Overwhelming Terrors & Petty Concerns
Fear is a great motivator. It is also a great destructor. Manipulating fear is tricky, but not impossible. How do you use fear to your advantage?
Dear Letter Opener,
Eight years ago, around this time of the year, I endured unparalleled fear for the very first time. That occurrence has never repeated, before or since. Not because I’ve not had nerve-wrecking situations after that but because it takes only one traumatic experience for you to build a smokescreen around your mind and heart, which not only protects but fights this emotion in the future.
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The event that transpired in March of 2015 was my benchmark—my red line and any kind of fear I’ve experienced since, I’ve compared it to those 14 days of gut-wrenching doom.
You know, when it comes to experiencing extreme fear for the first time, there are so many different ways it can happen, and it really varies from person to person. I can only speak from my own experience… it might not be the same for you or anyone else.
Having said that, every
student, concerned* student has encountered this fear at least once and it’s either during their 10th or 12th board exams.
A special note to engineering students in India who’ve survived the four years and lived to tell the tale—I’m more than certain you’ve lived in fear every single day for the complete tenure.
It was the 10th board exams for me. Looking back, it feels like a refreshing breeze compared to life after university but at the time, my brain was playing all sorts of tricks with my heart. The 10th board exams was an event that was so hyped in my circle, the weight of it nearly crushed my confidence to face the world after it was over. Obviously, the months leading to it were difficult but reality struck me when the time was near and execution was key.
Genuine fear strikes the heart and burdens the mind. Every time I looked away from my books or took a break from solving mock papers, stress and fear seeped in like poisonous air that settled in slowly and grew exponentially within a matter of seconds.
Fear makes you do things that you never imagined yourself capable to do. It makes other smaller fears so tiny and benign. If anyone had offered me the opportunity to speak impromptu about the economic situation of the country in front of thousands of stalwarts at the time of my 10th board exams, I would’ve grabbed that opportunity in a heartbeat.
That’s the power of fear. And sitting here, writing this newsletter eight years later, I can’t help but imagine why the fear of one thing is such a strong motivator to do something entirely different.
There’s always something big that we’re afraid of and certain smaller things we’re afraid of. Let’s call the big fears overwhelming terrors and small fears petty concerns. Your overwhelming terror might be public speaking and your petty concern might be someone noticing a bald spot in your beard. Make a list and divide your fears into these groups—figure out your overwhelming terror… it should be only one.
To do great things, you must have fear; primarily because fear is the greatest motivator you can ever have. It’s difficult to openly admit you’re afraid of something. On the outside, it looks like a weakness that can be exploited by others but on the inside, it shapes our subconscious in unimaginable ways.
Petty concerns are easily discussed because they don’t let out what is truly inside us. They’re manageable, manipulatable, and easily subsided with simple solutions. Petty concerns are addressed by several startups that squeeze in to occupy a small share of the market. Overwhelming terrors… that’s where unicorns are made.
I digress from the matter. The goal is to keep it personal so let’s take befitting examples for you to relate. You might miss your best friend’s birthday because you’re traveling but you’ll fly back in the blink of an eye if they’ve been in an accident. Sadly, fearful moments almost always overshadow happy moments.
Siblings who’ve had a significant fight and haven’t spoken to each other for decades would visit each other without hesitation if one of them gets terminally ill. That’s the power of fear, it makes you rethink life decisions in an instant.
While we’re on the subject, think about this: Do you love God or do you fear Him?
That’s a deep question that may take years to truly answer. Let’s focus on something simpler. Is there any way you can turn overwhelming terror into merely a petty concern? There just might be.
Your mind is as strong as organ as they come—so strong in fact, it named itself. Believe it or not, the simplest way you can convert an overwhelming terror into a petty concern is for the worst to happen. You’re thinking one of three things right about now.
“That’s blasphemous. Why would I want to put myself through that?”
“Yeah right. Like I hadn’t thought of that.”
“That makes sense but it’s simple in theory.”
And in all three cases, you’re right. The worst that can happen is what everyone wants to avoid and that’s because it’s an unknown territory. You don’t know the consequences that will follow, you don’t the kind of emotions you feel and you don’t know whether you’ll be able to bounce back.
So here’s something for you.
"Don't let the fear of what could happen make nothing happen." - Doe Zantamata
There’s no greatness without turmoil. There’s no status without struggle. There’s no triumph without defeat. If the worst that could happen doesn’t happen, you’ve got yourself a win and if the worst that could happen happens, then you’ve got yourself a story. In both scenarios, you emerge victorious.
P.S. There’s one more way you can convert an overwhelming terror into a petty concern and that’s by replacing an original overwhelming terror with a made-up one. Now that… is easier said than done. I’m trying to figure out how to do it. As soon as I get a framework, I’ll be sharing it with you guys.