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How The Best Overcome Fear | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast) | Transcription
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At this altitude I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Can I ask you a personal question? Now what is the end of my time? What if I did the opposite? I'm a cybernetic organism living tissue over a metal entoskeleton. The Tim Ferriss Show. This episode is brought to you by WordPress.com. I love WordPress. I have used it for so many years. It's my go-to platform for blogging and creating websites. I use WordPress.com for everything, every day. My site, Tim.blog, is built on it. The websites for my books, including Tools of Titans, Tribe of Mentors, it's all on WordPress.com. And the founder, Matt Mullenweg, one of my close friends, has appeared on this show many times. Just search Matt Mullenweg, Tequila Ferriss, for quite an exciting time. Whether you're looking to create a personal blog, a business site, or both, you can make a really big impact right out of the box when you build on WordPress.com. And you'll be in good company. It's used by The New Yorker, Jay-Z, Beyonce, FiveThirtyEight, TechCrunch, Ted, CNN, and Time, just to name a handful. And one of my friends at Google, who shall remain nameless, has told me that WordPress.com offers the "best out of the box SEO imaginable." And it's one of the many reasons that nearly 30% of the internet is run on WordPress. You do not need experience or to hire someone. That's perhaps the best part. WordPress.com guides you through the entire experience. They have hundreds of designs and templates that you can use. And it's easy to get started. There's no need to worry about security, upgrades, hosting, any of that. They offer 24/7 support, and they're very, very responsive. If you have questions, they get right back to you. And this allows you to create the highest quality with the least amount of headache and friction. So if you're building a website, period, when my friends come to me and ask what I use, what I recommend they use, the answer is WordPress.com. So check it out. If you want to get started today, learn more with a 15% discount off any new plan, go to WordPress.com/Tim to create your website and find the plan that's right for you. So learn more. Take a look. Go to WordPress.com/Tim for 15% off a brand new website. Check it out. This episode is brought to you by LegalZoom. I have used LegalZoom myself for many of my businesses, and many of the icons on this podcast have actually used LegalZoom. For instance, Matt Mullenweg of WordPress fame, CEO of Automattic, which is now worth more than a billion dollars, first incorporated his company on LegalZoom. LegalZoom is a reliable resource that more than a million people have already trusted to help with their businesses, whether that's setting up a will, doing a proper trademark search, forming an LLC, setting up a nonprofit, or finding simple cease and desist letter templates. Man, do I use a lot of those. LegalZoom is not a law firm, but they do have a network of independent attorneys available in most states. They can give you advice on the best way to get started, provide contract reviews, and otherwise help you run your business. And, important, there are no surprises. LegalZoom provides complete transparency. That means upfront pricing, customer reviews, and a satisfaction guarantee. Check out LegalZoom.com today to see how they can make life better and easier for you and your business. If you're pretending to be a lawyer on the internet, then you are asking for trouble. Put together the safety nets. Get your T's crossed and your I's dotted. Enter promo code TIM, T-I-M, at LegalZoom.com to save 15%. That's T-I-M for 15% off. Check it out, LegalZoom.com.
Richard: Entrepreneurship And Overcoming Fear
Bill intro (03:51)
Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and hello, Clarice. You'll see why that's relevant in a minute. Welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show. More specifically, welcome to another edition of The Tim Ferriss Radio Hour, where I share some of the habits and patterns of world-class performers that I've identified after nearly 300 guests on this podcast. This episode, we will explore fear, specifically. Managing, mitigating, overcoming, which is something I've personally spent decades battling with, of course, sometimes being paralyzed by, and fortunately, in more recent years, more and more, overcoming. And this has been such a focal point of my life for extended periods that my last TED Talk focused on an exercise called fear setting, which is something that I have found to be a life raft and that I practice, I would say, at least once every month. And you can learn more about that at Tim.blog/ted, if you want to see it. It's all free and all specced out for you. But aside from my personal experience, coming up, I'll discuss many different facets of fear, or listen to tips and tactics and so on, from folks such as Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman of The Virgin Group.
The former Virgin Records building (05:01)
Sir Richard is, of course, a world-famous entrepreneur, adventurer, activist, and business icon. His most recent book, Finding My Virginity, shares the candid details of a lifetime of triumphs and failures, and it provides an intimate look at his quest to push boundaries. And that often includes breaking rules, seeking new frontiers, and certainly fear. I suppose the most notable business failure that we've ever had was taking on Coca-Cola with Virgin Cola. And for a while, it really looked like we were going to topple Coke and Pepsi. I mean, we were outselling them in the UK. Then I talked to Maria Sharapova, who is the winner of five Grand Slam tennis titles. And that sense of, wow, everyone all of a sudden wants something, everyone wants something that you have, everyone wants to be a part of your success.
Breaking the mold (05:59)
I also discussed the relationship between courage and fear with movie star, director, and producer Vince Vaughn. I would get down, and I would take four or five days, and I would just not do anything, and I'd lose my energy. Caroline Paul is our last guest. She is an author who has worked as a journalist, and who also became one of the first female firefighters with the San Francisco Fire Department.
Overcoming defensiveness (06:18)
And I look around, and there was just three of us instead of four. And I remember thinking, I have to go back into that hallway? And the fear was paralyzing. So, without further ado, let's jump into it. And we can begin with a bit of personal context on my part. For most of my life, I would say the driving values, if you will, have been security and lack of vulnerability. So it's been a very defensive posture for a very, very long portion of my life. Not all of it. But optimizing was done to maximize security, decrease vulnerability. And as was told to me recently by Tony Robbins, who I've had the privilege to get to know over the last few years, there are some values that the more we obsess over them and fixate on them, the less we perceive we have them. And those could be values or resources. For example, you have respect, or you have security. The more you fixate on those things, the less you perceive you have. Because you put on a lens through which you see constantly the transgressions, the slights, the violations, and so on. And if you were trying to, in my case, say, control everything for a very long time, the pro and con list, the analytics, the spreadsheets, all of that was to try to control as many variables as possible. And there is a place for control, but when you try to control everything, as I did for a very long time, and still sometimes do, you end up in a position where you can be dominated by fear and/or you can feel helpless.
