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Don't Look Down

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(Submitted by Markus Almond, who sent me this cool book a while back and runs this thing.)

Every successful person does something that absolutely terrifies them. Whether it’s public speaking or giving your boss a resignation letter, no one has ever made it to the other side without taking a stumbling leap of faith.

But how do we deal with those monsters and demons that pop up at every corner telling us that we’ll never make it, that we’re not good enough, that we don’t have what it takes?

Answer: You suppress the hell out of it.

I’m not talking about lying to yourself or losing touch with reality. I’m talking about deliberately steering the direction of your mind during high-pressure situations. You know that expression people say whenever someone is on a tightrope or high in the air? Those 3 little words of advice that people have used over and over again – “Don’t Look Down”. You don’t ignore the danger or pretend that you’re not a thousand feet in the air. But you do put one foot in front of the other and stay focused on where you’re going. If you forget to “Don’t Look Down”, you draw your attention away from the goal and head straight towards failure.

Adam Carolla, who holds the record for Most Downloaded Podcast Ever, once said “My job is to talk like nobody is listening”. We should all be that lucky to adopt a life-philosophy as freeing as this. Pretend your actions are being completely ignored. Pretend that no one is around to judge you. A networking opportunity is a thousand times easier when you have nothing to gain. A product release is a million times more fun when you have nothing to lose. Pretend that no one is listening.

The most loved and popular people in the world also receive the most hate-mail.

To focus on negative outcomes and hurtful criticism is a good way to ensure failure. Giving power to our doubts is an invitation for our feet to slip off the tightrope.

I used to think that my fears meant something. I used to think it was important to ‘get to the bottom’ of these negative thoughts and find out where they were coming from. I was wrong. Like George Clooney said in Three Kings, “The way it works is, you do the thing you’re scared shitless of, and you get the courage AFTER you do it, not before.”

So whatever it is you’re worried about – horrifying failure, people who don’t like you, or plummeting to your own gruesome death – suppress that shit and move forward.

And when you make it to the other side, remember to pat yourself on the back and take a deep breath.

* Filed by Julien at 3:19 pm under random


Hi, I’m Julien Smith. I'm the founder and CEO of Breather.

Check out more of my blog, my free book or add me on twitter. Also, we're hiring. Check that out.

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50 Responses to “Don't Look Down”

  1. Sacha Says:

    That was exactly what I needed to read. Thanks !

  2. Dennis Says:

    Hm. Maybe this post was meant for me.

    I have always written my feelings and worries down so I could get to the very bottom. I have always analyzed to stay 100% honest. Right now – i am screwed.

    Ill try doing things you way now and post my feedback sometime in the future.

    Thanks,
    Dennis xx

  3. Mitch Says:

    Julien- Sharing this with young trial lawyers I mentor. You can use every trick in the book but when it’s all said and done– when it’s “go time”, you just gotta suppress the hell out of it, man up and do the job. After the second or third trial you’ll actually start looking forward to opening and closing arguments… most of the time :-)

  4. HvB Says:

    Very timely for the new year — great post!

  5. Jordan Coeyman Says:

    Fantastic metaphor for facing your fears with a lot at risk. Thank you for this post it could not come at a better time.

    I’m diggin the Clooney quote too.

  6. Hills Says:

    Thanks for this post it is quite inspiring.thanks am grateful

  7. Matt Searles Says:

    I love that 3 kings quote.. I think of it often..

    And I guess I’m sorta like you used to be.. I tend to believe that every thought in my mind has a purpose and that I should embrace all of it, that it’s not a question of if this thought is helpful or hurtful to you and you’re success, but more how you integrate it with other thoughts…

    As Nietzsche said ‘beware in throwing out your demons you don’t throw out the best thing you had going for you’

    But.. I think you’re right about the don’t look down part as far as how to orientate your self to the fear and demons and whatever.. I keep telling myself “embrace your madness and you’ll be ok” and it usually seems to work

    • Markus Almond Says:

      Thanks Matt. I agree with you 100%. I think there’s beauty in madness. I just think that if we’re tripping ourselves up it’s ok to be a little forceful with ourselves. Especially when we’re working on something important and battling our own self-doubts.

  8. Susanne Iles Says:

    Brilliant advice this morning! Just the wake up call I needed. I’ve been playing it safe for so long because I cater to my fears. One step at a time, not looking down only forward…I’m so excited to see what kind of work I can create by leaving my fears on the ground. (I can always pick them up and analyze them after-the-fact)

    I’m starting right now…

  9. Horatio Marteleira Says:

    I agree 90%. The other 10% (disagreement) are for those nasty ingrained distortions that are like a shadow you can’t shake no matter what you do, except hide in the shade.

    But hey, 90% is nearly total freedom!!

    The path of least resistance is a dead end.
    Good post.

  10. Lims Says:

    Great article! Every new post makes me feel more and more empowered to do whatever I want to do with my life. Like you said in another post, we have a limited time, and as you say, there is no point in looking down.

    Thanks!

