Overcoming Pandemic Panic: Combatting Fear of the Unknown in Leadership and Life #18

Warwick Fairfax

April 21, 2020

Millions worldwide are dealing with fears of the “what if?” right now as the world struggles through the health and economic uncertainties of the coronavirus outbreak. These worries can be upsetting, depressing and even emotionally paralyzing; in fact, one scientific study has determined fear of the unknown can be more distressing than fear of serious injury or death. In this new episode of BEYOND THE CRUCIBLE, host and Crucible Leadership founder Warwick Fairfax offers several encouraging insights into rising above those fears and the hopelessness they can cause, noting that what the world is facing today is a hypercharged crucible experience not unlike what we all face in our lives when more intimate failures and setbacks strike. They key, he and cohost Gary Schneeberger discuss, is finding outlets that create personal calm amid the chaos and continuing to move forward in active combat against the fears that plague you — uncovering the opportunities that exist behind the challenges. “When fear starts coming on,” Fairfax says, “don’t wait for it to grow from an ember into a forest fire.”

Highlights

 

  • The scientific evidence that fear of the unknown is our greatest fear (2:30)
  • Do fears surrounding COVID-19 represent the ultimate fear of the unknown? (6:52)
  • How fear of the unknown relates to Crucible Leadership (11:00)
  • The unknown fears that fill our crucible experiences (12:25)
  • The importance of staying in the moment by tackling fears one day at a time (15:18)
  • How reflection. meditation and prayer can ease fears of the unknown (16:11)
  • Music is good for the worried soul (17:43)
  • Why it’s not physical distancing but “social” distancing we need during the pandemic (19:24)
  • Don’t oversaturate yourself in news consumption of COVID-19 if you struggle with fear of the unknown (21:18)
  • Keep pursuing and refining your vision to beat back fear (23:04)
  • Forbes magazine’s top tip for overcoming professional fear of the unknown (25:16)
  • Why it’s helpful to share your fears with close friends and family (28:30)
  • Fight fear of the unknown like you would the common cold (30:58)
  • Change your perspective to see challenges as opportunities (34:57)
  • Key takeaways from the episode (37:55)

Transcript

Gary S:
Welcome everybody to the latest episode of Beyond The Crucible. I’m Gary Schneeberger, your cohost of the podcast and the communications director for Crucible Leadership. And you have clicked play on a podcast that deals with crucible experiences, those moments in life that are difficult, that are challenging, that can be in fact, quite painful and can change key aspects of your life, change the path of your life, the trajectory of your life. And in this particular episode, while we often talk to guests, in this particular episode, it’s less an experiential conversation with a guest and more of an unpacking of some of the key principles of crucible leadership, which is the organizing construct of Beyond The Crucible, and it is the creation of both the life experience of the host of the program who is here with me and I’m going to bring him in now.

Gary S:
That’s Warwick Fairfax. Warwick, welcome to what I hope is going to be a very, both enlightening and I think hopeful discussion for listeners.

Warwick F:
Absolutely, Gary. Great to be here and looking forward to it.

Gary S:
What we’re going to talk about today, Warwick is interesting and it’s timely, and yet it’s also timeless, it’s the idea of fear of the unknown and the power of the fear of the unknown, and not always in a great way, usually not in a great way. And there’s a reason why we’re talking about this right now, let’s be honest. When I said it’s timely, right now as Warwick and I are recording this, we are in shelter at home, and the world, not just the US, the entire world is going through the COVID-19 pandemic, and there is an awful lot of fear of the unknown.

Gary S:
At the same time though, this is a timeless subject because fear of the unknown dates back far before the coronavirus, dates back to the beginning of time. And you can find examples of this idea of, “What’s out there? What could harm me? What could change my life? What could knock me off balance?” Not knowing what to fear sometimes leads you to fear everything, and that makes it that much more devastating. And it’s very interesting, before we dive into the subject, Warwick, I wanted to share with everyone that this isn’t just anecdotal, this idea that fear of the unknown is such a severe fear.