On overcoming fear (07:51)
And this has led me over decades to experience many extended depressive periods. That has led to having a very close brush with suicide in college, which then led to the fear setting exercise that I mentioned earlier. And all of that for people interested are spelled out both in text and video, all for free at Tim.blog/Ted.
On keeping focus (08:27)
But I don't try to figure it all out on my own. That is a mistake that I've made repeatedly in the past, and I've tried to get better at asking for help and asking experts to explain how they handle the ups and downs, the triumphs and the failures, the fear of the unknown, and so on. That allows me to assemble a toolkit of reminders and principles, beliefs, maybe phrases that I can revisit on a regular basis. This is part of the reason why I ask so many of my guests about their failures and fears. So, let's jump to Sir Richard Branson. @RichardBranson on Twitter and mostly everywhere else is an English business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. He founded The Virgin Group, which controls more than 400 companies. It boggles the mind, really, to even think about that.
How drinking sneaks in & the importance of spotting the signs. (09:21)
I have a long history with Sir Richard's books, all the way back to Losing My Virginity, which I brought with me. I still own it to this day after college, and it helped to inspire one of my first businesses. And his most recent book, Finding My Virginity, which shares the details of, as I mentioned before, many of his triumphs and failures. Both of which, on either end of the spectrum, have been spectacular. There have been some really, really incredibly noteworthy failures in Sir Richard's life. We discussed his quest to push the boundaries, stay high on life, and, in the process, conquer fear. When you've felt overwhelmed or unfocused, or if you feel like you've temporarily lost your focus, what do you do, or what have you found to help? What questions do you ask yourself? In those cases, what have you done, historically, that has been helpful? I personally believe that the majority of people who have down moments in their lives, they can actually trace it back, quite often, to alcohol. Perhaps the only days of my life that I feel lethargic is if, instead of having two glasses at nighttime, I had five or six. And if I find that's happened on more than one or two occasions, I then give up completely for a month or two, and feel absolutely fantastic, of course, and realize that I'm never going to drink another touch of alcohol again until actually you do. And, fortunately, I'm so busy that I just can't afford to let myself down too often. But my guess is that for the vast majority of people, if you can be high on life and fit and healthy, and if you do find that something like alcohol is just beginning to go a bit too far, being high on life is just so wonderful. For a friend of mine, an entrepreneur named Matt Mullenweg, he's been on this podcast as well, he's the CEO of a company called Automattic, which is behind Wordpress, which powers around 37% of the internet right now. And he told me at one point that he had learned something long ago, which was, alcohol is borrowing happiness from tomorrow. And certainly seems to be the case. I think those are beautiful words and they're very, very, very true words. My son's just had a year of alcohol, and you can tell he's just so high on life, he's just enjoying it like he's never enjoyed it before. And so if you could do it in moderation, that's great. I tell the story in the book, there was one night when we won the Grand Prix in Melbourne. Anyway, I let my hair down to such an extent that it would have made the film Hangover look like a children's film. And the next day I woke up and anyway, I gave up for six months. And so it doesn't happen to me too often. But I think generally that's the one area that I think a lot of people who do run into problems in lives, it's just from slightly too much. During those periods when you go off of alcohol, do you avoid circumstances where other people are drinking? Or is there something that you say to people if you are in those circumstances? How do you ensure that you don't have just that one drink that then triggers more drinks if you're trying to take time away from alcohol? My trick is simply to have cranberry and soda in a champagne glass. People don't know, I just take cranberry and soda in a champagne glass. But I think for a lot of people, especially when people first give up anything like that, drugs, alcohol, they need to walk away completely for a while. Fortunately, I haven't got in, I've never let myself get to that stage. But I think that the best advice is to just say, "I need to go to bed early tonight and walk away, otherwise it's very difficult for people to stay with it." Are you somebody who drinks or not? I don't drink a whole lot. I do enjoy wine. Fortunately, I don't feel like I've had any issues with alcohol, although genetically my family seems to have that predisposition. I certainly have a fair amount of alcoholism in my extended family. So I think about it quite a bit. I can tell that I think I have the potential to abuse it, but I haven't up to this point. I think that you and I have such fascinating lives that that is the best way of keeping these sorts of things in check. Every day is so interesting that you're just not going to want to waste a day letting something like that take over your life. Right. No, definitely.
Richards favorite personal failure and the lesson hed learned. (14:55)
And just two more questions for me. This is one really intended just to give people a window into how you cope with some of the harder times. Do you have a favorite failure of yours? And what I mean by that is how has a failure or an apparent failure set you up for later success? Are there any particular examples that come to mind? Yeah, I mean, I think on me and on the adventure side, you know, the first time we crossed the Atlantic in a boat, we were trying to break the record for the fastest crossing the Atlantic and getting the blue ribbon back. And, you know, and we sank. And then the next day we built another boat and we were successful. And the British people love people who are underdogs. And it taught me that actually failing and then being successful most likely was better than just going out there and being successful the first time round. I mean, overcoming difficulties the public almost preferred than someone who's just successful the first time round. Maybe not so much in America, but in Britain anyway. I suppose the most notable business failure that we've ever had was taking on Coca-Cola with Virgin Cola. And for a while, it really looked like we were going to topple Coke and Pepsi. I mean, we were outselling them in the UK. The Virgin brand resonated. People love to drink. And then, you know, we landed in Times Square with the Sherman tank and we took on Coke in their homeland in America. Coke decided to bar back and they filled up DC-10s full of money and hit men and hit women and they landed in the territories that we'd launched. And they suddenly, Virgin Cola started disappearing from all these shells. And I think the lesson I learned from that was, you know, if I'm going to take on a Goliath, I've got to be, we've got to be different. We've got to be much better than they are. And, you know, with a Cola, you're just another Cola. You can't be fundamentally different. You can be cheaper, but you can't be fundamentally different. So anything we've launched since then, we've only launched new businesses if we can make a fundamental difference.
