There are always things that we would like to change. It might regard our personal lives, professions or maybe even something we’ve noticed in our community. But, in all honesty, as much as we would like to make changes, how often do we actually follow through on it? Sometimes, our ideas fade away into the background as we are bombarded with more pressing concerns and at others, they just seem unreasonable or too risky. This causes them to slip away and become mere wishes of what we would like to achieve. The more these wishes play on our mind, the more discontent we become. So how do we rectify this?
Firstly, we need to stop pushing our ideas aside. Fear should not hold us back from making the changes we desire. It may be easier to sit back and not do anything but it sure is boring and uninspiring. You need a bit of courage to take the steps required to take action which is where this book comes in. It serves to give you the inspiration you need to take action and be fearless.
In this summary readers will discover the five principles for being fearless:
- Making big bets
- Being a bold risk-taker
- Making failures matter
- Reaching beyond our bubbles
- Letting urgency conquer fear.
Key lesson one: Making big bets
Making big bets is one of the first steps you can take to being fearless. It refers to coming up with a bold plan which draws attention and defies common beliefs. Much like how US president John F. Kennedy promised the nation that they would put a man on the moon at the starts of the 1960s. They had not even invented the technology to complete this feat, but it was his announcement that made people watch intently as it came together.
It is comparable to Elon Musk’s big bet to get us to Mars by 2030. By speaking their intentions out loud, they are making a promise to work toward it. The hardest step is usually the first one and in these cases, it was simply declaring their intentions publicly despite public criticism. Big bets are not limited to people in power though. They can be made by all of us. Take Rachel Sumekh for example. She was a student at UCLA when she volunteered at a food drive to help fellow students who could not afford meals. Sumekh was disappointed to find that she was the only person who showed up to the drive – an obvious sign that people did not understand the true extent of student hunger. She took a big bet and founded Swipe Out Hunger. The organisation allows students to donate their unused food card money to support those students who cannot afford meals. Her big bet paid off with Swipe Out Hunger delivering over 1.3 million meals to students across over 30 campuses.
Big bets often defy the common belief people have that situations are unchangeable. It takes a specific type of person to see beyond this common belief. The fearless ones who believe that things can change for the better.
Key lesson two: Being a bold risk-taker
Everyone likes their comfort zones. It’s called that for a reason. But the longer you stay in your comfort zone, the longer you avoid greatness. Whenever you want to make a change, you have to be prepared to get uncomfortable. You have to take risks. Without risks, nothing would ever be accomplished. Imagined if we all stayed in our comfort zones? Would you have taken that new job or bought that new place? Lives would never change, actually, nothing would change if people remained comfortable.
Being a trailblazer means taking risks. Take for example Eliza Scidmore, not only was she part of the first graduating class of Oberlin Colleg that allowed women, but she also went on to become the first female board member of the National Geographic Society. Her entire life involved taking risks, big and small. She travelled to Alaska long before it was part of the United States and wrote a travel guide about her journey. This led her to become the first female photographer and writer for National Geographic magazine, travelling to many different countries. The experiences Scidmore had as a woman could not have been comfortable, especially considering the time she lived in but she knew what she wanted to do and the changes she wanted to see. Her risks opened doors and inspired the many women after her, including the author of this book.
But taking risks does not mean you have to start from scratch every time. You can learn and build upon what other’s have experienced. This is true of most scientists, inventors and innovators. They understand the importance of learning from others. This also enables them to be bold and make changes having more knowledge behind them. And as much as change is risky, most people tend to regret not taking the risk more so than taking them. The classic example here is Kodak. Kodak was at the top of their market before the 2000s. When they had the option to invest in digital film or continue to hold on to their traditional camera film, they chose to stay in their comfort zone. This resulted in them filing for bankruptcy in 2012. Their lack of risk-taking cost them dearly.
Key lesson three: Making failures matter
Fear of failure is the source of most of the reservations we have. But failure is not something to fear. In fact, most trail-blazers see failure as a good thing. Very few things happen right on the first attempt. Failures are the literal stepping stones to success. So you have to make your failures matter and to do that, you have to learn from them. Take the Case Foundation for example. They firmly believe that the lack of failures is a clear indication that projects are not innovative enough. If a project is truly innovative, it should push the limits of what is possible and this will entail its fair share of failures. In doing so, you learn with every failure and the project will end up with the best possible outcome leading to complete success.
