On the suggestion of Chris Brogan, I am listening to the Four Hour Work Week.  It’s an interesting book, and I’m about a third of the way in so far.

What struck me about the book is that at first blush, it’s another pitchy, quick fix to all your ills sort of thing, that starts with the concept, “I had too much money and I was crazy so I decided to get out of the rat race.  You can do it too.”  Step one seemed to be “First, get an incredibly successful business and have everyone else work their asses off while you go play.”  But while that may be part of Tim Ferriss’ success plan, there’s a deeper concept here that has governed my life for the past year:  Let go of your fear- it’s what holds you back from success and happiness.

I hope we can all agree to the basic concept of “Argue your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.”  If you think you can’t do something, you can’t.  You’ve predetermined the outcome with your mental picture and framework.  And this is why psychologists yammer on incessantly about self-esteem- If you aren’t in your own corner, urging yourself on to do bigger and better things, why should anyone else?

I decided about Christmas of last year that I would let go of my fears of “what would happen if” and just try new things.  Ask questions.  Be brave.  Make cold calls. Connect.  Surprisingly enough, the answer has been yes far more frequently than no, and I just put on my first conference with the help of a great team, and exceeded our goals on just about every metric.  I wouldn’t have thought this was possible a year ago, but letting go of the fear factor has made all the difference.

One aspect of letting go of fear means asking yourself what the worst outcome could be, and if that is an acceptable or dealable situation, then there is no downside.  Go for it!  There are some things that are never acceptable risks for me, mainly those that involve family and fiscal solvency.  The rest of it is up for grabs. And once you gain some comfort with the risk, there’s really no turning back to safe.

I look at every challenge as a learning opportunity.  There are things I need to learn from this situation, and things I can add.  Like Seth Godin talks about in The Dip, you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to be remarkable and not second rate.  You have to care.  And you have to know when to give up  and when quitting one thing and moving on is the wisest course available.   (As an aside, Seth’s advice and formula about Be Yourself and Be Transparent are really adjuncts to this whole letting go of fear stuff as well.)

If I had to add my ten cents to the pot, I would say this:

The first step is all about knowing yourself and what you do best.  You have to stop worrying about the other guy and the competition; you need to be centered with you.  (Mitch Joel refers to this as a Personal Brand, and he’s right.)  Keys to figuring this out can be found by going through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way , or through Marcus Buckingham’s Now Discover Your Strengths, Tom Rath’s Strengthfinder 2.0 or other such programs, although I highly recommend these.

In fact, I have an extra copy of Julia Cameron’s book, and if anyone is interested- I will not only send you the copy, I will go through it with you week by week if you want.  Email me at ldpodcast (at) gmail (dot) com.

Once you find a sense of what you are best at, and what has been holding you back, you can make some easy, and I mean easy, changes that make all the difference in letting go of that fear.  You will recognize those that are trying to hold you back, hot to set limits, and even how to recognize strengths in others.   We’re not all good at everything, but if I know what I am good at and conversely, less good at, I can find others to help me make up for that vacancy in my talent pool.  It also becomes easy tsort out what kind of things you should avoid, or what will be more fo a challenge.

This is a psychological journey- just like the Good Witch told Dorothy- you have the power with you the whole time.  You just have to know what it is and how to unleash it most effectively.   You have to be responsible and judicious as well, remembering that treating people well takes just as much time as treating people poorly.  I would much rather people thought of me as a kind and compassionate person than a combative one, and I do whatever I can to be that person I want to be every day.

Once you know what you want your own self- your personal brand to be, to look like, to be known for, the rest becomes much more natural and less pre-planned.  Transparency isn’t an issue, because you are always you- you don’t have to try to figure out which you someone else wants you to be.  There’s a unity.

You can’t let go of fear until you can stop wondering if you’ll be discovered to be something you’re not.  This means believing in yourself.  And like CC heard me remark this weekend, a moment about being a zen acorn, it means letting go of “perfection” in favor of “it’ll work out and I have to trust others.”  Micro managing never helps, and it takes power away from others that they need to succeed.

To bring this to a close, it all comes down to a lot of self-knowledge and a lot of trust in others.  Then, unleashing yourself from the anchor of fear becomes easier.  The next step is getting used to functioning without a net.  I’m still working on being 100% comfortable with this one, and I do worry from time to time, but flying is still so much better than sinking.  And I can honestly say I am infinitely more happy every day than I have ever been, all do to the loss of fear.