Whats next for Richard? (17:16)
I love it. Yeah, that's so important to underscore, I think. This is the last rapid fire question. If you could have a giant billboard anywhere with anything on it. And this is metaphorically speaking, so getting a message out to millions or billions of people. What would it say and why? It could be a few words, could be a paragraph, could be a quote you live your life by, yours or someone else's. Does anything come to mind if you could get a message out to billions of people? What would you, what might you put on that billboard? The trouble is, I think I'm going to sound like a model on stage. I'm going to be a businessman about the need to bring peace to the world. And therefore I will instead go back to be a businessman, which is, you know, I think just something like nothing ventured, nothing gained. I think that in life, if people, you know, if people try things and stick their neck out, they're going to have a lot more fun than if they sit at home watching other people do it. So, yeah, so I think that old quote, nothing ventured, nothing gained is important. Having said that, you know, I've been involved for 10 years now in this wonderful group called The Elders and Nelson Mandela set it up and it's now run by Kofi Annan. And I really do believe that in our lifetime, I've seen so many unnecessary wars. I've seen the Vietnamese war, I've seen the Iraq war, the Libyan war, and these were all incredibly unjust wars, which have gone on to spawn awful things like ISIS and so on, which would not have happened if it wasn't for actually the West taking it upon themselves to interfere in other countries' business and killing and maiming thousands of people. And, you know, we must make sure that we don't have any wars in the future. And I think it takes business people, it takes society, it takes all of us to really make sure that our politicians never take us down that path again. I mean, one of the saddest things, I think, about the invasion of Iraq was, you know, yes, there were thousands of people on the streets. There should have been hundreds and hundreds of thousands, just like the Vietnamese war, to stop such a foolish excursion. You know, all conflict should be able to be resolved by negotiation. And, you know, even if you don't get exactly what you want out of it, that is better than all the bloodshed that flows from conflict. Maria Sharapova, @mariasharapova, is the winner of five Grand Slam titles and an Olympic silver medalist.
Never use the word rejection (20:00)
She is one of ten women, and the only Russian, to hold a career Grand Slam, which refers to winning all four major championships. Wimbledon, the Australian Open, the US Open, and the French Open. Forbes also has named Maria the highest paid female athlete of all time, which she first earned in 2005. She has held that title for more than a decade. Is it true that you've never used the word rejection or that you don't believe in that word? Is that true? Well, I don't. I mean, it's a very tough word to believe in. It's a very tough word to accept. I think one of the reasons is because I saw in many different scenarios where my father would say no because he would open up an opportunity to say yes. And… Could you… OK, please explain. So there are many situations, whether it was a coaching opportunity or whether it was receiving money from an agency, he had this ability to say no to the things that seemed like they made sense, like the easy way out. Because he believed that later he'd have a better opportunity to say yes to bigger and greater things. So he said no to the small shiny objects. Well, at the time, I'm sure they didn't seem so small. Not small. I don't mean at the time in perception, but the short term shiny objects maybe. Right. So rejection, it wasn't… there was never… because I always had… I mean, I always was following and kind of next to my father and seeing the decisions that he would make. I was only a kid. And even when I won Wimbledon, I was only 17 years old, you're still a kid and you're still following the guidance. And I'd win a match following that and I'd call it… or I'd win a tournament and I would go shopping in a store and I would call my mom because there was something quite pricey and I didn't know if I could buy it. So I was still asking permission, even though I had earned that money, if I could purchase a piece of jewelry or shoes or whatever it was at the time that I wanted. So I was always watching and observing and they never… rejection, I mean, you're… of course, when someone says no to you, it's easy to say, "Oh, yes, I was rejected." But if you can open up a different opportunity from that point of view, then you're turning a no into something that brought you to a better place. It sounds like you did that with your interactions with some of the other players who were boarding at Nick's Tennis Academy in a way. Yeah. Do you consider yourself an introvert, an extrovert, a blend? How do you think about that? I think from a very young age because of sort of the process that I went through and the success that I earned from a young age and winning a major and a grand slam at such a young age. And because it became so unexpected, I went from being someone that was… someone that people scouted to being someone that everyone had analyzed and knew about and wanted to know more of. And I created this… I definitely put on these horse blinders because if I had not, my mind would have been everywhere. And I think it would have been so easy to be distracted in those moments and situations and be pulled in different directions, which it's a slippery slope. It's very dangerous. And as a young girl, it could have been a disaster to say the least. And so I definitely remember the moment and it was just a few matches before I won Wimbledon where I was sitting down with my coach and all of a sudden, I think it was before the semifinals of that tournament, and all these tourists who had gotten credentials. They seemed like tourists. I didn't know who they were. Maybe they were. Maybe they were important agents or sponsors. But at the time, they just seemed like tourists that wanted a picture with me. And it really came overnight. And that sense of, wow, everyone all of a sudden wants something. Everyone wants something that you have. Everyone wants to be a part of your success. I didn't like that feeling. I love the feeling of being in a position of showcasing what I could do with my tennis racket. But that feeling of everyone wanting a piece of that and the feeling of your opponents all of a sudden feeling like just by beating her, they're not just winning a quarterfinal of a final of the match, but they're winning so much more. It made me feel like I needed to put myself in a bubble to concentrate, to focus, that it was going to be that much harder, that much more difficult. And I did. And I don't know if I could have done it another way. What are some of the best practices or decisions that have helped you with that? Because, for instance, my friend Josh, I was mentioning earlier, who became well known effectively overnight, particularly with the movie about his life, for chess, he could no longer compete effectively after that. Because he would go to a chess tournament and there would be, I'm making up the age, but he's something like 13 or 14 and all of a sudden there are 20 girls who want his attention and a bunch of reporters. And he removed himself completely from the competitive scene. He's one of the most private people I know at this point. So what helped you? What kind of decisions or advice or practices? I think it was surrounding myself with good minds and good people that had my best interest. And it's so easy to say those words, but I know how difficult it is to find those people. And even harder now, nowadays than it was. And I saw it in so many different examples of other tennis players and of their success and their paths after that and the people that you all of a sudden associate yourself with. I think as an individual, it's very easy to be affected by the voices that are next to you. Because we listen to that and we process that information and all of a sudden we, I won't say we want to be like them, but we interpret it in our way. But when I read a funny book, all of a sudden I feel like I'm a comedian. Or when I watch this incredible acting by someone, it inspires me to be an actor. You know, it's like there's moments of this that happens as an athlete, you surround yourself with people's opinions or choices or money and wealth. And it's very, it's such an easy distraction. And I surrounded myself with good people. And I, the friends that I have today were my friends when I was a young girl that my manager has managed me since I was 11 years old. My mom is still very much my best friend and another really good friend of mine I met when I was 11 years old as well. So I have this fondness of developing this real connections with people. And I think it was so helpful for me as a young girl because I competed in front of thousands of people and I still do. And the walk to the tunnel and the walk to a press conference and the walk back in the hotel room. It's a very lonely journey. And that it's a difficult, you know, you're in your mind a lot and you're thinking a lot. So when you have, when you have voices next to you that are the right voices, then it's so helpful. But I know how hard it is to find. But I do believe that that is a big part of my success.
