Punch Fear in the Mouth

Fear is something every entrepreneur has to deal with from time to time.

For me it recently came in the form of interviewing a hero of mine. (Not in the superpowers from Krypton sense of the word, but in the successful online entrepreneur kind of way.)

When it comes to fear you can do one of two things.

  1. Let it in and give up.
  2. Punch it in the mouth.

In this post I’ll walk through how I almost gave in to fear and let a big opportunity slip through my hands. I’ll also cover a simple exercise you can do each time you’re afraid of doing something.

Interviewing Gary Vaynerchuk

Last week I had the honor of interviewing Gary Vaynerchuk for my podcast, but it almost didn’t happen because I almost gave into fear.

You see, I had submitted a request to interview him and my request was initially declined.

Then one afternoon I got a text message from one of his assistants out of the blue saying, “Do you want to speak with him tomorrow at 11am?”

I panicked a bit. I mean, Gary has a huge personality and following online, so I was intimidated to say the least.

  • Would I have time to properly prepare?
  • What if I majorly messed up?
  • Could I push it back to a later date?
  • Why did I want to do this in the first place?

I was making excuses. I was scrambling to find reasons why I couldn’t do it.

I even typed out a response that read:

I will be traveling at that time and can’t make it. Can we do early next week?

I stared at that message for a full minute and soaked in the potential ramifications of it.

  • I probably wouldn’t get another chance to chat with him.
  • I couldn’t ask him the questions that I’ve been dying to ask.
  • I’d forever regret wussing out.

So what did I do?

1_shark_punchI punched my fear square in the mouth.

I sucked it up and said “Absolutely. That time works for me.”

I got the chance to talk to him, it went well, and I got a boost in traffic and podcast downloads.

Now, that wasn’t so scary, was it?

That’s the thing about fear. Hindsight is 20/20. When you look back at why you were so afraid in the first place, it doesn’t compute.

What To Do When You’re Afraid

When you feel fear, here’s a simple exercise to go through.

  1. Let the fear in.
  2. Ask yourself: “what’s the worst thing that could happen?”
  3. Slowly count to five with your eyes closed.
  4. Let the fear go.

Let’s say you’re afraid of publishing something controversal on your site. So there it sits in draft form for months. You keep pushing it off.

“What will people think of me?”

Who cares. Have some guts. Show your personality. Be vulnerable. People will respect you for it.

What’s the worst that could really happen?

Everything is going to be okay.


What was a time when you were afraid and everything ended up being okay? Share your story in the comments below this post.

Published by

Caleb Wojcik

Caleb Wojcik is one of the 3 C's at Think Traffic and Fizzle.co. He writes at CalebWojcik.com and hosts the Cubicle Renegade Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @CalebWojcik.

50 thoughts on “Punch Fear in the Mouth”

  1. Wow, loving your honesty!

    It can be a bit scary out there – good to know even the ‘big guys’ have to deal with it too!

    1. Totally with you on that one Patrick.

      It is a scary world out there and sometimes. This is particularly true if you are presented with an opportunity like interview Gary Vaynerchuk.

      I mean that guy is pretty huge, I know I would be pretty darn scared.

      But isn’t that every day life.

      Every day we make decisions that may be small at the time, but can have life altering effects.

      Also, Patrick the big guys are just people like everyone else, They are no different than you or me. Just like Pat Flynn says.

  2. Awesome post, Caleb! Fear has to be the number one struggle with being a entrepreneur – or freelancer in my case. I could easily give-in to fear and not advance any further in my career, but I like to think that when fear is viewed in the right perspective, it’s actually a signal that I need to do something.

  3. I totally agree. Fear is something made up in our minds that has not happened and probably never will happen. We let our minds create the worst possible situation and we believe it!

    I feared writing my personal goal of buying 100 rental properties in the next 10 year on my blog because I thought people might think it was too big of a goal or I was being greedy. I published it two days ago and it has blown my old records for visitors and views out of the water.

