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Jim talks about how to overcome fear in your life and Jonathan Fields’ new book Uncertainty.

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One of the best compliments anyone ever paid to me actually had to do with this podcast. I was walking down the street in New York with my girlfriend at the time, and we were talking about the origins of how I started this show. I was recanting about the things I had gone through, pitching the idea to Wired, setting everything up on the technical side, designing the website, and lining up people to interview and topics to talk about. Now that it is up and running a weekly routine, sometimes I forget how much effort went into the initial setup.

We stopped for a moment and she looked over at me and said,

‘You never once thought about what would happen if it failed, did you?’

It was an interesting question… one that caught me by surprise and made me stop and really think about the answer, transporting myself back through time to put myself in that place when I was just starting out. I thought long and hard, did an honest assessment, and then gave her my answer:

‘No. It never once crossed my mind that this venture could fail.’

For some reason that exchange has stuck in my mind since that day. Was this something unique to me, or did a lot of people go about life in the same way?

In this case, I’m guessing I wasn’t too stressed because I probably didn’t view it as having a lot at stake. It was more of a fun project that I was doing on the side and wasn’t costing me any money.

But I could see a situation where a lot of people might worry about failure:
- Wired had made a commitment to me to put this podcast up on iTunes
– It would live there with my name and face on it, for millions to see
– I’d need an endless stream of topics and guests for content
– I had never done a podcast before in my life, and thus the show could, well, suck

Not a single one of these thoughts entered my mind.

Then I thought about a few situations when fear, personal safety, and finances really WERE a factor (ones that regular listeners know well)
– In 1998 I declared I would quit my job and move to a new city, even without finding a new work first
– I then moved 3,000 miles away from home to a place where I knew no one
– The day before 9/11, I signed a lease on my NY apartment, yet never once thought about not moving here, despite enormous uncertainty
– I spent months of hard work and more than $1,500 of my own money writing a book, not knowing if I would ever sell a single copy or download

Was I ever afraid in these situations? I’m not sure fear is the right word.

What about you?

Think back on some life-changing decisions in your life. In retrospect, what were you feeling when you took a chance and decided to leave that job you hated, speak your mind in a tense situation, or take a chance and kiss that cute girl or guy?

What I think you’ll find, is that around the time of most uncertainty and fear, is the time you grew the most – whether things worked out or not.

As I look back for a pattern in the times I was able to overcome my fears, I would offer the following tips:
1) Listen to your heart. If your gut is telling you to make that move or launch that product or leave a bad situation, it’s probably right. You can’t fool that voice inside.

2) Acknowledge the negative, but focus on the positive. Do not bury your head in the sand and ignore the potential obstacles that could derail you, but don’t obsess over them.

Worried about money? Build up a small backup fund first. Can’t sleep at night without healthcare from a full-time job? There are many plans for freelancers that will cover you. Once you have a backup plan for some of your fears, focus your energy on all the good things that could happen.

3) Allow fear to motivate you. There are countless athletes that will tell you that a fear of failure is their greatest motivation. They are so afraid of missing that last second shot in front of millions, that they use that as motivation to practice more until they are confident that they are prepared for anything.

Jonathan FieldsWhich brings us to a man named Jonathan Fields.

I don’t remember when he first popped up on my radar, but I’ve been reading his blog over at JonathanFields.com for a long time.

I soon realized that we had a lot in common.
Blogging. We both had the same blogging style, talking about business, entrepreneurship, marketing, and new media… mixed with the funny, cocky, pop-culture mix that only a New Yorker could possess. But I often found myself finishing one of his posts and saying ‘Darn, I wish I had written that.’

Speaking. We were both public speakers. But while I am just beginning to get invites to larger events, he has already spoken at SXSW (my application to do so is in), World Domination Summit (I’m on the waiting list to attend), and TED (add this to one of my long-term goals).

Writing. We were both authors. While Jonathan had already published his first major book Career Renegade in 2009, his second book and my first had their major due dates around the same time, so we were able to swap a few emails around the stress that occurs during this process.

Fate. Then I found out something that I almost wish we didn’t have in common: September 10, 2001. While this day served as a turning point for me, signing my lease for my move to New York, it was equally as pivotal for him, as it was the day he signed a lease to open his own yoga studio. As we know, the next day changed everything.

Friends. The final surprise item that we have in common? I knew for a long time that if I decided to spend the money for a high-quality book trailer, that I wanted to use Michelle Vargas and her crew to film and edit it. I made the plunge and on our kickoff call, I asked them if they’d specifically worked on any book trailers before. Her response? ‘Yes! We just finished one up last week for this author named Jonathan Fields!’

The difference? While my trailer was light and fun, Jonathan’s is very powerful. Check it out:

So how does this all tie together?

When you’re afraid of something, an important thing to do is to find someone that has been down the same path before and follow them.  Seeing that someone else has had the same fears and overcome them can make your path seem less daunting.

So I’ve seen what Jonathan has done as a blogger, speaker, and author, and it makes me want to do it much better.

He’s also crushing it for the launch of his second book, Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance which goes on sale Thursday September 29, 2011.

- For the first part, he put together some very very cool offers designed to move not just 1 book, but packages of multiple books. This is something I had hoped to do with my launch, but didn’t end up pulling off. He even made a hilarious offer to shave your company logo in the back of his head and dye his hair any color you want if you buy 10,000 books.

Me? I took him up on his offer and bought 3 books, so that in return I would get some coaching from him in a group session. See the offers here (note: he only has these up fora limited time).

– For the second part, he reached out to his ‘tribe’ and motivated them to spread the word. As a reward, he is giving away 5 personal coaching consultations.

So to give full disclosure, yes, a small reason I am writing this post is for the chance to win that personal consultation. However, I really feel I can learn from him, and if I become a better writer, speaker, and author, that helps those of you out there listening to me right now. I also really like supporting fellow bloggers and authors, as they have supported me. It’s called community and karma, people.

In terms of the Uncertainty book itself, I saw a sneak preview of the book awhile ago and it immediately pulled me right in. However, it was password protected format online, and I don’t like reading that way, so I am waiting to get the actual book in the mail to read the entire thing. Then I can give an honest review on the entire book itself.


In the spirit of the topic, maybe you as a listener look up to me just a bit. I’m not trying to brag here, as I know I’ve been very, very fortunate in the things I’ve been able to accomplish in my life. I have a lot to be thankful for. Perhaps you yearn to live in New York, want to start a podcast, write your own blog, or publish a book, but some kind of fear is holding you back and you hope someone can give you a few pointers.

If that’s the case, do the following:
Write me at marketingguy [at] wired.com and tell me your “fear” story
The best one that I select will receive
a) One of the copies of Jonathan’s book that I bought (US addresses only)
b) A 1 hour Skype consultation with me about any topic (blogging, podcasting, salary negotiation, career planning, etc)

Looking forward to hearing from you!

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