Assessing others (28:49)
I have some public exposure and have found I've made a lot of mistakes and I found it really difficult to identify in some cases what ulterior motives are or if people start doing me tons of favors. I now realize there might be something coming six months later. So I'm very hesitant to accept favors, but I can't even imagine the level. I mean, I'm playing T ball and you're in the major leagues in the World Series when it comes to how many people want a piece of you. And how do you, for instance, assess someone if you say have coffee or lunch with them? What do you look out for or look for? I mean, how do you decide whether it's someone you want to see a second time or talk to a second time? If anything comes to mind, and this is just quite frankly, you've had a lot of requests. You've had a lot more practice than I have.
That automatic reply, I was like, oh, my goodness. Oh, yeah. I don't know who's emailing you. I'm afraid I have four thousand ninety one hundred email in my inbox. Oh, my goodness. It was released into the wild. Oh, I can't do that. I need to keep my inbox clean. And I feel like I have a mess in my head. Well, we'll talk about that next. But in the meantime. So how do I choose? I think it's about I love meeting people and I love having conversation and I love being inspired. And you can get so much out of a conversation or about from by exposing yourself to being in an unfamiliar territory. So with people and I'll give you a big kind of an example that was I felt like it was important because I'm very much I'm always around the same people. So I have my team, which is my coach and my fitness coach and my trainer. And we travel. I see them more than my family. We travel probably two hundred and sixty days out of the year together. Breakfast, lunch, dinners, practice, training. We know so much of each other. And then you have a manager and then you come home and then you have your friends. So I'm always surrounded by people that I know and that I trust and that I love, which is incredible. But I always think that as a as a human being and from a perspective of the mind and growth and intellectually, when you're put in a situation where you're unfamiliar with people and you're unfamiliar with their stories or who they are and you have to ask questions and to get that out, it makes you a much more interesting person. And so last year I put myself in this position where I had all this time off and it was during the summer. And I signed up for these two business courses in Boston at Harvard Business School. And I was one out of the 40 students, I believe, in each of these courses. And I stayed on campus. And these were individuals who were CEOs and CEOs of companies, of airlines, of Microsoft, of all these incredible brands. And I was by far the youngest and probably the silliest and the least knowledgeable one in the room. But just by being with them, just by sitting with them, just by sitting with them at dinner, by asking them questions, by feeling a little bit uncomfortable, I felt like at the end of those three weeks I grew and I grew. And it wasn't that, I mean, there were definitely things that I learned that I'm applying and that I wanted to apply in my business. But the biggest thing I got out of it was that I grew as a person. I became familiar in a very unfamiliar territory. I still keep in touch with people in the classes. We have completely different lives. They're CEOs of companies. They have three or four kids. They travel all over the place. And here I am, a 30-year-old athlete. But there's so much respect in that room because we're all trying to learn and to grow. And so when you ask me, like, who are the people that you want to meet with or speak to or have a coffee with, I always think of that. And the people that I choose to be with are the people that I want to learn from and that I want to have a conversation with, and not just about what they bought at the flea market or how they like their coffee, but it's about the world and it's about education, it's about people. And it's not about right or wrong. I don't always have conversation because I want to know what makes someone perfect and not -- I like to hear opinions. And I got out of that experience in Boston and I -- I know, I felt like I grew. I felt like I stepped up and I got out of my comfort zone and I followed up with them. And we still keep in touch about business and projects and things like that. So it was a very interesting experience personally for me.
Vince Vaughn: Dealing With Fear And Persistence
Vince Vaughn (34:12)
Vince Vaughn @WildWest on Twitter is one of the most prolific actors, writers, and producers in the world. He's acted in more than 30 major motion pictures that have gone on to gross more than 1.7 billion at the box office. He's largely credited for redefining the R-rated comedy with his performance in the 2005 hit Wedding Crashers, which set the record for highest-grossing R-rated comedy at the time. He is, and will continue to be, I expect, one of the most sought-after leading men in Hollywood. I met Vince because he listened to this podcast and he reached out through his production company, Wild West, to see if we might do a TV show together. Specifically, he had seen one of my first TED Talks. It was actually recorded at something called the EG, the Entertainment Gathering, where I talked about language learning, dance, and swimming. Three fears that I overcame using different toolkits with the help of mentors. We discussed many different options and we settled on a show that ended up being called Fearless with the less in parentheses. It's in parentheses because the objective of the show, where I interviewed everyone from David Blaine, the illusionist and endurance artist, to Kyle Maynard, and Stewart Copeland of the police, and so on. The objective was and is to teach people to fear less. Two words, to fear less, which is trainable. Not to be fearless, which is not the objective at all. One great thing about failure is you realize it's not as bad as your mind makes it out to be. The fear is more crippling than the actual consequences. The consequences, a lot of times, feel almost relieving in a way, because now you've faced it, you've gone through it, and that kind of takes that away from you.