Gary S:
There was actually a study done in the Journal Of Anxiety Disorders in 2016 proving again, that this was not something that just came up in the last several months. And in the Journal Of Anxiety Disorders, they set out to determine if fear of the unknown was, in their words, to borrow a phrase from folks who are aware of the Lord Of The Rings series, if fear of the unknown was one fear to rule them all, to use the language somewhat of the Lord Of The Rings series. And they did some extensive research that I don’t pretend to really understand, except that I read the summary of the research. And what it found was fascinating.

Gary S:
They studied fear of such things as being poorly evaluated, either at work or just by people in social interactions, someone doesn’t like you. They studied that fear to see if that was what they called a fundamental fear. They studied whether or not fear of injury or fear of even death, if that rose to the level of a fear that was that one fear to rule them all, that was so fundamental that was sort of the logo for fear, if you will, And they determined, these researchers who did this study in 2016 for the Journal Of Anxiety Disorders, found that none of those fears were fundamental but that fear of the unknown was.

Gary S:
And again, I don’t pretend to understand any of the science in it, I’m a word guy. But one thing that they said when they determined what were the characteristics, and this is a good place for us to begin to jump off Warwick and talk is, one of the characteristics of what makes a fear fundamental was that it is continuously and normally distributed in the population. Again, not a scientist but a word guy, my translations for that, my layman’s translation is, fear of the unknown is a fear that is always there in a culture and a fear that is widely held throughout the culture.

Gary S:
That to me is what they’re saying. That to me is what makes fear of the unknown such a fundamental fear, such a one fear to rule them all, and the reason why we’re talking about it today, Warwick.

Warwick F:
That’s amazing, really, what Journal Of Anxiety is saying, here you have this fear that’s, according to them is this fundamental fear, and what we’re going through now really across pretty much the whole world with the coronavirus is the fear of the unknown, that’s what we’re facing. So we’re facing one of the toughest challenges. We’ve got challenges on so many levels. Obviously, from a health perspective, you have this virus that came out of nowhere, that nobody has any immunity to, so on one level there is the fear of, “I might get mildly sick, maybe moderately sick, or even severely sick and die.” There is no known cure at the moment. There is no known vaccine, scientists around the world are madly researching as fast as they can and making valiant efforts, but as we speak right now, there’s no scientifically proven cure and a vaccine could be a year or 18 months away.

Warwick F:
Most of us are sheltering in place, we go to the grocery store as little as possible. If you go, wear gloves, wear a mask. Stay inside. So you’ve got the whole health side of the coronavirus, but then you’ve got the economic impact. There’s many people that not only are they at home, they might be getting a paycheck, maybe they’re not. Maybe their company said, “Yeah, we’ll pay you through April, May. We’ll see.” It’s like, “What does we’ll see mean?” And some, whether it’s waiters, some folks have been laid off without having any idea when they’ll be back at work, restaurants, will it be a month, two months, six months, longer?

Warwick F:
How will restaurants even make a living? They make their money by packing them in, packing them in is like something that may not happen for a very long time. So all that’s to say is, there are so many fears from a health, from an economic, from a job, just how long will this go on? And the answer is right now is, we don’t know. It’s almost the ultimate fear of the unknown. There are other fears but this is a textbook example unfortunately, of why the fear of the unknown is so gripping, so paralyzing, if you will.

Gary S:
Right. And one of the things you described is this idea that your mind races in all directions. I’ve heard it described by actors sometimes, and bear with me in this comparison, doing a play from a stage when the audience is in front of you, that’s a little bit easier to pull off in theater in a round, because you’ve got to act in a 360 degree way. And in some ways, in very real ways, what’s going on now is your mind is racing 360 degrees. There is every day a new headline, a new social media post, a new comment you hear from someone, something that causes your mind to go, “What if?” Or, “How about?” Or, “Have we thought of this?”

Gary S:
It made me think of, you’ve all seen, listener, I think those decision trees. You pull up to a stoplight or a stop sign, you can turn left or right and you choose, “I turn right.” And then you go down that, and that leads to a bunch of other decisions that you can make because there’s a park and you can stop or you turn left and there’s a bunch of decisions, there’s a ballpark and you can go, however that works. Those decision trees, it seems like an endless collection of decision trees that has nothing but links and tendrils attached to it. And before too long, your mind can get down to some places where it can be very very, very confusing, very saddening and very tormenting even, to imagine the what ifs that present itself when you’re truly gripped by fear of the unknown.