  11. Joe Says:

    No fear! Thanks Julien! Great post. Fear is the ultimate irrational killer of creativity and success, no doubt. The only reason I don’t quit my job is because it freaks out my parents when I do (I did it once before) and I don’t like to stress them. So now, I take THE MAN’s money (I call it “underwriting”), but I don’t really give a shit about the work and when I have to pursue my own creative mojo, I tell HIM (not a real person) to step off. I have become something of an indispensable linchpin (praise Seth Godin) where I work, so the chances of getting fired are slim, but even if THE MAN did fire me, I would see that as freedom to move ahead faster. http://amzn.to/SZo067

  12. Pei Jun Ming Says:

    Thank you so much! This helps clarify another of one of my life doubts. Now I know what to do if something like this should happen.

  13. JGintheNY Says:

    Great freaking blog post! Just what I needed to read and hear today.

  14. danielle Says:

    brilliant post and i couldn’t agree more. that’s been my approach on a few things over the last couple of years: face a fear head on and don’t worry about the outcome till later. being scared shitless is only a temporary feeling.
    i’d like to carry this approach forward and this post came at the perfect time. we (i) tend to think too much, so it’s time to just carry on and do what i long to do and worry about being scared shitless and the what-nots after.
    cheers!

  15. paul Says:

    When I’m afraid of something, I know I’m on the right track. Fear breeds growth.

    • Markus Almond Says:

      Nice! Well said man. I’ve heard a lot of successful people say “I took the job or I started the project because it scared the shit out of me”. What an excellent way to grow and learn.

  16. Michelle Says:

    Great timing on this one! I guess it could apply to everyone, every day of their life, but the timing on this one was impeccable! THANK YOU!!!!

  17. Voyage Says:

    Whew, thanx for posting this . I have been so frightened of change and now I am being pushed big time ! I may as well let go and fly !

  18. Rob Says:

    Great advice. You have to get “outside your comfort zone” if you want to continue growing!

    -Rob

  19. Christian Says:

    Having already taken the big leap, this post was great reassurance for me. So important to focus and “not look down”. Thanks!

  20. Melanie L Says:

    Great post. I’m an anesthesiologist by trade and I’ve had the opportunity to teach a few medical students recently. Every so often I find a student who is worried about going into the ER or medical room and causing an emergency, I tell them not to worry once they get in instincts will get over. If you worry about it, it will happen. The goal is simply not to think about it, not to think about not thinking about it.

  21. Dennis Do Says:

    I needed this ass-kicking post to get me back on track.

    In times where everyone tells us that we can’t do it, we have to BELIEVE.

  22. Genevieve Clarke Says:

    Pure brilliance! Thank you.

  23. James Says:

    Thank you.

  24. Jeph Maystruck Says:

    I love this post. This line “The most loved and popular people in the world also receive the most hate-mail.” Brilliant. Thanks for the kick in the ass.

    Jeph

  25. alfred R. Says:

    excellent
    thanks julien

  26. Jennifer Says:

    Here are two quotes a friend sent to me recently: “Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

    The other is from a friend named Michael Neill: “…there is a tremendous difference between feeling the fear and doing it anyway, and the freedom which comes from finding that space in yourself which is beyond fear. And the more time you spend living beyond fear, the sooner the answer to ‘What should I do if I wasn’t afraid?’ will become ‘Exactly what I am doing right now.’ ”

    It is on my fridge – I read this everyday. I coach swimming to 9 and 10 year olds, and there are a lot of fears: diving off the block, swimming two lengths of butterfly in a meet, flip turns, all kinds of things. I say to them exactly what you wrote some long time ago: I am better today than I was yesterday, and I will be better tomorrow…I am a champion standing over my former self. Then once you believe it, making it happen is easy. You know the rest ; )

  27. Liz Says:

    Amid all the junk mail in my untouched e-mail box, I found this gem. Thank you. This was so worth my time.

    Enlightening. Something for me to think about.

  28. Joseph Says:

    Excellent post, Markus. I love the 3 Kings quote. This is exactly what I needed to hear. I am at a point where I am ready to quit my job (a job I really like), liquidate my assets, take my wife and 3 kids to Costa Rica to start anew and live a simpler life. My greatest fear is taking my kids further away from my parents. My parents would be devastated. I invited them to join us, so we’ll see.

  29. Geo Says:

    Care what other people think about you and you become their prisoner…

    think about this and it will free you…

  30. Ara Bedrossian Says:

    Dance like no one’s watching?
    Yea, I can dig this.
    I’ve got to remind myself of this every day.
    Why?
    Because when life becomes expected, then you’re already underground even if you’re still walking around.
    Cheers.

  31. Scott Ayres Says:

    I can totally relate to this and to the quote by Adam Corolla. I’ve done dozens of my podcast episodes not because anyone is listening, but because I wanted to do it and if others come along to listen great. Good stuff..

    http://www.spreaker.com/user/askscotttv

  32. Susan Cooper Says:

    This was a very timely post for me and where my head is. Thank you. I will write like no one is there and for me.

  33. Ashley Hoober Says:

    Yes yes yes! I love this! Inspiring. You always have a way of putting it so it really hits home. Keep writing this stuff Julien.

    Cheers,

    Ash

  34. Rico Compagnie Says:

    “My job is to talk like nobody is listening.” is a real eye-opener. I am working on that. Sometimes I want to do everything good for everyone. But in reality, it’s better to do what you think is best for yourself.

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