The more you don't address your fear (36:06)
Yeah. No, it's amazing how also over time, the more you don't address your fear, and meaning if you take some large fear and you break it down into the smallest possible steps. Let's say for swimming, for me, it was even just putting my face underwater for a period of time, right? So forget about swimming, forget about learning how to breathe, just putting your face underwater. And then when you finally have the incentive, like this bet that I had with my friend, or rather this mutually assigned nears resolution. With a deadline? What was that? With a deadline, yeah. With a deadline. When I actually sat down and found a method of swimming called total immersion, which I recommend to everybody, which was introduced to me by Chris Sacca, who also had difficulty swimming, and he said, "I have the answer to your prayers." It took me a week, about 10 days to go from zero laps in a pool to like 40 laps of workout as meditation. It was incredibly easy compared to the mental monster that I had created for myself. That's what's fascinating is how much of it is the woods that we've created versus the actual path to the destination. You were, as I understand it, rejected for certain roles because of your height. Is that true? I mean, that leading men at the time, or that the roles they were casting for, or maybe the people you'd be featured with would be shorter, and there were issues there, that that ended up being an issue in the early days? I think whatever you're getting rejected for, they find a reason to say it. I think when I was going out for roles younger, and I was so much taller than people, they would say that, and I'm sure it played a role into it. But I think it's important, whatever you're doing, that you don't give voice to things that you're not able to change. You would have to use it in a way to find ways to do stuff. It's all neutral, ultimately, even if it doesn't feel that way on some level, at least for the purposes of approaching stuff. But, you know, look, at the end of the day, it's just a lot of rejection. It's the nature of it. So I had gotten turned out probably a thousand to one for the times that I would audition or more. And it wasn't always consistent, the reasons why. But all you knew was that you weren't getting a chance to participate.
Responding to rejections (38:15)
And so you would have to go back to the lab and try to get to a place of being more and more undeniable. And when you are going through all these rejections, of course, at a certain point, it just becomes second nature to not flinch as much when you get turned down for something. But if you were giving advice to, say, an up and coming actor who has some degree of talent but is getting rejected, and they're really just feeling like they're getting punched in the face by the world, what would you say to that person? Well, I think I looked at it mathematically at a certain point, which was I started just focusing my entire day on perfecting my craft. So I was either watching a movie, reading a book on stuff, doing monologues, taking classes and ordering products from infomercials. Ordering products from infomercials came later. That was the dessert. That was a treat for having gotten a chance to work. But I would deny myself other things. I couldn't go do this. I couldn't travel until I earned it.
On coping with failure in the pursuit of dreams. (39:17)
So I would deny myself certain things that I would want to do and say I haven't earned that yet, which I find to be a good motivator. And then what I did was if I would screen test for a movie that was a big opportunity that would have been life changing, it would have given me an opportunity. What is screen testing? As an idiot, I'll ask. Screen test would be you're close. There's a couple of people for a role and now they're going to film a scene from the movie with you and perhaps the already casted actor or just pair of people together. And in screen testing, they would just see who mixes and matches or how do you do on camera? How do they feel you come off? And I had a couple of those, maybe four or five for good opportunities. And when you don't get it, so you could go through seven or eight auditions to get to this point is between you and two or three other people. And when you don't get it, your day, the next day doesn't change, meaning you still are going to get asked to go in for five lines on a television show or something smaller. There is no advancement as far as opportunity. You were just a person with the same credits you had. So it was a lot of time spent to get to that and energy to get to that moment. And if it didn't pan out, there was no change in how some were no more castable as a known entity than what you were. So what would happen is when you would get that close and it wouldn't happen at first, I would get down and I would take four or five days and I would just not do anything. And I'd say, oh, this is I'd lose my energy. And then I started to realize that the week I took off was really two weeks. That it was a week of not getting better and it was a week of getting worse. And I said, now I've given myself two weeks less to improve at the things I'm in control of. And I started looking at it like a percentage game. The more I worked on things, my percentages would go up. And what I realized later was it gave you a confidence to feel like you belong there. It gave you permission to perform in situations that didn't feel comfortable because you had felt good about what you had brought to the table. And so I would suggest that you find a process where you're able to I think it's important to allow yourself to feel disappointed. I think it's important that you don't turn off those feelings. But it is also important to how do you do that as quickly as possible to then become a productive again and start doing the things that are going to give you a better opportunity for what you want. The same could be said for a relationship. It hurts your feelings. But how much time is effective in mourning and processing it? I really believe no time is not good. You need that moment to accept it. But the sooner you can get back to doing things for your own growth and the things you're in charge of, I think your chances of having the things you want in your life become greater. I think also from what I've observed in you and other people who've done really well in their respective fields is that having an opportunity to be exposed to micro failures in some environment like wrestling, like auditions, inoculates you in such a way that you develop a tolerance for rejection. And that allows you to capitalize on opportunities much more effectively later because you don't take the two weeks off. Correct. And it allows you to improve. So but then we have the problem on the other side, which I don't know if you've experienced. You see it with boxers a lot. But once you have a level of success, can you maintain a motivation to have the approach that you once had? Right. When the immediate needs are not there as strong. Sure. Because I think on some level we all are looking for those things in life, how to let go of stuff and how to enjoy things in a more productive way. Could you talk about your car accident in high school? Sure. Yeah. It's not something that we've talked about.
