Fear – How to disarm fear

Greg Spooner – Fear – The one factor that is the root of all fear and how to disarm it.

I don’t deal with fear, sometimes. I rely on my preparation. I think what ends up happening is that as you spend enough time creating these expeditions where they’re not just something that’s ‘fly by night’, some thrill seeking opportunity. You spend so much time imagining yourself in a situation creating the equipment that’s going to help you through safely that.., I think we begin to process it before we’re even encompassed by it and engrossed in it.

I used to have this dream that would wake me up every single time. In a small little rowboat, out in Eagle Harbor just off of Wing Point, across from Seattle and the ferry boats go between Seattle and Bainbridge Island every single day and it’s a usual day in the rowboat like no other, I see a boat passing by and look over my shoulder to see where the beach is and as I look back, this giant 50 ft wave has built over me and it’s about to crash down on me, obliterate me from the face of the earth. I wake up and my heart’s beating (sighs), I’m trying to catch my breath.  And I have that over and over and over again. I’d never been out in blue water before. I didn’t know what to expect and so what you don’t know, you’ve never experienced, is opportunity for your brain to imagine every possible worst case scenario; that I think is where the root of fear takes place.

And how I, I guess inadvertently figured out how to deal with fear was to find those places that I’ve always wanted to explore and prepare to go there and when I get there, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be, so far.

Marzena Kmiecik: Does that apply to the first time it happened though, your first trip, your first expedition?


Marzena Kmiecik: What about other aspects of your life? How do you make friends with fear?

Fear is something that is a bi-product of life and you can find fear in whatever your endeavors going to be, whatever the pursuit is. It doesn’t have to be adventure, it could be your neighborhood, it could be a course that you’re taking at the local community college. You build enough momentum up through your life where you end up having to come to terms with a certain fear and I think majority of the time you end up finding that you’re much stronger than you thought you were and you can laugh off whatever it was that kept you from participating for however long it was; and for those who haven’t been able to explore the fear to be able to cast it off, those are folks that maybe haven’t necessarily surrounded themselves with the right people who can help motivate and bring out the send of just adventure in life, whatever or wherever that is that would give them the opportunity or really, I think the comfort to explore that fear and really find out that it probably isn’t as bad as you think it is and when you accomplish whatever it is that’s been held back because of that worry, the sense of pride and the joy that you get out of that then becomes infectious for others to maybe take that next leap themselves with whatever they have been trying to push through.

Marzena Kmiecik: So how do you deal with fuck-ups?

I do expect that they’re going to happen a lot. Fucking up is one of those things that I think you really do depend on. As we were getting ready to go out on the North Atlantic from New York to England in 2006, we had just 18 months to go from this idea that we saw on a poster on the wall; to be in a non-profit organization that is raising money from a charity and sending us out across an ocean we never would’ve imagined and lots of people had advice for us.

Marzena Kmiecik: Like what?

Everything. What gear should we have, how we should ask for money, why we shouldn’t ask for money, why we should avoid all this nonsense and get real jobs. And after a particularly long day, we were sitting at a bar just trying to forget how tired were and you start talking to people and you try and keep this adventure, whatever you’re doing to yourself because it’s just going to lead to more advice and more recommendations of things where you’re just going to go oh, great idea, I’ll write that down. But there is this one gem that came out of the blue and this gentleman who is a well-known sailor up north, he said one thing and it was, “You know, it’s all about how you recover from your first big fuck up,” he didn’t say another word. At the time I remember thinking that seems profound, let’s catalog that one just in case (laughs). And fast-forward to 16 days after leaving New York City, we’re already 1000 miles out to see, there’s no turning back at this point, we’re in a current that is just pushing us to England and one of the guys on board our boat says, “Guys, if we keep eating at our current pace, we’re not going to have enough food, and went right back to that bar and I said genius! So how do you recover from your first big fuck up? Well, to be honest with you it’s actually quite pedestrian; survey situation, what do you have, what don’t you have, what’s your timeline and let’s put that plan into action. I wish it was something more profound than that but I think the profoundness of that whole situation is just knowing what’s going to make the project, what’s going to make you.., what is really going to set the tone I think for what you do in the future is just the understanding that you’re going to fail sometimes just a little bit and other times it’s going to be terrible.

There’s a comfort that is hard to find with failure that once you find it, it can be hard to share that with other people because you’re never supposed to fail, but the people that end up winning and really gaining from that win are the people who learned what is was like to not get there first, the people that learned what it was to not complete a project, the people that understood that not doing it the best way the first time was a way to do it better than anybody else with those lessons that you’ve just learned.