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Advice for the Fearful - Nightingale

Another essay by Earl Nightingale from the How to Completely Change Your Life Series

Advice for the Fearful

Dr. Joyce Brothers has some good advice for the fearful. She points out that everyone is familiar with fear. Normal fear protects us and provides a warning signal indicating the presence of danger. A totally fearless person is probably not too intelligent and can look forward to a very short life. But when fear is inappropriate, it can stand in the way of progress and success. It can destroy love, create failure on the job and interfere with our ability to relate well to others.

Innovation and creativity involve risk, Dr. Brothers goes on to say. The person who’s afraid to take chances, who’s afraid of failure, is standing in the way of his progress.

In fact, an emotionally healthy person needs challenge in life. Studies show that people who are cautious in the extreme, who are afraid to take risks even when the odds are in their favor, tend to be afraid of life itself—which, of course, is also a gamble. Such persons are not likely to succeed in business or anything else.

Dr. Brothers suggests that such people practice failure. How liberating it would be for the average person to be able to walk into a room, trip over a wastebasket, have all the people in the office laugh and then be able to laugh with them.

Dr. Brothers suggests that fearful people deliberately do such things to discover that an occasional failure is no disgrace but, rather, a perfectly normal part of living.

I remember when I was just starting out in radio, I managed to get the part of Sky King, the lead in the famous children’s radio program of that name. And I would often be asked to make public appearances for schoolchildren. One day, I flew up to Michigan to greet and sign autographs for several hundred children allowed out of school for the event.

I flew there in a small two-seater airplane. I was dressed in my cowboy costume from my hat to my cowboy boots, gun belt—the works. As I was trying to climb out of the airplane cockpit in my unaccustomed costume, while the hundreds of children waited nearby, I caught my heel on the cockpit coaming and fell full-length on the wing. Then I did a slow roll off the trailing edge of the wing to the ground. My guns fell out, my hat rolled away and a deathlike silence fell on the children. There was their hero, sprawled on the grass! He couldn’t even get out of an airplane!

I picked up my guns, put my hat back on and, with a sheepish grin from ear to ear, walked to the waiting children. We all had a good laugh about it, and I signed the autographs, and all went surprisingly well. As I flew back to Chicago, I thought about how often children fall and that they could easily empathize with me.

Don’t lose your sense of humor, and remember that even though they may laugh, people are kinder and more forgiving than we generally give them credit for being. Risks and pratfalls are a part of life; so is an occasional failure in other ways. And so is success—lots of it.

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