Vinces car accident in high school. (43:09)
No, I haven't talked about it much. What we were. It was after school. I had played sports and then I had stopped. I had started getting more into acting and it was during the day. And I was a passenger and it was raining out. And the girl that was driving was swerving on the road being cute. I remember saying, don't swerve, don't don't, you know, stop it. But she kept doing it. We were going maybe 35 miles an hour. And then we hydroplane. And I woke up in a ditch. My thumb ripped up real bad and I couldn't move. My legs couldn't move. I had paramedics over me and I have blood all around me. I was real concerned. My friend, I didn't have any idea how I looked. I wouldn't tracking it. My friend was real bloody. I said, it's Sean. OK. They said, yeah, he's all right. They got me the ambulance and then they couldn't get a hold of my parents at first because they were worth traveling. And so I just remember being in a lot of pain. There was a moment you didn't know what the ramifications were. I had a small compression, which turned out to be nothing in my back. But and the aesthetic of my thumb being injured at the time, I didn't mean it's now just a very bad scar on the backside of it. And thankfully I have the thumb and can move it. But there's a pad that was gone. So that was that was challenging because it really made me evaluate the oldest cliche. You know, without your health, you don't have anything. So I really got the experience of feeling like, well, what if I can't move around or people go outside and play and things I had taken for granted. And then this the anything physical that is different that you're used to in a certain way. I think at first it's natural to feel insecure about it. And here I was at that time, knowing one to pursue being an actor, an entertainer. So it was a gift in, you know, processing things and putting your focus on other things. And you started to realize the power of your own inner dialogue as far as what you were creating or not. So there was a lot of gifts in it ultimately. But at the time it was I feel lucky for it and that it was without real consequences. It was a it was a nice learning gift in a way. So just to we're going to talk a lot about that inner dialogue and self-talk. But I want to touch on a few things that are around that same time period. And as maybe a preface to that, I will say that Vince is one of the most consistently curious people I've ever met. Which is saying a lot because my job is to interview curious people. And to give you an idea, we were just backstage getting miked up and he had questions about something called the Marcelo Teen. So Marcelo Teen is a choke that's used in Brazilian jiu jitsu by the Michael Jordan slash Wayne Gretzky of grappling. His name is Marcelo Garcia. So I was backstage choking Vince about 10 minutes ago. And there were a lot of very nervous looks. Very effectively. I will. It's a good choke. Marcelo knows what he's doing. And grappling was one of the first things wrestling specifically that we bonded over.
Sports and resilience. (46:29)
And could you talk about the role of sports and wrestling to the extent that it's that it had a lasting impact? I think it's important. I think, you know, George Washington, I think credited ballroom dancing and horseback riding as two of the most important things he did because it gave him confidence physically and grace. And, you know, being a leader, I don't know that you can put grace in the body without, you know, whether it's I took ballet, I took played sports. I think it's important, especially for me being tall. It allowed me to have, I think, more control and confidence in my and my my height. And so wrestling to me was really a course in resiliency and discipline. I would have loved to have played other team sports, but it was I was very good at wrestling for whatever reason. And I wasn't as accepted in some of the team sports. So wrestling is very much a loner sport. If you're on a team bus, you kind of joke around and laugh on a wrestling bus. Everyone is deadside, partially because they're all dehydrated from cutting weight, cutting weight. And you're going to get in a fight in front of your school or people you don't know. It's like you shake hands and it's like you're you know, there's no one missed a block. You got you got beat. Right. And you are dehydrated. It's odd in that you're growing and yet you're trying to maintain a weight as I mean, it's especially when you're doing it when you're younger. It's very challenging. But I really felt that I got in this. You know, you would come out of playing football feeling like you were in shape and then you would go in wrestling and you would realize you're not in any kind of shape because if you just wrestle, it's exhausting. And then the only other thing you can do is run. And in the winter in Illinois, that meant hallways and stairs. We had a coach that was he got fired. He was not fit to be with the kids. But I felt like I was like I benefited from having that personality. But he was a real problem. But I remember I feel like we need a little more elaboration. So people's minds don't go crazy. Well, he was he was he was he had a real anger problem. He would hit. OK. We just I got hit. This isn't spotlight. I just want to. Yeah. He punched me once in the chest after a match. It went out of me. He would he encouraged kids hurting each other. But it seemed normal at the time. You know, he was like the Cobra Kai. Yeah, he was like Cobra Kai. It was crazy. He had his own emotional issues. So we would win a meet like 60 to six or whatever it was. And he would be angry over the few mistakes. And he would it was at some point you just heard the emotion being poured on you. Remember, his sister was an assistant. He'd always say, get me a tab and an aspirin or an Advil. Go get me my go get me a tab and Advil and he's keep screaming at us. But he would sometimes like there was a you know, we would run these stairs and he would say in these hallways. It was it was like a spread, but he didn't make it under a minute. 20. You would add another one. Right. He was intentionally you were going to have the bar move and he was trying to break your spirit. He wanted to simulate all is lost. What you thought was going to get you there is not. And now will you stand right. But inevitably the second string heavyweight was never going to make that time. So the first time he would do it, you'd say, OK, he's called the kid's name real loud. Was Illinois. What was either. I think it was. I remember the name. I won't say it, but it might have been like Eastern European last name. And he said he was late. So then the first time you'd run after that, there'd be some encouragement. Come on, you could do it. But the second or third time kids would start yelling and screaming at him or kicking at him and really physically forcing him was like a like a bad, bad, few good men. Yeah, it was terrible. And I always had a problem with the third authority anyway. And I clashed with him a lot. I ended up just showing up at the meets and I was good enough that I could do that. I wouldn't go to practices all the time. I really had problems with him. He did punch me one time in the chest. But he turned out to be someone that created a past that was not truthful. He had told us that he made the Olympic team, but that it was when the year that we boycotted it. That turned out not to be true. But anyway, I guess the long version of it is I think that I gained more than I lost, even with him being challenging in a lot of ways, I wouldn't change that experience. And you can have a great coach, which there are in wrestling. And I think in general, one of the great attributes of wrestling is constitution and grit, the ability to survive painful moments and not take them on in the absolute sense, meaning to have perspective on pain. Caroline Paul @carorotwriter is an author of fiction and nonfiction. She worked in public radio as a journalist before joining the San Francisco Fire Department in 1988 as one of their first female firefighters. She worked most of her career on Rescue 2, where she and the crew were responsible for search and rescue and fires. Rescue 2 members were also trained and sent on scuba searches. She has some horrifying stories of pulling out decomposing bodies. Rope and rappelling rescues, surf rescues, confined space searches, all hazardous material calls, and the most severe train and car wrecks. Her first book was the nonfiction memoir Fighting Fire, published in 1998. She also wrote the New York Times bestseller and a book that I think is fantastic, called The Gutsy Girl. She calls it Lean In for Girls, but I think it's actually much more than that. And it's not set in the boardroom, but rather in trees, on cliff edges, and in wild rivers. She is very, very good at recognizing how resilience and toughness, gutsiness, can be trained, can be taught. And in a controversial New York Times essay, the preceded publication of that book, she wrote that risk teaches kids responsibility, problem solving, and confidence. You can certainly find it very easily by searching Caroline Paul New York Times. Her perspective on fear and how she overcomes it in the most extreme circumstances. She's done luging, she's done all sorts of extreme sports. Her approach was extremely helpful and inspiring and valuable to me personally, and I hope the same for you.