Warwick F:
That’s so true, Gary. It’s really the ultimate decision tree. It’s an endless collection of decision trees, an endless cycle of potential fears. It is just so much. You look at the news each day and federal government briefings, state government, local government, it’s, “When is the virus going to hit its peak? How bad is it in our area? Maybe it’s a lot worse than I think because cases are unreported. If I get sick, should I go to the local hospital? If I go to the local hospital, a lot of times loved ones come in and I might be there for who knows how long, and how long will it be until I know if I’m sick or not sick?”

Warwick F:
You hear famous folks like the prime minister of Britain, Boris Johnson. At one point, he was in intensive care, and he’s like in his mid 50s. It’s happening to everybody. So you’ve got the endless thoughts about what could happen, the what ifs and, “What do I do if that happens? What about my loved ones?” Especially for ones… I have a mother-in-law in her late 80s whose lungs aren’t particularly good. We all have folks that we’re concerned about. And as I mentioned before, the job front. How long will it be before we get back to work? And what if this? And what of that? “Can I prepare this?”

Warwick F:
And so it’s almost like hundreds or thousands or even millions of fears if you work out all the numbers and all the elements of the decision tree, all the things that could possibly happen that we don’t know and therefore we can’t prepare for what… we can prepare on some level, stay home, be safe, minimize outside contact, there’s some things, but there are a lot of things that we can’t prepare for because we don’t know what’s going to happen. And so that’s where the fear of the unknown is so deadly, you just get paralyzed by the endless decision tree of what ifs without seemingly any way to combat it. That’s why it’s so paralyzing, it just overwhelms our emotional systems to be able to handle.

Gary S:
And the reason why we’re talking about this in the context of crucible leadership, in the context of this podcast, Beyond The Crucible is that in the same way that it’s an endless collection of decision trees, when you’re suffering through, you’re struggling through fear of the unknown. In some ways, it’s an endless selection of possibilities for crucible experiences. Those fears, what we’re fearing as we’re going through this, no matter what it is that is prompting the fear of the unknown, and sometimes it can be not much externally, it’s just fear of change and those kinds of things, it’s a collection of fear of those crucible experiences.

Gary S:
And we talk here about the pain of crucible experiences and how they are hard to bounce back from and you have to learn the lessons of them. But is it fair to say that fear of the unknown is in a very real sense, fear of an endless possibility of crucible experiences across the map?

Warwick F:
Absolutely. And while the launching point for this discussion is the coronavirus that we’re going through, based on what the experts tell us, at some point we’ll get through it, the world will go back to work, there’ll be a vaccine, there’ll be cures. The best experts in the medical and scientific field assure us that we will get through it. And so that’s some comfort, so we’ll get through this. But unfortunately, there are always crucibles and it could be at work, maybe your company gets acquired by another company. So what’s going to happen for my job? Maybe middle management or people on the ground floor, maybe we’ll lose our jobs. What’s going to happen?

Warwick F:
Maybe you are going to a new high school or it’s your first day in college coming up, and you’re in another state, it’s the first time you haven’t been living at home. What’s going to happen there? You’ve just got married. It’s seemed really good on the honeymoon, but now you’re actually doing it day in, day out. You just hope for the best and all that. But anytime there’s change, there’s going to be fear. That is just part of life. So just understanding when the fear of the unknown, which is just part of being human, when that happens, how do you deal with that? How do you fight those fears? Because left to themselves, they’re like weeds, they grow all over the place.

Warwick F:
So you can’t let them grow, you got to fight it. It’s a day in, day out. You can’t always determine what’s going to happen at the macro level or health wise or economy, but you can fight your attitude and fears. That is something that you can have some control over.

