Erik Van Alstine

Erik Van Alstine

Author. Leadership strategist. Expert in Perceptual IntelligenceTM.

The subtle and deadly lie in every inspiring quote about fear and courage.

Fear holding you back? Having trouble mustering the courage to do the right thing?

Just bounce around online and you’ll find a crowd of inspiring quotes about overcoming fear. Here are a couple:

  • Your largest fear carries your greatest growth.
  • Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.

While we absolutely should take these quotes to heart and grow our courage, we should also discern a subtle and deadly lie in all of them.

Yes, that’s right, there’s a lie lurking in virtually every quote about fear and courage you’ll ever read.

The lie is, All fear is the same, and all fear is bad.

The truth is, there are two classes of fear – useful and useless. Instead of lumping all fear into one class, and calling it bad, we should always separate our fears into these two classes. Useful fear is good. Useless fear is bad. Our lives move forward when we get good at identifying which one is which and respond the right way to each of them.

Wise and courageous people have the skill to…

  • Distinguish between useful and useless fear.
  • Embrace every useful fear, while rejecting and overcoming every useless fear.

Solomon the ancient Israelite king, history’s greatest sage, emphasized this importance of useful fear over and over. “The prudent see danger and take refuge,” he wrote, “but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.” It’s extremely wise and important and useful to see danger and fear it. There’s good fear and bad fear, and we need a healthy dose of the good fear.

Unfortunately, the “one class of fear” lie lives large, and inspires a lot of internet stupidity.

Imagine, for example, that we believed the “all fear is bad” lie and held the philosophy that “your largest fear carries your greatest growth.”

Then you realized, my largest fear is the fear of heights.

So you go out and do something like Viktoria Odintcova did in December from the pinnacle of the 1,004-foot Cayan Tower in Dubai, with no harness, no ropes, just one sweaty hand gripping another.

Just looking at it makes me insanely angry. And super sweaty.

Not only is this the stupidest stunt imaginable, but stuff like this is inspiring other early-twenty-somethings to do the same. When you consider the 49 selfie-related deaths in 2016, up five times from the year before, mostly from these types of photoshoots, Viki and company might just be accomplices to murder.

Speaking of accomplices, the guy in the jumpsuit holding her hand is Oleg Cricket (real last name is Sherstyachenko). His website is loaded with inspiring quotes about “living your dream” and “living life to the full.” He says, “I am improving myself on the way to my sacred goal.”

Then he pops out a quote about fear. “Fear is in each of us,” says Oleg. “You have to experience fear.”

This is an extreme example of the error we make when we take the one-size-fits-all approach to fear. Whenever we think about fear, we have to think in two classes, not one. We have to separate out useful from useless fears.

Then we should go after the useless ones, while appreciating the life-saving power of the useful ones.



Share this post