The Day I Realized My Greatest Fear

What’s your greatest fear?  Surveys say everything from heights to snakes to the sight of blood, but public speaking often tops the list.  Think about that.  Many people would rather face an aggressive crocodile than have to speak in public!

Since I speak in public quite often, my greatest fear is ramped up from that.  Mine is speaking in public but not having done any preparation.  Having nothing to say.  In fact, my most common nightmare is me pacing around behind the stage while my introduction drones on and on, knowing that I have nothing to say to the crowd but am on in 15 seconds. This goes on all night.

Facing my greatest fear

Now for my story.  So I had a crowd to speak to (online) on the topic of delegation.  I know the topic well.  I’d spent time prepping my (90 minute) talk;  thought of the great stories I’d tell and all the amazing content I’d share, and I’d assembled slides to back it all up.  I was ready.  So I got up early and went through the content again and finally sat at my computer to click on to the meeting link.

It was then that I noticed that I wasn’t speaking on delegation at all.  No, I was actually speaking about building an amazing company culture.  I got my topic mixed up.  I looked at the link again, and there it was.  Building a great company culture, with Trevor Throness. Right!  Something somewhere twigged in my brain about discussing that months ago.  Oh, and did I mention that I was now on in 114 seconds?

There was no cancelling or rescheduling.  These people paid good money, they wanted a specific topic, and they had joined the meeting from all over the country.  And I… had nothing to say.  My nightmare come true!

Have you ever missed a rung when climbing a ladder and felt that shot of fear hit you from your chin to the pit of your stomach?  That was me. It’s not often my heart rate goes from normal to 192 bpm in 3 seconds, but this was that time.

What would you do?  Oh, and by the way there are now 42 seconds left.  No time to think about it.

So, I walked to the edge of the 10 story building, said a prayer (LORD, HELP!) took a deep breath, stood on the ledge, and let myself fall into the unknown, hoping that a net would appear at the bottom.  In other words, I clicked on the link and opened the meeting.

Before I tell you what happened, let me give you the most important tip I’ve learned about how to face your fears:

Action conquers fear

The answer to fear is to take immediate action.

Are you scared sick of:

  • scheduling that meeting that is going to lead to conflict? Make the appointment before you have  a chance to think about it.
  • Making that cold call? Pick up the phone immediately!
  • Having that conversation that you dread? Just do it before you have a chance to talk yourself out of it
  • Putting yourself out there socially and introducing yourself? Do it first thing when you walk in the room

When you’ve got a plateful of food, and you notice a frog on the plate, eat the frog first.

Back to my story.

So, the meeting opened, and before me were all the expectant faces waiting for me to pontificate for  AN HOUR AND A HALF on company culture.  That’s a long time.  And since I had nothing to say on the topic, I decided to open with a question:

“Before I say anything, tell me what’s worked for you in building a great company culture?”

War stories commenced.  Then more war stories.  I glanced at my watch.

“Tell me what hasn’t worked for you?”

Stories now in full flood.  Laughing.  Hilarity.  I haven’t really said anything yet!

And while they were talking, some ideas occurred to me that no one had mentioned, so I said them.

Then I asked another question.  And I did that… for 90 minutes.  90 minutes that felt like 10 hours I might add.  At the end the CEO wrapped up by saying, “This was fantastic, exactly what we needed!”

As I closed the meeting, I heaved a massive sigh of relief and went to change my now sodden shirt.  My first thought was, ‘I deserve a Blizzard.’

I also reflected that most of the time our greatest fear is not nearly what we’ve worked it up to be in our minds.  When we finally face it, it’s quite manageable actually.

Plus, less than 1% of our fears ever come true.

We live in a generation that is sometimes paralyzed by fear.

So next time you face a work situation that scares you, dig up your courage and take immediate action!

pic hero trevor

Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at

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