Gary S:
And we always say on Beyond The Crucible if we’re talking to a guest or we’re just talking to each other, we always say that we deal in crucible experiences, those painful moments in life that can change the trajectory of your life, but we don’t talk about them for the purposes of camping out there and wallowing in them or not being able to move beyond them, we talk about them so that we can learn from them and we can apply the lessons to them to then move forward and live a life of significance. So listener, we are not talking about fear of the unknown and the power of the fear of the unknown, the paralyzing power of the fear of the unknown.

Gary S:
We’re not talking about that so that we can continue to stay there. What Warwick just talked about was we want to offer some ideas, some insights, some hope, some healing to help you, not just in the midst of the coronavirus, but for someone who’s listening to this podcast in three years, the things that are fueling your fear of the unknown. We talk about these things now because we want to help you get beyond them. And Warwick has very recently published a blog which has some really, really excellent insights, Warwick, about how to move beyond fear of the unknown. Share some of those beautiful thoughts.

Warwick F:
Yeah, absolutely, Gary. I think it starts at one level with being in the moment. Part of being in the moment each day is, yes, it’s battling your fears, and there are some tips that I’m going to mention here in a moment. It’s being present. We can’t solve tomorrow’s problems. I’m all for planning, but there’s a lot of things you can’t handle. And one of the greatest sources of wisdom in life is just this discipline to say, “I’m going to stay present today. I’m going to work on what I can control, and what I can’t control, I’m going to attempt not to worry about it. So what can I get done today? How can I be present? What are the things I can get done to positively move things forward in my professional life, my personal life? How can I be present with my family?”

Warwick F:
We live in an unprecedented time where many of us are having more time with our families on a 24 hour basis than we ever had, whether we have young kids, teenage kids, older kids that may be living with us, just being present with them. The daily battle is key. And so part of that daily battle, it really begins with what I’d say is reflection or meditation and prayer, and that’ll be different for everybody. For me, I read my Bible each day, I’ll pray, reflect, maybe listen to some music, some worship music. I’ve different rhythms to try and center myself.

Warwick F:
Others, maybe it’s yoga or just some form of meditation, maybe it’s reading a favorite book. I heard one person recently say that they love memorizing some of the speeches of Abraham Lincoln, who obviously we all admire, whether it’s his Gettysburg Address, “Four score and seven years ago,” or what have you. Maybe it’s some of the sayings of Nelson Mandela. We all have different ways, but that’s certainly one is just center yourself in some sayings, some teachings, prayer, meditation, words from great leaders. Something that really pulls you back to your core, to your central beliefs. It just helps to calm yourself. So that’s certainly a big one.

Warwick F:
I think for many of us, we can still walk. We can’t walk in big groups, but whether it’s around your neighborhood, maybe it’s a local park. We want appropriately distance, but I think for many of us, we can still get outside and there’s something about being in nature and the birds, trees just being in that environment, just feeling the gentle wind, I think that can be a very helpful. Other tips will include… I love music and I love all kinds of music, I have somewhat eclectic tastes from classical to swing, jazz, even ragtime, more popular music. Obviously, I mentioned worship music. All different kinds of music.

Warwick F:
But whatever music is your genre, that you really love and that calms you and just takes you away to a familiar place that you love, music can really do that, I think that is helpful. And while we can’t be with family, extended family or friends in the way that we have been, certainly we are around our immediate family. Just take time to be present in ways that many people have maybe two jobs and they’re working all kinds of hours, kids maybe in high school, college studying and having all sorts of extracurricular activities, so we have a unique time to be present and be with, to play, hopefully to find a way to laugh, amidst the fear.

Warwick F:
And for those who are not present, with technology, whether it’s FaceTime, Zoom, or many other different means, we can actually connect with family members all over the country and indeed all over the world. And so that’s very helpful.

Gary S:
It is. And in fact, I, as I’ve said as a word guy, I have rejected the phrase social distancing at this time. I understand the concept and I’m not saying, please don’t hear me, listeners, saying I’m rejecting social distancing. What I’m rejecting is this idea that however it came up, social distancing isn’t what we need. We need physical distancing, that’s what we need in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. But more than ever, we need social connection and those things that Warwick talked about, leveraging technology to be able to connect with people.