  4. Punching Fear in the Mouth. Hmm, Well put Title Caleb. I’m pretty sure you’re gonna punch some loyal readers into this post with that awesome title you got there. Congo!

    Asking yourself that ‘what’s the worst thing to happen?’ That’s a great idea dude.
    Let’s hope everything is gonna be okay.
    Hope to see you around on ThinkTraffic soon. Good luck..

  5. I was recently pulling together ideas for a “how to be successful” talk and one of my three main points was to be “driven by fear.” I’ve done stuff in the last two years (in building my business) that I NEVER thought I’d be able to do. If you don’t have fear you can’t evolve and can’t take risks which makes you stagnant. But we always need reminding — so thanks for the great post Caleb.

  6. Perfect timing, Caleb. Being in a position where I have to solicit new business makes it hard for me to pick up a phone, visit a prospect onsite or talk to people sometimes. (many times) it’s getting out of my comfort zone that is the hardest for me.

    Once I go out there and talk to folks – it isn’t all that bad. I get a boost in self confidence and my income goes up :-)

    thanks for sharing – great stuff as usual.

    Juan Colome, CEO
    Infoseek Technologies

  7. I love the idea of how fear looks so much more insignificant when you’re past it and looking back.

    Great article Caleb (in fact it just pushed me into taking action myself).

  8. Hi Caleb!
    I totally agree!

    I was afraid of starting something totally different, scary and new. I was afraid of talking to you and Corbett… thinking I might let myself down… I might make a fool of myself. I was afraid of taking your course… not having focus, dropping out and wasting precious funds. But I too took that punch and didn’t let fear in. And you know what… it’s worked out just fine.

    Hope you and Corbett are well and dandy. Thanks for sharing.

    Big smiles. Sarah

  9. Awesome “get” Caleb!

    I think if you went with your original text you may have been blacklisted…No, not blacklisted–that’s too strong a term for turning down Gary, but maybe seen as pompous. Knowing what I know of you from ThinkTraffic and Fizzle, you don’t come across as a pompous ass at all, but when the bigwigs call, we need to jump. At least until we’re on their playing field.

    Funny you (of all techie people) ask that question: The last time I was afraid was when I posted a promo vid that I edited and asked for feedback in a forum. I’m obviously not tech-savvy but I tried my damndest.

    In the end, you have to ask/remind yourself “Who really gives a shit?” In the end, and by end I mean after a couple of minutes, most people care about one person…And it’s not me and it’s not you, my friend 😉

  10. This article has perfect timing for me – I got a call yesterday afternoon from a radio researcher asking me to do an interview that very evening to an audience of almost 2 million people about my business. My first thought was panic, I cannot and will not speak in front of that many people! How could I? I’ve never done it before, I’ll mess it up. Who could I get to do it in my place? I was literally shaking at the thought of it. I silently prayed for a miracle of some kind of loss of voice…crazy I know.

    Then I done what your article explains, I stood up, I was brave and I punched fear full on with all my strength! If I had of taken the cowards way out I not only would have lost valuable publicity for the business I have poured my heart in to for the last 2 years I would have doubted if I could ever beat that fear of public speaking in my life.

    Fear means different things to different people. We’re all afraid of something different to the next person but we can all do the same thing and go beat it! I also recommend talking to friends and family who will big up your confidence and make you believe in yourself.

    The actual doing was far less than the thought of doing. The interview was short, it went well and I’m proud as anything of myself for doing it. It’ll be up on my website in the next few days and you can judge for yourself :)

    Thanks for another fantastic post & well done for beating your fear too!


  11. I have recently started my own interview show so I totally relate. I have been trying to get myself better prepared for interviews, it’s easy for me to get nervous and throw out a lot of “umms” and “uhh” during my interviews. What I find interesting is I would be just a nervous getting a bigger name a-list guest such as yourself , Corbett or Chase on my show where as you are looking up to even bigger name people like Gary. We all started somewhere.

  12. Love this post! It’s great to see how fear works when told through a story.

    In my office I have surrounded myself with quotes that remind me not to let fear run my life.