Caroline: Courage, Bravery And Resilience
Scariest moments of career. (52:51)
When you think of the moments you've been most terrified, what are those moments that come to mind? They don't have to be physical danger, they could be, but what are the moments that first come to mind for you? Well, I think the time that I was probably the most physically scared, and it was a bit of an unusual feeling for me, and I'm not trying to say that I'm super brave, I just had this ability to really take fear and put it way, way back in line of all my other emotions when I was a firefighter. But I was in a, I talk about this in the book actually, I was in a fire building and I was with my crew and I was, we're in teams of two, so the team who was ahead of me, Frank and Andy, and then I had my crewmate was behind me, Victor, he and I were together, but we were all crawling down the same hallway and we had a hose line which was unusual, but they couldn't find the fire. So the chief goes, "Hey guys, you guys grab a hose line." So we're psyched to do that. It's awesome to go find the heat, the seat of the fire, and it's super smoky, hot, and kind of quiet in this weird way, and then all of a sudden a huge explosion, which pushed us all out of the hallway. And we're, what we realized later was that there had been a flashover, not in the hallway, which would have killed us, but somewhere close enough by to just blow us off. What is a flashover? A flashover is when the room gets so hot that even the particles in the air simultaneously ignite. Oh God. So it's basically this just huge- It's like a gas blast. Basically, yeah. I've been in those too, and those are not, those are, will knock your mask off and throw you backwards. And I remember being sort of discombobulated and in the garage, and my friend Frank goes, "Where's Victor?" Victor was my crewmate. And I look around and there was just three of us instead of four. And I remember thinking, "I have to go back into that hallway?" And the fear was paralyzing. This all took milliseconds. And I see Frank, who's super brave, really great firefighter, just turn and start to just catapult himself towards that door to find Victor. And for me, it was only a millisecond, but I was scared. And I recognize that fear. And that fear scared me more than the fear itself, because when you're paralyzed as a firefighter and your friend is missing, that's the worst. And so, of course, I was right on his heels, but that feeling of overwhelming fear was really sobering for me. But what I learned, of course, is that you can be scared. That's okay, but you still have to take action if it's necessary. And my friend was fine. He had actually been blown out too, but he took shelter on the other side. We found ourselves in the garage. So it all ended up fine, but it was a moment I'll never forget.
Caroline's method of taking courage and putting it before fear. (56:04)
So you've mentioned in your writing, for instance, your ability to put fear behind your other emotions. And the story that comes to mind for me is the—and we don't necessarily have to go into the details of this right now—but the climbing of the Golden Gate Bridge. Which, by the way, folks listening, illegal. I wouldn't recommend doing it. Especially now, after 2001. They will shoot you. Yeah, they will shoot you. So not advised. It was all a lark in the '90s, but not anymore. 760-some-odd feet or something along those lines. Maybe 720, I don't know. You probably have better memory of the television than I. But where did you develop that ability? Or how did you develop that ability? For someone listening who's like, "God, I'm so fearful. How can I develop that same ability to take, say, courage or desire or whatever it might be, enthusiasm, and try to put it in front of this dominant emotion that I have and default emotion, which is fear?" What would you say to them? And I guess that's two questions. How did you develop it and what would you say to them? But you can tackle it any way you'd like. Well, I am not against fear. Let me just say right up front. I think fear is definitely important. It's there to keep us safe. But I do feel like some people give it too much priority. It's one of the many things that we use to assess a situation. So I'm not against fear, but I am pro bravery. So that's my paradigm. So once I know that, fear is just one of many things that are going on. So, for instance, when we climbed the bridge, which was five of us deciding we wanted to walk up that cable in the middle of the night. Please don't do that. But we did. And it was a really, I mean, talk about fear. I mean, you're walking on a cable, you have to put one foot in front of the other and you get higher and higher until you're basically on as high as a 70-story building. And with nothing below you and holding on to these two thin wires on either side. It's just a walk, technically. Really nothing's going to happen unless some earthquake or sudden catastrophic gust of wind, which was really not going to happen. You're going to be fine as long as you keep your mental state intact. Don't panic. It's just a walk. And so what I do in those situations is I look at all the emotions I'm feeling, which is anticipation, exhilaration, focus, confidence, fun, and fear. And then I take fear and say, "Well, how much priority am I going to give this? I really want to do this." And then I put it where it belongs. And it's kind of like brick laying. I don't know. You just look at all the bricks or making a stone wall, you fit the pieces together. Do you or have you literally visualized the bricks to someone who hasn't had this practice? And you're going to give them a meditation exercise. The next time you're feeling fear, do this. What would you advise them to do? Yeah, I actually want someone to partition each emotion as if it's a little separate block and then put it in a line. Because once you not only look at your emotions, but also assess your own skill and the situation, often things change. I mean, we're scared, supposedly. I hear people say, "I'm so scared of..." fill in the blank, "picking up an insect." Really? What is really so scary about an insect? Seriously? Is it going to eat you? No. So as long as you stop and really look, I think people's lives will change kind of radically, especially for women. Because women are very, very quick to say they're scared. And that's something I really want to change.
