The Fortune in Fear

“He is able who thinks he is able.” ~Buddha

I remember hearing this idea somewhere that courage was not the absence of fear, but rather, the ability to do something in the presence of it.

I am scared of being on a boat. I always was. When I was 18, I dated a guy who had a boat, and I decided to brave my fear and get on it for a three day voyage across the Mediterranean. I know, I could have started by peddling in a canoe in a pond, but no—three days, no sight of land.

There was a guy on the boat who was all tough and cool, and he kept saying, “Come on get over it.”

He missed the point. I got over it. I was on the boat; that was about as much as I could do. Scared of it, and yet doing it.

I asked the cool, tough guy what he was afraid of, and he said horses. I happened to have a horse and to not be scared of them an ounce. I invited him to join me after the boat debacle. He said never. Aha! I was on the boat, and he would not come to ride a horse. Get my drift?

Well, I am scared of public speaking, and there I was last month doing a TEDx Talk. The fear was so strong some nights that I literally stayed up till dawn. But I did it. I loved it actually.

Maybe there is a direct link between how hard I imagined it would be and how joyful it felt to complete it.

As long as we don’t let it stop us, fear is a friend, believe it or not. It ignites more power inside of us, so we can jump higher. It is the fear, the managed fear that fuels our engines.

I am still scared of boats and speaking in public, and I am still going to do both. I have never spoken to anyone who said they were afraid of doing something and regretted doing it after they overcame their fear.

We feel good when we overcome our fears. We know we are bigger than them.

We know that we are meant to transcend them.

That is why we love watching athletes push beyond the average boundaries. We instinctively know what they had to overcome to get to where we see them. And to witness someone overcome their fear is a sure way to ignite our engines!

Photo by mdpai75

About Sophie Chiche

“What is most meaningful to you?” Walk into the offices of and you’ll hear this question being asked several times a day by Sophie Chiche, curator & founder. The answers come from an eclectic group of people—Nobel Prize winners, media moguls, fishermen, midwives, global leaders and more.

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  • Great post! I can’t believe you went out on a boat for three days! You must have been so proud…

    I am going to try and face one of my fears this summer. And no, I can’t face it today, because I happen to be afraid of thunderstorms (and we’re smack in the middle of winter here in Maine).

    I’ve been afraid of them since I was a kid, but I know that I’ll have to confront it this year. I just moved into a new house that has two lightning rods on its roof. Eek!

  • tfjell

    Another great story thanks!

  • talia

    I clicked to see Sophie’s TEDx Talk and she is amazing! What an inspirational woman! Thank you for sharing your story. Wow!

  • I love this “courage was not the absence of fear, but rather, the ability to do something in the presence of it.” Fear is definitely our friend, the difficult part is remembering not to let it control us. Great post, very inspiring, thanks for sharing.

  • Andrea

    Great post Sophie! I conquered my fear of dogs a few years ago. Instead of walking a small dog I walked my friends 90 pound Bernese. So I know how exhilerating it can feel to conquer your fears. You are a very engaging speaker.

  • nectar

    Many thanks for your post…I totally see where you are coming from but what if one has a fear and repeatedly faces that fear and yet the fear doesnt reduce? The reason I ask is i have a horrendous fear/anxiety of dating and due to this am still single…I have however, made myself go on several dates over the years and each one was as agonisingly difficult/ exhausting/petrifying and uncomfortable as the last. The fear is no longer of anything going wrong on the date but of the horrendous feeling of anxiety itself. Does anyone have any tips for overcoming/managing this? Many thanks 🙂

  • Ddabao

    “We feel good when we overcome our fears. We know we are bigger than them.” Thanks for this post! I am doing my first bikini show in 3 weeks. I’ve always been ‘shy’ and going on stage in front of a lot of people scares me…but I have been preparing hard the last 6 months and I think/hope/know I can do this!

  • Sweetsweetspot

    I think that the only way to conquer fear is to be with it rather than to run from it — as Pema Chodron suggests in all her writings. However, what I fear is the power of fear to manipulate others. I see a lot of this in the media and in politics. We need to not only be with fear, but we need to ask ourselves why we are afraid in the first place, and is there even a basis for our fear other than some talking head who told us that there are WMDs under the dog house in the back yard.

  • travelmari

    My Biggest Fear is  facing domestic Violence. 11 years ago my daughter’s father took my child and ran. He was abusive to me ever since I got was with child. I   Now he controls me by telling me I have no rights to her and refuses to let her contact me after he has been found. I can not afford a lawyer and I am scared to go after him may he do more horrible things to hurt my daughter. I need to face this fear and I am going to try to take him to court. But this a BIG fear. the fear of having him destroy me and my daughter again. I can not allow him to have the power.Even though I know in my heart the universe is on my side.
    It is just scary but I love my little girl. and I want to stop the control and domestic violence he has over me. during the 11 years he ran and took he and I was looking for her I changed my name and identity and loved to anotehr state tp start over again. but my confidence in some things are still down. I am working with AWARE and other agencies to help me but still I am scared to face the fear of this horrible man.
    I can DO IT though. thank you for this post it is helping me. I printed it out and am posting to my mirror and reading it everyday. I CAN DO THIS! I am strong I can face this horrible fear and learn to turn it into a strength.

  • John Edward

    I too suffer from anxiety…and today had to attend an inquest into my father in laws death. I was prescribed propranolol by my physician and I use it in ‘high stress’ situations. I used to feel guilty using it, and felt i should try harder with my meditation etc. But now I realise that my chronic anxiety needs an element of medical intervention (as much as a diabetic needs insulin perhaps) and so I am more gentle, forgiving and understanding of myself. In time I believe I will grow in self confidence and reduce the need for ‘external’ intervention. Just for the record, I felt really confident at the inquest and perhaps in your case it may be an option. With any medical decisions please get good advice and find out other peoples experience. It has helped me greatly and in tandem with my growing self awareness, I no longer feel stuck in life with my anxiety. Take good care of yourself.

  • Jeffrey

    I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for writing this! It’s all so very true!!!

  • My question is how do you distinguish between not wanting to do something because of fear and not wanting to do something because your inner voice tells you shouldn’t do it? 

  • Very true. I always feel better when I face my fears rather than avoiding them. It’s scary in the moment, but so rewarding afterwards!

  • Sandieknees7

    Enjoyed the article but why attribute the quote to the Buddha?

  • I think doing what we are most scared of is part of our quest in this life. Any time I have had to make a decision, picking the one that scared me the most has never steered me wrong 🙂

  • Fin


    Wise words. I’m scared of heights and airplanes, but I love going on holiday and standing at the top of big buildings. Go figure. It takes a lot of courage to do something even though it scares you. I suppose that’s how you progress in life.

  • so true. fear spurs some sort of motivation, to stretch ourselves!

  • Gittefigo

    sorry but that is not true about the medication, it is not like a diabetic, YOU DON’T need it. PLEASE research about all the negative things how it messes up your brain.