How To Overcome Fear: Why Scary Work Pays Well


I have a client named Phil. English is not Phil’s primary language. Hi primary language is Portuguese. One of Phil’s biggest fears is speaking English publicly. He’s done so many fearless things with his life. He’s written a book, he’s a composer, he’s a vocalist.

Now he’s working hard to raise his family up economically by being an entrepreneur. But speaking English in front of people has been an insurmountable fear. And it’s something he has to overcome if he’s going to grow his business and help his family.

He kept missing opportunities because he had to speak in English. So my job as his coach was to inspire him to take a risk and speak English when he was feeling most vulnerable, in front of groups of people. It was his biggest fear!

So how do you get over your fears?

What is Scary Work?

A few years ago, my friend Darren Hardy said something to me that I’ve never forgotten. He said, “scary work pays well.” What is scary work?

It’s writing every day for four hours. Why is that scary? because one day you will have amassed a manuscript for a book, and what if it doesn’t sell? You’ve invested all that time for nothing. It’s scary to think that you can put your head down and work hard and nothing will happen. Scary.

Scary work is calling someone in a higher position of power than you and requesting something from them. Intimidating. What if they say ‘no’ to your request? What if they shun you publicly for the rest of your life? Scary.

Scary work is speaking in public. It’s one of people’s biggest fears. It causes so much anxiety people have been known to sweat uncontrollably, have diarrhea and even throw up before speaking before a group of people. But it’s also lucrative because most people don’t want to face that level of fear.

Scary work is the stuff few want to do because it brings up uncomfortable feelings like fear, anxiety or even boredom. One of the scariest things I’ve had to do lately is ask a friend of mine, Roland Fraiser, over at Digital Marketer, if he would speak at a mastermind I run with my mentor Roy Williams. I was afraid because I didn’t want to appear demanding to Roland.

I had to grapple with the idea that I’m being pushy. When I really thought through my request I realized I’m not being pushy. I’m just asking a question. He can say yes or no. He’s a powerful guy.

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If Roland doesn’t want to do it, he’ll just tell me. He’s not going to wither and die because I asked him a question. He’s not going to shun me in public because I reached out to him.

But it was the unsupported belief that those things would happen that I had to confront.

Why Is Scary Work Scary?

People have all kinds of reasons for being afraid. You might believe that you’ll be embarrassed if you take a certain action. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll look like you don’t know what you’re doing. Maybe you’re afraid that you’ll be rejected for you ideas or that your hard work will amount to nothing.

Now, think about all these fears and what they have done throughout history to peoples’ dreams. People have let embarrassment limit them. They have let fear and believing they’ll be rejected stop them. They have let anxiety get in the way of their goals. But successful people have done the opposite. Successful people have taken the risks others of us won’t.

Steve Jobs got fired from Apple. But he didn’t run away in shame to never try again. Maybe he felt some shame or embarrassment for a while. But then he came back and built one of the most valuable companies on earth. He didn’t stay embarrassed or scared. He came back to finish the job he’d started.

How can you, as an entrepreneur, eliminate the fear of scary work? By expanding your comfort zone. Your comfort zone is that level of activity that you feel comfortable doing on a daily basis.

As we grow into adulthood our level of comfortable activities expands. Once we got comfortable, bored even, with crawling, we wanted more. So we learned to start walking. And on it went.

But at some point our heads got out of sync with our hearts. Culture and society and nurturing take hold and we ‘learn’ how to stop expanding.

How do you learn to expand your comfort zone again?

Now I’m not recommending that you burst through your comfort zone. Don’t move beyond it, that’s too scary to think about, isn’t it? Let’s think about expanding your comfort zone. So that, once it’s expanded, everything that was once scary is now comfortable. When the head and the heart work together, the hands will follow.

Sometimes the head has a great idea. Then something gets lost in translation on the way from the head to the heart. When that happens the hands become paralyzed. But when the head and the heart are in harmony, eventually you get the result you want.

So what happens on the way from the head to the heart? This process addresses what happens between the head and the heart and accelerates the speed with which you can reach any goal.

It’s a technique I created to expand my own comfortable activities and it’s what I taught Phil to help him overcome his fear of speaking English in public.

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How To Do Scary Work: How To Overcome Fear

I call it Scary Work Action Cards. What is it? It’s an index card with a “scary” task I want to complete written in bold letters on the front of it. The scary task can be:

  • A request you are hesitant to make of someone, like me with Roland
  • Or it can be a chapter you are stalling to write in your book
  • Maybe you’re hesitating on taking the first step on a new project for your business
  • Maybe you know that public speaking would double your income but you’re too afraid to try it

It’s any task in your professional or personal life that you constantly put off doing. I write the task on a card and place it right where I and anyone else can see it.

I write the cards at night before I go to bed, so I can let my unconscious mind marinate and focus on the task I’ve written. I don’t write out 10 action cards. That’s overwhelming. I stick with one.

When I wake I ask myself, “Am I going to do it today?”

I walk passed the task all day and the task bothers me because I want it to go away. This is the first essential element of the scare card. It makes you accountable and won’t go away until the task is completed.

The second essential element is learning to address your unsupported belief head-on.

I almost never do the task that day. It usually takes me a few days. It can even take weeks, or months. Sometimes, if it’s very scary it may take years.

This is the process I used to overcome my fear of talking to Roland. Now, when I reached out to Roland and made my request, he emailed me back within 10 minutes, and do you know what he told me? “I would be honored.” he’s a dear friend, but my reason for being scared restricted my comfort zone from expanding. I let my fear manifest negative feedback and an unsupported belief. The moment Roland wrote back to me, the moment he said it would be an honor, my comfort zone expanded. 