Practicing and internalizing micro-bravery. (01:00:30)
This is Caroline Paul, and I'm really happy to be back with all of you and Tim on the Tim Ferriss podcast for round two. And you sent me a bunch of questions, and I'm going to answer some of them. Thanks so much. Let's just dive right in. So No Name asked, "If you're trying to change your relationship with fear, where do you start? It's hard to face it when it's breathing down on you. Any tips?" Well, first of all, congratulations on changing your relationship to fear. I don't know if you're a woman, but if you are, this is an especially big step because, as I've talked about, I feel really strongly that we as women have been so encouraged to be fearful that it's an underpinning of our life that we're often not even conscious of. So just taking this step is amazing. Here's my tip. It's really straightforward. Micro bravery. Because here's a concept that a great organization calls girls' leadership, really articulated to me, which is that bravery is learned. And like anything learned, it just needs to be practiced. And the way we practice things is to start small. So micro bravery. This is what they call it. I love that. Micro bravery is basically breaking down your fears into either smaller steps or just starting small with any fear. And the reason we want to do that is because, well, first of all, you become aware of what it feels like to be fearful. Because here's the truth, and I think I talked about this on the podcast before, but fear feels a lot like excitement. Excitement has the same physiological characteristics of high heart rate, the sweat, nervous tension. And so often what we do, especially as women, because we're really not taught to discern the nuances of fear, because we aren't taught to value bravery like men are, so we aren't taught to really move through it, is that it feels so similar to excitement that we often mistake the fact that we're not actually completely subsumed with abject fear. We actually are feeling fear and other things. Excitement, exhilaration, anticipation, curiosity, things that really will open up our life. And that actually is telling us, "Hey, this new experience is going to be kind of cool." Because, and again, often it's women, we haven't practiced bravery, so we don't really understand what we're feeling in times of stress or where we're pushing outside our comfort zone. When you practice bravery, and really what you're practicing is micro bravery, you get really comfortable and you start to understand what fear feels like, and you start to discern all the nuances of that emotion. The second thing you become knowledgeable about is what bravery is, because I think a lot of women don't really have a sense of what that feels like either. In fact, I like to turn around, maybe even this question and say, "Well, it's not really changing your relationship to fear. It's changing your relationship to bravery." And so what we're doing, and I know I talked about this before, is that we're valuing a bravery paradigm instead of a fear paradigm. Because I do think we give permission to women to talk about fear a lot and to really emphasize it in ways that make it, that perpetuates it. The last thing you do is when you're practicing micro bravery, you really start to develop a process of moving from fear to bravery. And that process, when you use it in small instances, you can apply when you confront fear in bigger instances. And that can be an emotional fear, and that can be fear in your workplace, and that can also be fear in the outdoors. Now, when you practice micro bravery, I really want kids to practice it in the outdoors because it's really fun, the outdoors. And it's a really great way to understand that line between being scared and then excitement and then going to bravery because it's just more obvious than if you're trying to practice in a more emotional situation. But as adults, I know, you already know whether you like the outdoors or not. This is not about like, "Oh, you have to be in the outdoors to be brave." Not true. You guys who are not so much outdoorsy can practice at home or in the workplace, small acts of micro bravery. Again, really important. This is something you start small so that you really get to know yourself and bravery better. An analogy might be deciding you're going to run at 5K. You don't just go run a 5K on the day of the race. You practice, and you practice in small increments. You start by walking. Then you proceed to running a little bit. You get the picture. So you're breaking it down. And in that way, you're training, and you're training to understand your body like a runner, and you're training to understand your own mind.
What's next? (01:06:11)
Well, there you have it, folks. I hope you enjoyed this episode on overcoming or managing or perhaps even using fear. It doesn't have to be a negative. It can be something that is useful. It can be a fuel. It can be a call to action. And now I'm going to pass the mic over to you guys. Please let me know what you liked or disliked about this episode. Let me know what you want to hear more about. What topics would you like me to explore? You can shoot me a note on Twitter @TFERRIS, T-F-E-R-R-I-S-S, or leave a comment on the blog at Tim.blog/podcasts, and you can find the show notes for this episode. Until next time, thank you all so much for missing out. Hey, guys. This is Tim again. Just a few more things before you take off. Number one, this is Five Bullet Friday. Do you want to get a short email from me? Would you enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday that provides a little morsel of fun before the weekend?
Five Bullet Friday. (01:06:58)
And Five Bullet Friday is a very short email where I share the coolest things I've found or that I've been pondering over the week. That could include favorite new albums that I've discovered. It could include gizmos and gadgets and all sorts of weird shit that I've somehow dug up in the world of the esoteric as I do. It could include favorite articles that I've read and that I've shared with my close friends, for instance. And it's very short. It's just a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off for the weekend. So if you want to receive that, check it out. Just go to 4hourworkweek.com. That's 4hourworkweek.com all spelled out. And just drop in your email, and you will get the very next one. And if you sign up, I hope you enjoy it.
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