Gary S:
I saw a beautiful, beautiful photo on Instagram of a son of an elderly father who was in a nursing home, and he couldn’t see his father because of the restrictions on visitation. So he sat out, he sat on a ledge outside the window of his father’s room and called him up on the phone and talked to him. And it was just a beautiful picture of how social connection can still happen in the reality of social distancing. There are still ways to leverage technology. And one of the beautiful things about that, we’ve all seen the picture in a restaurant. You go in, there’s a family of four, mom, dad and two kids and everybody’s staring at their cell phone, everybody’s looking at their phone and they’re not interacting.

Gary S:
Technology, these things that were supposed to bring us closer together have in many ways brought us further apart. And one of the great opportunities we have in this time right now of the pandemic, one of the great opportunities we have is to be able to seize back control of technology to bring us closer together, not farther apart. And that’s one of those things that even in fear of the unknown, we can look to be hopeful about because it speaks to a better future when this is all over.

Warwick F:
It’s so true. And it’s funny, sometimes technology can help us get together in ways, maybe we haven’t normally because we’re stuck at home and we’re pining for social interaction. Just as an example, about a week or so ago, my daughter said, “Well, why don’t we have a Zoom call with mom’s family?” And my wife has four brothers and a sister and there all over the place from Tennessee, to Iowa, to Illinois, Ohio. They’re all over the map and so it’s not easy for us all to get together. Well, surprise, surprise, they were all available. They all turned up and they love just chatting in ways that… Maybe once a year we’ll all get together somewhere or we try to, but it’s hard.

Warwick F:
In fact, we’re going to do another one tonight, funnily enough, that my daughter also said, “Hey, let’s organize.” So that’s really helpful. Some other couple of tips. One is, as we combat this whole concept of fear, I grew up, as most listeners know, in a newspaper family in Australia, so I follow the news, politics, economics very closely, always how I love being informed, it’s just part of my culture and upbringing. And I think it’s very important to be informed about what’s happening with right now, coronavirus, health, economy, Federal, state, local, that’s important, but not too much. You can listen to news channels 24/7, and the more you do, it just gets overwhelming. It’s like, “Oh my gosh, the world’s going to end it. What about this? And what about that?”

Warwick F:
So stay informed. I don’t know if it’s five minutes a day, half an hour, an hour, whatever works for you, but if you feel like, “Okay, I’ve got enough information,” and the fear meter starts creeping up, it’s like, “Okay, is this going to serve me by keeping on listening and watching this news channel or radio or whatever it is? And often the answer is actually no. So just be disciplined, stay informed, but don’t keep plugged in 24/7, it just drive most of us crazy. And another really important thing, we’ve talked a lot about reflection and music and walking in nature, and that’s all very important, but one of the most important things is keep moving forward.

Warwick F:
It feels like we can be paralyzed and for some of us that have virtual businesses that may be easier for some than others, but whether it’s professionally or personally, maybe there are some things at work that you never had a chance to get to, start thinking about planning, “Hey, what are some plans I need to do?” Maybe you’re in a job that’s not really that satisfying, well, think, “Okay, I’m stuck at home now, let me think about, well, what do I want to do? What is a job that better fits my skills, that I’m passionate about?” As we often talk about, helps us lead a life of significance. So think of every day as an opportunity. And that’s one of the things I think we’ll talk about is turning challenges into opportunities professionally and personally.

Warwick F:
Every day think about, “Okay, how can I move the ball forward?” Because we’re in the present and we’re focused on getting something done, it helps with fear. And just anecdotally, one of the things I want to mention is, because I’m somebody that have a creative mindset, I’m not creative artistically necessarily, but I’m always thinking of things and imagining, maybe reflecting, dreaming a bit, my mind is naturally always going at a fairly fast pace, which is not always good, which means that in terms of that whole fear branch stuff we talked about, left to its own desires, it would be on overdrive. And so because I’m wired that way, I have to be very careful.