The 7-Step Scary Action Card Technique

Step One

Identify a task that scares you. You probably have six or seven tasks in your head and in your heart. Write them all down on a piece of paper, like a brain dump. Just write them all down. Then identify one, just one, to start.

Don’t identify a project as one task. A project is a bunch of tasks. Say for instance, you’re afraid of writing a book even though it’s something you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time. Thinking about the book, it seems like it’s one thing – write the book. But writing a book is many different tasks: coming up with the idea; writing an outline; thinking up chapter names; coming up with a title; writing the first draft of the first chapter, etc.

So if your fear is a book just choose one task related to the book. Maybe that one task is deciding on what the topic of the book will be. I have clients who’ve avoided writing books for years by just not deciding on a topic. They keep going back and forth with what topic to choose. It’s a great way to not move forward. Decide. Let you first scary action card be deciding on a topic to write about.

So choose one scary task from your list.

Step Two

At night, just before bed, write the scary task on the front of an index card. Write it at night so that you let it marinate in your heart and head as you sleep.

Remember, writing the task down takes it from being a private affirmation to a public declaration. A public declaration is a motivating factor in getting the task done. If it’s there for the public to see they will hold you accountable.

Step Three

On the back of the card write down what scares you about doing the task. That’s the unsupported belief you have about the task. Once you write it down, it’s outside of you. That’s where you want it. You want to look at the unsupported belief and say it out loud. This way your conscious mind will realize how limiting and untrue it sounds.

We don’t want to burst through your comfort zone. We want to expand it by taking baby steps. So this step is confronting your unsupported belief by simply looking at it on paper.

Step Four

Place the card somewhere public. There is no hiding the card until the task is done. You need to put it out there. Pin the scare card somewhere you can see it while you’re walking by. You can put it up at home, like on the bathroom mirror or near the coffee maker. Or you can put it up at work on your desk. Get creative with where you decide to put it. You can make duplicates and put several up.

This step may be scary in itself but it’s really for you. Seeing it every day will hold you accountable and will nag at you little by little.

Step Five

Take the action. It may take you a week. It may take you a year. My student, Phil, took a week to take action on his first card, speaking English publicly. But here’s the thing: he’d known how to speak English pretty well for a couple of years before he used the scary action cards to overcome his fear.

It doesn’t matter how long it takes. Just don’t give up. Look at the card every night before bed and every day when you wake. Remind yourself that your fear is an unsupported belief.

Also, I want to make an important distinction. You don’t need to have a positive result or a positive response. Maybe your scary action is asking someone for a favor. Maybe they say ‘no’ to the favor. It’s still a win because you took the action. You overcame your fear!

So it’s not the result we’re looking for, it’s the action. The action expands your comfort zone. And if you do get a ‘no’ then make another action card and find someone else to ask until you get a ‘yes’!

Step Six

When you have a super scary card, review the other scare cards you’ve already overcome. Look back on all the unsupported beliefs that you’ve confronted. See how much you’ve expanded your comfort zone. Take some time to let that sink in. It will give you strength for what’s ahead.

Step Seven

Save the scare card when it’s completed. Keep these cards as a diary of what you have confronted and overcome in your life. You can give it to your kids someday or share it with your spouse. Or maybe write a book 😉 maybe teaching people how to overcome fear.

You’ll be able to look back at this diary and see how much your comfort zone has expanded in your life. Pretty soon you’ll be jumping out of planes and speaking to thousands of people on a stage.

Overwhelm: The Most Common Root of Fear

Fear means we contract. We get tighter, close up. But nothing happens until something moves and moving takes expansion, not contraction. Yet, as we age we get afraid of change. Humans can get stuck psychologically.

And one of the ways we get stuck is in overwhelm. When we are in fear it’s easier for us to feel overwhelmed.

But overwhelm isn’t: having too many things to do. Overwhelm is not knowing what to do next. And using the scary action card technique will help you break down these big, overwhelming projects or ideas into small, doable actions.

It’s much easier to accept “write down 3 chapter titles today” as opposed to “start that book you’ve been wanting to write for 10 years.”

Each task related to the book will have its own unsupported beliefs. If you break down the book into tasks you can address each unsupported belief as you do each task. That way the project will become easier and easier because now you’re confronting the underlying reason why you weren’t taking each action.

You’ll build momentum by blowing up each unsupported belief.

The Wrap Up

Scary work is all the work that other people don’t want to do like writing a book, speaking in public, calling someone who intimidates you and asking them for a favor. And yet, these are the actions that create great success for an entrepreneur.

Why is scary work scary? It’s the fear of looking bad or being embarrassed, and what’s the proven way to eliminate the fear of scary work? Well, for me the answer is Scary Work Action Cards. I call them my Scare Cards.

Let that scared, little voice inside you take the next step. Support her and let her expand. Write your first scary action card before going to bed tonight. You have at least a few things that you don’t want to do. Write one of them down.

One of the best ways to overcome fear is to watch what other people do in the face of it. How do others deal with fear? Click Here for the ultimate directory of powerful influencers and thought leaders. Watch, listen and learn how they tackle their biggest fears and challenges. And then duplicate what they do. Copying is not only flattering, it’s also the blueprint of your success.

I’d love to hear from you! What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done in your business? What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken as an entrepreneur? Let me know in the comments below.

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