    One of my favorites is from Winston Churchill:
    Never lose in your imagination. Never, never, never, never!

    Thanks for inspiring us all by sharing how you took down fear.

  13. I’ve just done exactly! In fact I kicked fear right up the backside and recorded a new mini course. I was originally concerned about what people think but after recording it and emailing my list I discovered they actually liked it :) Bonus!

  14. Totally agree with your approach.

    A few days ago, I stared at the water as the swimming instructor asked me to conquer my fears and swim in the middle of the pool. “If you can swim along the edges for one week, you can swim in the middle,” he said helpfully.
    “I told myself, ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen?’ Nothing, really. In the worst case scenario, float on your back or swim to the edge! You know to do these things.”
    Swim! Swim! Swim!
    Did a full lap, to cheers from the instructor.

  15. Mine is a long story but I’ll try and cut it short. This was in Taipei 2007-2009 when I lived there for 1.5 years to improve my Chinese. Saw a flyer at school for a free kickboxing club that met twice a week to work out for fun. No sparring or knocking heads off. Run by a Danish kick boxer. Looked like a great way to meet people and get a great workout.

    But for a whole year I didn’t go. I feared maybe all the students would be jerks. Maybe I wouldn’t fit it. Maybe the instructor was an asshole. Just lots of dumb fears that held me back.

    One day a year later I decided I needed to finally just do it. I changed like I was going to work out. However I gave myself a way out. I said I’d go to the meeting spot (at an outdoor public area), but keep thinking about it.

    I walked closer to the meeting spot (this was in the evening) and I get spotted. So I kept on walking towards them. I passed the point of no return. Everyone was really nice. Lots of foreigners mixed with locals. Instructor was super cool. Was sore for days after that 2 hour work out.

    After that, I ended up going twice a week for three months. I didn’t miss a day. I loved it. Met so many great people. Got into the best shape of my life. Had some really fun nights out with them.

    One night we went out to a club. I hated clubs. Never went after college, but I decided to go with them. I met this really cute girl. She was kinda ignoring me, but we ended up dancing at the end of the night.

    Now she’s my wife.

    Looking back I had a lot of stupid fears about going, but none of my fears came true. Only great things have happened because of it.

  16. I almost let my first chance at freelance writing slip through my fingers. I had received a tip from a former coworker about someone she currently worked with, who’d put up a notice looking for freelance writers for a magazine he edited. It took me a while to get up the nerve to actually call him, because I hadn’t written much over the years, and what I had was mostly poetry – I hadn’t written a real magazine article in decades. I kept telling myself, “You’re not a real writer,” etc., but finally called, sent him some writing samples (I didn’t have my current website then), he liked them well enough to give me a try, and I just completed my eighth assignment for him. It’s a small magazine and a small start, but it’s actually been perfect for someone as new as I to that industry, since I haven’t even had to query – he sends me an email saying what he needs and asking if I’d be willing to write it. A few times I’ve had to rewrite, but even then he goes into detail about what he really wants and gives me time to redo it. If I had given in to fear last summer, I wouldn’t have even the small amount of clips I now have…so I’m glad I picked up the phone in spite of my sweaty palms. Even now, I still find myself anxious each time I submit a piece…will he like it? Ask me to rewrite it? Will the magazine go under? Will he find another writer next time if I have to rewrite too many times? Crazy.

  17. Hi Caleb,

    Needed to hear this today! Dealing with fear is a daily thing, especially when starting out. Mostly, I’m just afraid to approach people. I recently decided to get over it long enough to write a potential mentor and it worked out! They agreed to meet with me. Sending an email is a small step but a worthwhile one.

    Next step youtube videos!

  18. “Let’s say you’re afraid of publishing something controversal on your site. So there it sits in draft form for months. You keep pushing it off.”

    Thanks for the challenge. I’ve had an idea this week I’ve been contemplating for a post next week that I’ve been thinking about the ramifications. Here comes a knockout punch!