In order to embrace failure, you have to also keep your focus on the bigger picture. It will lead you to achieve your goals. Albert Einstein famously said, “Failure is success in progress.” and you can’t really argue with his thinking given all that he achieved. In the end, it’s best to remember that you will be respected more not for avoiding failures but for using the failures you experienced to guide you to success.
Key lesson four: Reaching beyond our bubbles
Much like our comfort zones, our bubbles somewhat keep us in a sort of stasis. Being exposed to the same people, environment and ideas can lead us to develop blind spots and unconscious biases. The only way to become aware of these and to get rid of them is to reach beyond your bubble. Expose yourself to people who you would not usually interact with and you will be exposed to different ideas and viewpoints.
Even the author does this by taking annual trips in an RV with her family. They travel around the US and meet people along the way that they would have otherwise not have met. It allows her to experience different things and get a feel of what’s truly going on in the world. A clear example of this in the US is the common impression that certain cities like Pittsburgh and Detroit should be avoided. People remain in this thought bubble because that’s what they have heard from everyone they have been surrounded by. However, these cities are anything but the sad, dying places they are made out to be. They have seen investments from companies like Ford and Uber and is also home to businesses involving robotics, biomedicine and alternative energy.
Not only will reaching outside your bubble expose you to new perspectives, but it can also allow you to find the partners you need to achieve your goals. Just think about some of the unlikely partnerships that have occurred between completely different people and companies. They never would have come into contact with each other if they had not reached beyond their bubble of contacts. A great example comes from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014. The hazmat suits being utilised were inadequate and needed replacing. Johns Hopkins University put out an open call for a better design and guess who provided it? A seamstress who normally specializes in wedding dresses. They would never have made contact with her if not for the open call, they would have been limited to their bubble.
Key lesson five: Letting urgency conquer fear
Urgency can be a powerful tool to conquering your fear. As much as fear is a way of protecting us from danger, it also inevitably holds us back from taking risks to achieve our goals. To work around this, you could use urgency as a way of avoiding this fear and reacting instead by instinct.
When there is no time to think, a decision has to be made by instinct. It’s kind of like in an emergency situation and the adrenaline kicks in making us achieve astounding feats that would otherwise not occur. When you witness something happening which makes you react passionately and want to help, this can be used to your advantage. This is being a first responder and will allow you to help others by doing amazing things without fear.
Take for example José Andrés, a world-renowned chef, who formed the DC Central Kitchen to help the hungry people in the city. In 2010, in response to the major earthquake in Haiti, he formed the World Hunger Kitchen. He also helped after Hurrican Maria hit Puerto Rico. In all these instances, he saw an urgent need to help others who were in need. He did not allow himself to be distracted by fear, he knew what had to get done to make a difference.
Being impulsive is often seen as a weakness. This mostly comes from people acting in the moment and making decisions which they come to regret later on. This is understandable. However, you have to also be conscious of the fact that if you allow yourself to overthink, nothing will come to pass. Overthinking often leads to analysis paralysis – no matter how brilliant your idea is, if you overthink it, it will crumble.
That is why allowing urgency to propel you to action can be extremely beneficial. This is especially true if it regards a cause you are passionate about. If you want to make a difference and enact a change, you need to be fearless and take action. You will still encounter difficulties, but taking action as soon as possible is the biggest step you can take to make a difference. If you end up waiting for a perfect moment, it will never come
The key takeaway from Being Fearless is:
In order to be a trail-blazer and make real and meaningful changes in your surroundings, you have to be fearless. There are five main principles you need to follow in order to be fearless. You have to make big bets, be a bold risk-taker, embrace failure, reach beyond your bubble and allow urgency to overcome your fears. If you follow these five principles, you will undoubtedly be able to achieve the greatness you have always desired.
How can I implement the lesson learned from Being Fearless:
Don’t be deterred by fear. Fear of failure and the unknown should not be allowed to keep you from making changes. Ensure that you step out of your comfort zone and expose yourself to a variety of people, places and experiences so that you have a real perspective of the world and the opportunities that await you.