyday things to really work your brave muscles. So, that’s number one—start small, start experimenting with your fear. Start doing things a little bit differently than you’re used to doing them.
For example, today, if you see my Instagram stories, I’ve been doing no filter all day on Instagram. I’m like, no filter. Well, you know what I mean? And it’s silly that this is even a discomfort in our day and age, but it is—most people are filtering their face on anything that they’re putting online—43 is a fear experiment.
It’s a small thing, but it packs a big punch because it strengthens my brave muscle. But then fear experiments can also be really big things. They could be things like, ‘You know what? Today, I’m going to finally stand up for myself. I’m going to say no. I’m going to say yes. I’m going to leave the toxic relationship. I’m going to quit smoking. I’m going to take the job promotion. I’m going to sign up for the race. I’m going to start the business. I’m going to—whatever that looks like for you, so fear experiments can be big and small things that get you outside of your comfort zone.
What are some of the things you have overcome or some tough times you’ve had to go through and had to face and really to embrace that fear to grow?
I think it’s so easy to look at someone on the outside and to think oh my God, he’s crushing it or oh my God, she’s slaying it or you know, she came out of nowhere overnight success, you know, year all this stuff in the industry and beyond all the time, but I think in order to really transcend you know, an industry and just sometimes, listen, I’m in competition with myself, period. It’s an infinite game.
You know, it’s not, I’m in competition with myself and this, so I think we’re where I’m trying to go here is, I think the thing that has surprised me the most about walking into this new path of creative entrepreneurship and running a business and running a creative company and you know, traveling for a living and all of that. It’s managing the mind that has become I think the thing that I’ve had to work on the most, and the thing I guess I didn’t see coming.
I work harder on myself and my mental health than I do at my job. And you see me, I work hard because I know you do to your boss, right? So, I work my tail off, I could work every day. That’s how much I love what I do. And sometimes I do but you know, at least I love what I do, but it is—sometimes I gotta check myself before I wreck myself, but I work hard is what I’m trying to say. But I work harder on my mental stamina because I believe that none of this can work if I don’t work, and none of it will work if you don’t work.
No matter what industry, you’re in, what role you play in life, and a lot of people listening to this have busy careers and they have busy personal lives. They’re going to go to work every morning. And then they’re going to clock in at their second job when they get home after work and take care of their kids and their family. And maybe they’ve got a volunteer association and they’ve got a church and a neighborhood and friends and family. And it’s intense. And we will never be able to manage this if we’re not taking good care of who we are.
I think for me, really taking care of myself mentally, physically and emotionally, it’s been a really big deal as I’ve sort of stepped into this role as a business owner, but at the end of the day, you don’t need to own a business to remember that you are a CEO, you’re running a business every single day. And that’s the business of you. And if that doesn’t work, nothing works.
I think the long answer to your really powerful question is just that for me, I think that’s the thing that has surprised me the most, how much I struggle with my own inner demons and managing self-doubt and getting out of my own way and not feeling like an imposter. And then doing the work to really stay focused on the task at hand, the job the community, and the mission that we have inside the work I’m doing every day.
So, I don’t know. Hopefully, that gives you an answer. But I think we’ve got to really work harder on ourselves than we do at our jobs. And I think that’s what will sustain you over the long term.
I love that you went there, and I think that’s so important for anybody who is listening to hear that because we all hustle, we all grind, but we also have our own stuff that we’re going through.
I think there is so much power and just owning it, too. And I think that’s gotten easier for me as I’ve gotten a little bit older. But, you know, now I kind of own it. But you’re right. It’s reverse engineering it. If it’s showing up, I write about my struggle with an ongoing panic disorder in my book, and it’s something I manage all the time, but it’s understanding, okay, well, why do I feel this way?
And if I’ve got this going on, that means that there’s something larger probably underneath some of these layers. So, if we’re not looking at that, if we’re not pulling up the hood and putting oil in the car or gas in the tank, it’s not going to last very long. So, yeah, I mean, there’s no shame in it. It’s just a part of life and I think there are more people struggling than we can even imagine.
And I think the way we’re connected, and the way we’ve got so much coming at us, and the world is changing at the speed of light, and we’ve got the media and the news and everything in the world breathing down our necks, I think we have to just keep our eyes on our own paper, come back to self-love, come back to self-trust.
And one thing I always like to remember, too, I think we get so worried, especially as we try to make moves in the industry, we try to go for a new job or try something new out or ask for a raise or lead a sales meeting or run the breakout or get published in the industry magazine, I think we get worried about what other people are going to think.
And I think what holds us back is other people’s opinions of us, and embarrassing ourselves and failing, but certainly judgment. And I struggled with that for a long time and what helped me get out of my own way, there was this fact and it’s this: we’re so worried that other people are going to judge us and make fun of us and talk about us and all this stuff.
But the hard truth is this: people are already talking about you, people already don’t like you. And people are already making fun of you. And I hate to say that, but it’s the truth. So, the reality is who are you living your life for? You or everybody else, you know?
So, I think that just really allowed me to sort of step in my power, step into my power, be authentically who I am and do things that make me come alive because that’s what this world needs more of—brave human beings who are out there doing things that bring them joy, because let me tell you, that is contagious.
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