Fear is the biggest enemy of progress

“My life has been filled with terrible misfortune, most of which never happened” – Michel de Montaigne

At the time of writing this article, I was planning a journey to a place where kidnapping is the order of the day. Am I afraid? Yes! Will I not travel because I am afraid of being kidnapped? No! I am not doing it to deliberately put my life at risk as I understand the consequences of my action on me and my loved ones. I am doing it because I have a responsibility to the people that I left behind who I have not seen for about three years which is the reason for my action. It is better to live a short life full of accomplishment than live a long life devoid of it.

One of the best books I read on fear is Feel the fear and do it anyway by Susan Jeffers. It has tips on how to deal with your fears. Before, I arrived the country, I planned a trip to another city and was advised by a friend who lived outside the country to take an alternative route which could have increased the travel time by two because of the rate of kidnapping on the road. It turned out that all the information that was shared with me was false. I was told the road was not motorable giving kidnappers the opportunity to operate. That was false!

Do not misunderstand me, I am not advising you to jump into the front of a moving train because you are not afraid. That will be suicidal! What I am saying is that you should not allow fear to prevent you from living your life and from making progress. Being born into this world is a risk and no risk, no gain.  There is a general saying in finance that the “higher the risk, the higher the return.” The things I enjoyed most are those that I am always afraid of doing.

Reflect on how many times you decided to not do something that would have uplifted your situation because of fear. No one makes progress by doing nothing because of fear. To quote the South African stateman, Nelson Mandela, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

The consequence of fear is worry. Because we are afraid, we end up worry about things that might not happen. I was worried because I was afraid of being kidnap if I went on my planned trip, but I went on the trip and was not kidnapped. The time I spent worrying was time wasted which I cannot recover. Research has shown that 85% of what we worry about never happened (Leahy, 2005).

Betty Lui in her 2016 article on LinkedIn stated that when she sat down to interview Elon Musk for her book Work Smart, she asked him “if he had any fear?” and he responded by saying that he had fear but was not going to fail to do a thing because of fears he wouldn’t win. When asked how he got through it, he replied that “I thought I had an obligation to do everything possible to make Tesla and SpaceX succeed because I think they’re important to the future of the world.” That is the mentality of an entrepreneur. They are usually driven by the anticipated reward of success rather than by the fear of failure.

The other take way for me from reading the article is Elon Musk’s conclusion that as long as he did what was expected of him, he would be satisfied that he did his best in the situation. He said to her “And I don’t want to have to look back on that day and say, “Well, you know, there’s one thing I could have done and I didn’t do it and maybe if we had done that we would have succeeded””. In order words, no regrets!

Find the courage to do that thing that you are afraid of doing or take that step you are afraid of taking as your first step to success. Have the courage in the new year to do that which you have avoided in the past for fear of failure. Sometimes we need a little encouragement from people we trust, a mentor or a coach to overcome our fears. If you are stuck and unable to make progress in life as we enter another new year, talk to someone about your fears.


Leahy, R. L. (2005). The worry cure: Seven steps to stop worry from stopping you. Harmony/Rodale

Lui, B. (2016). What Elon Musk is afraid of and what you can learn from it. Retrieved: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-elon-musk-afraid-you-can-learn-from-betty-liu/

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