  19. Unfortunately, in my case, “what’s the worst that could happen” was a nightmare of monumental proportions.

    I had a 200 employee, $8.7 M state-licensed mental health agency. On several occasions, I took a stand against issues happening within our state’s bureaucracy (the state wasn’t paying its bills to the agencies, so I couldn’t pay my employees and went to my legislator for help which ended up in the newspapers; we had a children’s service that could only break even if we didn’t offer the employees health insurance and other benefits, so I shut the program down because I believe strongly in providing insurance and paid vacation time – even though other agencies had no problem with paying low wages and no benefits; there were other issues like that).

    I was warned that the state would retaliate, and they did. I lost my company, all of my savings (from fighting the lawsuits), my health… everything. The local news media had a field day and dragged me through the mud – front page, above the fold – and even though I was eventually exonerated, the media never once acknowledged that fact.

    It’s now nearly 6 years later, and I’m still recovering both financially and emotionally…. and I know someone else this happened to, who was in a different field than I but had very similar experiences.

    So what’s the worst that can happen? If it’s making a cold call, or blogging about one’s experiences, or interviewing someone you look up to… probably nothing, and it’s entirely possible that great things will happen as a result… or at the very worst, benign, inconsequential things. So go out there and DO IT! No matter what, you’re unlikely to ever have to face the nightmare I have.

    Just be careful to pick your battles when the other person has more power and is known to be vindictive and retaliatory. Even if you’re in the right, really terrible things can and do happen to good people.

  20. I’ve probably never been so scared, that I can remember now looking back in hindsight (LOL), than I am now.

    My coaching business has known small successes and lots of not so successful times, so now, I am redoing the whole thing (hence no website today) and am just a little plain old terrified.

    What is the worst thing that can happen?

    If I don’t even try, I’ve failed already, so as I believe this could be good, it might be, if I put myself out there!

    Great to have your encouragement and your blogs and the Fizzle course too.

    Thanks guys, great work – you inspire me through the fear!

  21. I’ve hemmed and hawed over putting up various blog posts fearing the worst, but in the end these posts turn out to be among my best-read and popular posts. My theory is that it’s my most authentic self coming out in those posts. A one-two punch and fear is down for the count! Thanks for the post Caleb.

  22. Great post Caleb.

    I listened to the podcast, and it was jam-packed with information even though it was very short, which was awesome (had to listen to it several times).

    A time I’ve been scared was when I first started putting my content “out there” for people to see. I was afraid that people wouldn’t like my writing and that I would be embarrassed, and I think this is pretty common for people just starting out online. I overcame the fear, and embraced the “epic shit” concept to ensure that I hold myself accountable to write content that matters. The sight is moving along well, slowly but surely.

    Thanks for everything you guys do on your sites, you’ve both been huge influences in my decision to get out there and go after what I want.

    Keep up the awesome work.

    Jake Johnson

  23. Great article. I agree with you, Caleb. It is important to take action even though there’s fear involved. When I first decided to speak to High School classes about staying out of debt or finding a great career path, I was very fearful about following through. In the end, I realized that I can have an impact on the life of a student, and it wasn’t difficult at all. In fact, it was a success and I have been invited back, multiple times. For me it was about committing to a date. Once it was set, I was locked in and had to make it work. Glad I did it!

  24. Thank you Caleb for the post,

    Timely one, as I just contacted my ultimate hero since my teenage years just a few days ago, after contemplating it for 2 weeks. I was terrified of what could happen, bad and good, but I didn’t want to live with regret. Since then I’ve been a bit of a wreck, going through every imaginable, unpleasant, “doubty” emotions. Yes that is fear speaking, loud and plenty.
    And I’ve been trying not to pay attention, which seems to make it talk louder. So I think I’ll try your suggestion 1 to 4 instead.

    Enjoyed reading through comments as well, thanks everybody!

  25. I was afraid to be born. But then I closed my eyes, came out of the womb and everything turned out okay–or at least has so far :)

    Thanks for the reminders about how to face fear, Caleb.