Warwick F:
And so by channeling my brain, which I can’t stop, it’s just the way I’m wired, in ways of obviously, do the meditation and the walking and listening to music, “Okay, how can I move things forward professionally? Who do I need to get ahold of?” Connecting with family, that helps me, just keep my mind focused on areas that’s actually productive. So there’s actually opportunities amidst the challenges.

Gary S:
Absolutely. And there’s an article that Forbes Magazine did a few years back about how you deal with… This was done in the context of change in the workplace, change in your professional life, but it was that fear of the unknown, change in professional life, as you talked about earlier, Warwick, can be very fear of the unknown centric because you just don’t know what the new boss is going to do, he’s going to bring his own people on board, etc, etc. One of the things Forbes said that dovetails nicely with what you just explained, Warwick, is that, one way to overcome fear of the unknown is to acknowledge your fears by writing them down on paper so that you have them in what they say is objective form and can stop dwelling on them.

Gary S:
One of the things I’ve just had to do with my computer is like offload a bunch of heavy files because it was cutting down the ability of my computer to do the processes that needed to do for me to get work done. In the same way, you can offload those fears, write them down, get them in tangible form so that you can stop dwelling on them. Then Forbes advises, you can go through each one and jot down what you would do in the event that fear came to pass. You can actually spend some time processing them out in logical ways, not in necessarily overly emotional ways. And what you’ll find, many, many times, they say here, it diffuses the emotional angst, but also you can come to see that those fears, that unknown might not be that likely to occur.

Gary S:
You can move some unknowns off the plate a little bit. I’m with you, Warwick, I have a very active imagination. I’m the kind of guy that in general times, 10 years ago, if I had a bad headache or my shoulder hurt, I couldn’t go to the internet to look up the symptoms to see what was wrong with me because it was either a common cold or I had some deadly disease. And it’s that kind of mindset that I have too, and the idea of jotting down those things and separating the possibilities from the things that really are flights of fancy, I think can be extraordinarily helpful, but offloading those emotions from your head to paper can really free up some space in your head to focus on some of the solutions you’ve been talking.

Warwick F:
That’s such a great point. I can remember in the past, and we all do it differently, there are times when being a person of faith, I would just write down my fears and instead of hopefully not a mythical conversation with God, hopefully actually it was, because very few of us hear an audible voice, but I would just write it down what I was fearing and anxious about, and then in some sense, I would just sense the Lord’s leading about what his response was, which it might be as simple as, “Warwick, I have you, I’m with you.” Maybe an objective perspective with a little bit of a twist on that, but there are different ways of doing it. And I agree with you, Gary, that just writing it down and then objectively looking at it, and writing what if that happened, what would I do about it.

Warwick F:
Other ways I think it helps often I’m somebody that I like journaling and all that, but I also like talking with others, sometimes it helps me think by verbally processing with other people. So at times when I’d been fearful about things, I’ll say to my wife, sometimes it’s as simple or as complex as, “I’m feeling anxious and fearful, but I’m not sure what it’s about.” And for me, it drives me crazy when I’m fearful and anxious and I don’t even know what it’s about, I can’t formulate it, then I can’t do anything about it. And so we’ll talk about it and because she knows me, “Oh, is it this? Is it that? I think maybe it’s this.” And nine times out of 10, she nails it, and then she talks me through it and then I sort of calm down. So that’s certainly one.

Warwick F:
And with our kids is a good example. I’ve had kids go to college or applying to graduate school, and inevitably, there’s the fear of the new, and so we will go through it, “Okay, well what’s the pros and cons of this versus that? And let’s talk about those fears.” And it’s easy for me to be calm about it because it’s not my life. So I can objectively offer some counsel and thoughts and advice whether it’s in decision making or fears. I think that’s where this whole concept of world as a community, if ever we need our community, it’s right now, both journaling is helpful and just friends and family that we can talk with, be honest with, if you’re fearful, just admit it because the other person is probably just as scared as you are, but they don’t want to admit it.

