The Only Advice That Really Matters: Don’t Be Scared
I stopped taking advice from almost everyone years ago.
I stopped taking advice from almost everyone years ago.
It’s not because I’m better than anyone. In fact, I need all the wisdom and guidance (from the right sources) I can get.
I have so much to learn — in my marriage, relationships, my business, my money, my emotions, my behaviors. If I don’t receive quality instructions and guidance, I’ll never achieve the success I want.
But the truth is, most people don’t know how to get where you want to go. Another truth: most people love giving advice. You must be careful who you choose to listen to.
I’ve found that the only advice that really matters, though, is simple:
Don’t be scared.
Nike’s famous slogan Just Do It is one of the most obvious secrets no one seems to get. Whatever you need to do, just do it — even if you’re scared.
You can achieve extraordinary things this way. Ever since I stopped being scared a few years ago:
- I got a signed book deal (What Extraordinary People Know)
- I gained 75,000+ followers
- I’ve gained millions of views for my work
- I quit my job and now work for myself
- I make far more money now than I ever did in corporate America
There’s a lot of people around with a lot of advice. Most of it is well-meaning.
But the only advice really worth taking: don’t be scared. Just do it.
Don’t Worry — Nobody Really Gives a Crap (Yet)
I coach a lot of writers — on building an audience, making money, and most importantly, actually clicking “publish”.
That last one seems to be the hardest for most of them.
When I ask why a writer has a hard time publishing their work, their answer is usually the same — they’re afraid. They’re afraid of rejection, of what people might say, of baring their soul and getting laughed at.
I can relate. Those are real fears. It’s not easy putting your work out there. The first 4.5 years of my own writing career were dictated by that fear, and I never achieved anything worth mentioning.
But the truth is, no one really gives a crap.
I know what you’re thinking. But first, let me explain why that’s some of the best news you’re going to hear today.
Most people think they’re being watched all the time — by their peers, friends, potential dating partners, the general public. Some people have taken this belief so far their lives have become one big social media post, trying to please anyone who’s watching.
In reality, no one really gives a crap about what you do. It’s not personal — people are just far more interested in themselves. They’re thinking the same thing you are: everyone’s watching me, I hope I don’t mess up. Walk into a crowded party, and that’s what most people will be thinking.
When you put yourself out there — in a book, blog, podcast, YouTube channel, startup — no one really gives a crap, especially in the beginning. They don’t really care if you succeed or fail. There’s no pressure, because your work isn’t big enough yet.
Once you know this, you become free to do and say whatever you wish.
Sure, some people will criticize you. Haters and trolls will come, as they always do. But for every 100 writers who are scared to click “publish”, there’s 1 writer who clicks publish despite the fear. And that’s the writer that’s going to actually reach people.
Eventually, people are going to care — but not until you’ve proven yourself to be a resource for their lives. That takes time. In the meantime, don’t worry about what other people are thinking — just focus on getting better.
Don’t Waste Your Time on Marketing, Just Get Better
Too often, amateurs respond to their mediocrity with a new “marketing plan” or social media strategy.
But as marketing guru David Ogilvy once said, “Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster.” Many times, this new “strategy” is rooted in fear of a bad product. It’s easier to promote something than it is to improve it.
I’ve been writing for over six years. The first 4.5 years, I was a bad writer. I spent an enormous amount of time on promoting my mediocre work instead of improving it.
Don’t waste your time on marketing. First, focus all your efforts on being better. Put in a huge volume of work. Study the greats. Learn from them. Experiment, fail, and then try again. See what works, and cut out what doesn’t.
Do this for a long time. A long time.
Then…when you can look at your large volume of work and honestly say you’ve put a significant amount of time, energy, effort, and learning into your craft…
Then you can focus on marketing. Because your product — your podcast, book, vlog, company — will be ready by then.
In the words of the great radio host Ira Glass:
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.
…And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.
Amateurs focus on marketing a product, no matter how low-quality it is.
Professionals — people who touch lives, leave impressions, and make money doing it — focus on getting better.
Where do you focus your time?
Act While You Feel Fear
“Act while you feel fear rather than waiting until you feel unafraid.” -David Richo, How to Be An Adult
The world’s top salespeople still dread picking up their phone sometimes.
The world’s most accomplished athletes still get nerves before big games. Bill Russell, one of the greatest players in NBA history (winner of 11 championships in 13 years) often vomited before big games due to nerves and anxiety.
When asked about how he felt when he released a movie, legendary film director Martin Scorcese made this remark:
If you don’t get physically ill seeing your first rough cut, something is wrong.
The world’s top performers act while they are afraid.
Don’t wait until the fear is gone. Act while you feel fear.
I remember being in love with this cute girl in middle school. I barely spoke a word to her in class. I was terrified of rejection, of stuttering over my words if I revealed my feelings.
On the last day of school, I was determined to tell her. I can still remember how profoundly terrified I was as I walked up to her group of friends (why are girls always surrounded by an army of friends!) and I nervously asked if I could speak with her alone.
I told her I liked her, and asked if she’d be my girlfriend.
She said yes. I think we awkwardly hugged, and that was it.
The ending isn’t important (we didn’t speak to each other all vacation, and then she broke up with me through her friends when school started, OK?).
But if I had waited until I didn’t feel afraid? I would have never talked to her. I would have regretted it for years.
Author Mark Manson once joked, “How do you get rid of ‘runner’s block?’ You go for a f*cking run.”
If you’re scared of something, the easiest way to gain confidence is, well…just do it.
There are some phenomenal writers and authors out there that we’ve never heard of — they’re too scared to publish.
Act while you feel fear. Even if you get unceremoniously dumped, you’ll feel better and better.
“All confidence is acquired, developed. No one is born with confidence. Those people you know who radiate confidence, who have conquered worry, have acquired their confidence, every bit of it.” -Dr. David Schwartz
In the end, you can accomplish truly amazing things with your life — you just need to push through the fear.
What’s on the other side of fear? Nothing.
There’s a lot of advice out there — from your friends, family, society, coworkers, even me (you’re reading an article full of advice!). But what I’ve learned is that there’s really only one major piece of advice that really matters when you’re trying to achieve something big:
Don’t be afraid.
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