  26. For years my motto has been the title of a great book I had read long ago:

    Feel the Fear, and Do it Anyway.
    Thanks for the reminder.
    Lori Robinson

  27. So glad you didn’t hit “send” on that message right away! Great post, I know that I let fear get in my way much too often. Lately I’ve also been recognizing that fear and pushing past it and I’ve been getting so much accomplished! Who knew?? Then again it’s easy to look back in hindsight. Nice to have posts like this to gently remind us of our obstacles as they come up from time to time.

  28. Great article. And what a response you’ve gotten. Touched a nerve.

    My experience is that even when my fear is justified, it’s still worth pushing through.

    I was training to be a facilitator and my mentor told me I was going to fail because I was taking it too safe. I had no personality. I realized I was afraid of pushing people for fear that I would look shallow or incompetent.

    But I pushed. I started being bolder, taking stronger stands.

    About a year later I got an offer to do a keynote training session for the entire staff of one of the most recognizable hospital chains in the country. They wanted me to help open their new facility in Philadelphia. Willing to fly me and two others out.

    I was really scare that I would flop. I took it anyway.

    I flopped.

    10 minutes into an hour long training session (for 400 or 600 people, something like that), I started getting a lot of push back. My training was off target, I didn’t I understand what I was asking people to do. etc.

    I was really scared. I took the training in a different direction, went back to basics. Reminded people why they were there and what wasn’t working for them. Then built it back up from the ground. And ended up getting some “thank you’s”.

    They were grateful for the training but it wasn’t a Cinderella story. I didn’t knock it out of the park. It still stings me today.

    And…I’m a facilitator. I make a living that way. I have great days where people are amazed. And I have low days where I didn’t connect.

    But I’m doing it.

    So, I have to remind myself to do the scary thing even knowing there’s a real chance I can fail in a really public way. It still moves the action forward.

    Thanks again for your article.

    1. One more note about this experience.

      Having this project on my resume helped me get another plenary session about a year later with a very large Pharmacists group. And with that one, I applied what I learned, started from the ground up. They loved it. I got some of the strongest reviews of conference. They asked me to do a follow up break out session. And I got requests for follow up work from attendees.

      So, failing early was a critical step in teaching me how to present the material in a way that people could relate to.

  29. Caleb – felt exactly the same way when we were recently interviewed by Chris Brogan. It was so tempting to bow out…telling ourselves we ‘weren’t ready’. But, we were totally ready. It turned out great & it was so fun to make that connection. You were ready, too. The interview was great & I feel like I learned a little about Gary that I didn’t know before. It’s important to remember that if we muster up the courage to ask for something, we also have to muster up the courage to accept it. :) Congrats on punching fear in the face. The ‘big monster’ gets smaller every time.

  30. Wow, thank you for sharing your real life experience. I needed to hear this right now more than ever. I don’t know how many opportunities I’ve missed and years I have been held back due to fear. But now I’m totally ready to punch fear in the face and get on with it. I’m ready to have some guts and write the articles, finish the website, print the business cards; put myself out there. Like you said, what’s the worse that could happen? Thanks, Caleb!

  31. Love this. I had an in person opportunity last weekend to ask a MAJOR figure in my industry for an interview…. I was so terrified that I was shaking all over and I think blabbering – seriously! But I knew I had to do it, because I didn’t know when I would ever have that opportunity again. And guess what…. he said YES! Once I got over the embarrassment of trembling like a jelly fish in front of him… then I was able to celebrate. Yippee!! :-))

  32. Yes. Awesome stuff, Caleb. Ah, if only we could get out of our own way…I do this way too often. Or I should say “have done” and will try your approach more often!

  33. It’s really nice post. I was having that feeling when planning for making online blog interview. As you said, “what’s the worst thing that could happen?”, then I finally made it, got my first online interview (then the second and so on). But the best part is when I got interviewed. It’s all start from overcoming my own fear.