Warwick F:
And it’s not saying and you do it to everybody, but if they’re really close friends and family, it’s okay to say, “I’m anxious,” and maybe, “How are you doing?” That’s one of the other things is, when you talk about your fears, but also hear other people’s fears and you can be present with them, counsel with them, pray, meditate with them, whatever works for you, that’s helpful too because it gets your mind off yourself. So I think it’s just being honest about your fears, talking about it, whether it’s in a journal or to other people, hearing other people’s fears, helping them. Somebody said once, “When fear is named, it’s loses its power.” And so there is something about that. And I think as I said earlier, it is a daily battle, it’s a bit like when you start getting a cold or whatever, yeah, there’s no cure for the common cold, but you can still have vitamin C or lots of rest or whatever it is you think might help.

Warwick F:
Same with fear is when it starts coming on, don’t wait for it to grow from an ember into a full forest fire, deal with it early on, use whatever mechanism, we’ve mentioned a bunch, whether it’s journaling, talking to friends, listening to music, praying, walk in nature, whatever. All of these are tools, but just combat it. It’s a war, combat it early on, don’t let it take root. It’s a lot easier to deal with it when it’s a small little ember than a massive forest fire. So it’s a war, it requires discipline, proactivity, and yeah, you just got to keep at it every day.

Gary S:
Those are extremely excellent points, and listener, I hope you’re hearing in these words, hope. If you tuned in at the outset and you were fearing the unknown, you were gripped by fear and one of the things you needed to get your mind off what you were racing around fearing and you clicked play on this podcast to help you do that, just to distract yourself, hopefully, we’ve done more than that in this discussion and actually helped you begin to see ways to use Warwick’s precisely chosen and very, very correct word to combat the fear of the unknown. Hopefully, you’ve gleaned some tips out of this.

Gary S:
And Warwick, before we go, I do want to explore this for a little bit, what happens, what’s the benefit? We’ve talked about how fear of the unknown is a fundamental fear, even greater according to at least one scientific survey, is greater than the fear of death. We’ve talked about ways that you can engage your mind and body to help you overcome that, but in the last few minutes we have, share with listeners from your perspective, what’s the benefit of that? What happens when you come on the other side of fear? It’s the same thing as we talk about when you come out of the other side of your crucible experience. There’s benefits to that, there’s hope in that, there’s healing in that. What can that look like for our listeners who are struggling right now with fear of unknown?

Warwick F:
It’s a good question. When you’re faced with the crucible learning to deal with it, it’s almost like a muscle memory for an athlete, it helps you learn how to deal with crucibles next time, it’s never easy. I can think of an example of my own life it’s not so much related to fear of the unknown, but forgiveness, just because of growing up in a wealthy family, media business, I think I said earlier on a podcast, it used to feel like I had a sign on my back in middle school that said, “Betray me.” And so I’ve had a lot of practice at forgiveness, and I’ve said earlier that if you don’t forgive, the person that most hurts is you, it corrodes your soul. And that’s a whole another discussion. But the point is, the more I’ve done it, something happens. Yeah, it still hurts, but I was like, “Okay, that hurt. I got to forgive and move on.” And it has gotten easier. I have to admit, it has gotten easier.

Warwick F:
So I think dealing with crucibles can be the same way if you use some of these methods of just combating it every day, whatever tools work for you, whether it’s listening to music, prayer, walk in nature, journaling, talking with friends, it does help. It gives you hope that, “Okay, I can handle this, I can deal with this.” I’m reminded of a friend of mine, Margie Warrell, has a recent book called, You’ve Got This! It’s nice when you’re able to deal with something and say, “You know what, I’ve got this. It’s unnerving, but I can combat it.” And one of the keys with crucibles, which I admit is not easy to do in the moment, is to switch our perspective, it’s seeing it as a challenge, which it is, but saying, “Okay, what’s the opportunity here? What are some things that this challenging circumstance, which I never would have chosen to go through, how can I see some opportunity in that?”