  34. Thanks for writing this honest post. It was really something I personally needed to hear. I wrestle with this a lot, typically giving into my fears and ending up with huge regret. I feel like professionally this has a little to do with fear of success. When you want something so bad and you work your butt off chasing it, then the one day it just shows up can be a really scary moment.

    I’m a professional actress and a few years ago a producer I know saw some of my work, admired it and called me up to offer me the leading lady role in an independent feature he was shooting. The script and the role were both great and it was the type of challenge I really really get off on. I felt I could bring value to the project. However the subject matter was controversial and I freaked. I was scared of what my representation at the time would think. I was scared of what my family would think. I was scared of how my small fan base would feel about seeing me in that type of role. I turned it down and even though it immediately felt like it was the wrong decision I was stubborn, convincing myself I was protecting my image and stuck with it. The crazy thing is that I’m an E-list actress very few people know about didn’t have an image to protect anyway.

    Years later I’m still filled to the brim with regret. That producer and I still talk all the time and to this date he won’t even call me in for an audition for his many projects. The film went on to win several awards at several film festivals. The actress cast in my role won a best actress award at one of them. I realize now I was afraid to step out of my comfort zone and used the film’s controversy as an excuse to stay there. Even though the hindsight of that decision still haunts me I can remember another time after this one when I turned down television role for the same reason with very similar results. Fear is a b*tch and can paralyze you if you let it. I’m working very hard to be cognizant of this and not to let this happen again. This article is exactly what I needed to read. Thanks Caleb for putting yourself and your fears out there for me to learn from and not feel like I’m only one dealing with this.

    A professional friend called me recently and asked me to co-host an online radio show she’s starting. Voicing my opinion publicly on this subject matter has me scared sh*itless but I am forging forward anyway in an effort to conquer this. One step and a time. :_)

  35. Thanks Caleb! This post came at the right time for me ( or maybe I noticed at a time I needed it) I’ve put my life on hold, living off my last savings putting everything I have into this project I have creates for Kickstarter. It’s a dream I’ve been wanting to realise for over 10 years, and now finally very close to launching it. But will people like it? Will they like me? Will I raise enough money? Will the future I’ve worked so damn hard for slip through my fingers? Fear. Fear. Fear. Intellectually I know what advice I would give anyone in this position. That same great advice you just gave us. But when I have to listen to myself, somehow it doesn’t work as well. I’m so glad to hear it from you, in a great way like this. You’ve helped me restore balance in my crazy self sabotaging head. Thank you. The future looks brighter once again. Here I go… !

  36. Your ‘What to do when your afraid’ exercise could not have come at a better time! I struggle with fear on a virtual daily basis. It has often stopped me from moving forward in my freelance career. Great article!

  37. Very motivating post. Always a good reminder to get out there and strive for something better and forget about everything else. Thanks…Alex

  38. Hi Caleb. I totally agree. It is important to take action even though there’s fear involved. In my office I have surrounded myself with quotes that remind me not to let fear run my life.

  39. I was also nervous about interviewing some people I had a lot of respect for – Derek Sivers, Tommy Tallarico, Pete Lesperance… I have virtually never had an interview go awry. I have had some interviews go better than others, but ultimately they all added value to me and my readers/listeners.

  40. I’ve had this happen to me as well, and in the same instances. For me it was Pat Flynn.

    Great post on getting rid of fear. You’re right, it’s my blog, who cares what people think? I’ll do what I want!

  41. Caleb,

    So on point! As an entrepreneur dealing with this on a regular basis is a common occurrence. Good job punching through that fear. And thanks for being vulnerable.


  42. Great post Caleb – I find it quite hard to let myself be vulnerable and open online, and I’m going to use these steps next time I’m doubting myself or giving in to fear. Love the idea of punching fear in the mouth!

  43. Great post, fear always comes knocking on my door when i want to do something new. Most of the time I walk all over fear then there are those times when fear is just to big.

    Have not watched your interview with Gary V yet [watching after this comment :)]. Interviewing Gary V would make anyone fearful. He is well known, speaks his mind yet down to earth.

    Blessing Janet

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