Warwick F:
And it could be on a personal front, as we’ve discussed, chance to spend more time with family than maybe we have before, maybe it’s a chance to connect with friends and distant family members who were never available but now they’re just dying for communication with another human. Maybe it’s a chance to say, “Okay, where do I want to go in my professional life? Where do I want to take my business? What plans do I want to jot down that will really take things to the next level when things get back to normal,” which all the experts say, at some point, life will get back to some semblance of normal, maybe it’s a new normal, but there are always, or very often, there are opportunities amid the challenges, personally and professionally where we can take advantage of it

Warwick F:
And so when crucibles happen, there are typically those opportunities to turn a challenge into something that can be beneficial. So it’s learning those tools and exercising that muscle memory so that fear has less of a hold and we can reduce the fear and see those challenges as opportunities we can actually take advantage of. So exercising that muscle memory on our mindset, that’s probably the single most important thing we can do when faced with a crucible like this.

Gary S:
That is an excellent place for us to wrap up our conversation today. I want to reiterate to the listener before I summarize what we heard today, that we are talking about, Warwick and I are talking about the challenge of the fear of the unknown, why it’s so powerful, why it’s so fundamental as a fear. We are talking about this in the context right now, as we record this of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that’s not the only thing we’re ever going to be afraid of that involves the unknown. The things that we’ve talked about here were relevant prior to COVID-19, and will be relevant after that because that’s just one thing. Fear of the unknown is a foundational fear.

Gary S:
One of the things I discovered in my research, H.P. Lovecraft, an author said this about fear, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” He was speaking in the context of that’s what makes horror fiction and horror movies so scary is that the fear of the unknown, what’s behind that door, and those fears will always be with us. So as you look at that, whether you’re listening to this right now in 2020 or you’re listening to this five years from now, here are some key takeaways I think from our conversation that you should take with you because I think it will offer you hope.

Gary S:
The first one is to realize you are not alone, science proves you’re not alone. We talked about a study in the journal of anxiety disorders that said, “Fear of the unknown is a very real thing and a fundamental fear in life.” You’re not weak because you’re going through it, you’re in pain, and that makes you just like me and just like Warwick. So remember that as you move forward. The second thing is, Warwick said it, you can’t control what happens to you, but you can always control how you respond to it. And what Warwick exhorted us to do is to be present in your life and be prepared to combat that fear and not to wait to do it.

Gary S:
To combat that fear and do it quickly is one of the best ways to keep it from just… We talked about endless chains of what ifs going on, it’s like weeds growing. Go get rid of those weeds early, combat it early so it doesn’t consume your thinking, and you can move forward to what comes next. And then I think the last takeaway that is really important is, head on over to crucibleleadership.com, and look in the blog section for the blog that Warwick wrote most recently on Choosing Hope: Eight Tips to Move Beyond Fear. Warwick unpacks in greater detail some of the things he talked about in our podcast today to help you find ways to combat the fear and combat it early. Again, that’s crucibleleadership.com, and the blog is titled Choosing Hope: Eight Tips to Move Beyond Fear.

Gary S:
Well, thank you for spending the time with us today listeners. Not the most pleasant conversation to have at the outset, but again, in Crucible Leadership with Beyond The Crucible, our goal is to talk about difficult moments, to talk about those things that can be paralyzing to us in some cases, but not to talk about them so that we can just commiserate with one another, but to talk about them so that we can, to use Warwick’s excellent words, we can combat the effects of those crucible experiences. We can combat the effects, and in this case of fear of the unknown, and we can move beyond it.

Gary S:
And the reason that we want to move beyond it is because even though it feels right now like this could be the end of your story, that this could be, “This is it, I’m convinced that whatever I’m thinking might happen is going to be really, really, really bad and it’s going to have a lifelong negative effect in our life.” We talk to people all the time on this podcast who’ve had that experience because something’s happened to them and they felt that way, but they’ve pushed through, they’ve learned the lesson of their crucible. They found out what it is that’s on the other side, they’ve pushed through, they’ve combated the fear, and they’ve emerged on the other side in a better place with, as Warwick said, opportunity that they see and they seize.

Gary S:
So always remember your crucible experiences are painful, your fears are real, but they’re not the end of your story. They are in fact, they can in fact, and they are often, if you really press in, they’re not the end of your story, they’re the beginning of a new chapter in your story that leads to something far more joyous than fear is fearful, and that is a life of significance.

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