In The Fear Project, I profile a handful of the most of the most accomplished action adventure athletes alive: skydivers, cave-divers, big-wave surfers, skiers, and a UFC fighters. I wanted to know the science behind what made these people tick, but I couldn’t help getting enthralled in their personal stories. One theme that emerged over and again is that the risks these athletes take help them find confidence and stability in their personal lives, especially when times get rough — and most of them have seen some rough times, no doubt part of why they’re pushing the limits to gut twisting levels.
Science is now putting some research into how and why this is such a common theme. Men’s Health Magazine reported a story recently citing a Texas A&M study that found that adventure sports are more adrenaline and cortisol inducing than public speaking, usually thought of as the king of stressors. It’s likely because athletes are having fun with these high levels of adrenaline that participating in such sports, researchers say, help them deal with stress in everyday life. But here’s an interesting caveat from the research: only if they’re dangerous (involving the risk of death), unpredictable, and social (so you feel like you have to perform for others). The researchers also found that the fittest guys had less adrenaline and cortisol in the system after participating in adventure sports, showing, perhaps, that the fittest humans handle stress better.
The story of the dude who has problems at home working them out through adventure is one we’ve been telling since our gladiator days, but it never gets old. And now, here’s one more, Fighting Fear, starring two of the gnarliest Aussies alive, Mark Mathews and Richie Vaculik. I’m looking forward to it coming out on DVD next month.
Here’s they synopsis:
Mark is a Big Wave Surfer. He dreams of being the best. Richie, Mark’s best mate shares his love of Big Wave Surfing but has his own ambitions. A carpet layer by day, Richie dreams of becoming a MMA Cage-Fighting Champion. Both are fearless, living life on the edge, daring each other to surf bigger waves, party harder, take greater risks. But when their adrenalin-seeking antics & hardened partying turns sour, it sets in motion a dramatic and life-changing series of events that threatens to derail everything they have worked so hard for.
In an instant, Mark’s Big Wave surfing career is in tatters & Richie is facing a jail term. But for these two friends, giving up is not an option. It’s not the mistakes you make but how you overcome them. Their unwavering friendship gives them the courage to battle their demons, rise up from their troubled past & conquer their fears.
I missed the theatrical premier in the US, but if it’s anything like the last film from Marcario De Souza, Bra Boys — the largest grossing doc in Australian history — it will be well worth the price of admission.
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It was an honor to have my article about Mavericks and the neurobiology of fear and courage published in last month’s issue of Surfer Magazine. There will be much more to come on this topic. Here’s the intro to the article.
A few winters ago, I got all amped on surfing Mavericks. I’d never been all that keen on waves that might end my life, but my girlfriend had dumped me and I was looking for something to re-inflate my ego. Nothing like bombing down a 20-footer with a 10-foot stick between your legs to make you feel like a worthwhile human again.
So I walked to Danny Hess’s shaping shack near San Francisco’s Ocean Beach to show him my dragon slayer: a 9’0” rounded pin, about 20”-wide with 2 ¾” rails. Danny makes gorgeous Mavs guns and surfs the place upwards of 40 days per-season. He always seems uber calm about it all, which made what he told me next all the more frightening. “I can’t let you paddle out there on this board,” he said. “This is not a Mav’s gun.”
What? My 9’0” had seen me through the most epic days of my life, yet here was Danny telling me that Mavericks was going to make my slayer feel more like a broom stick. “I’ve been beaten so badly out there,” he said, shaking his head, “it’s not a place to experiment.”
“How do you deal with the fear?” I asked.
“People call it Mavsiety,” Danny said. “Sometimes you can’t sleep before a swell. But you find yourself going anyway. We’re probably all sick.”
I felt sick. And I didn’t go to Mavericks to see for myself. Not that season. Too scared. But Danny sparked my curiosity. How did anyone deal with the fear of a potentially deadly wave?
I tend to geek out about questions like this and I spent the next year immersed in interviews with neuroscientists, psychologists, and a handful of the core Mavs crew about how fear works in our brains. The science of fear turns out to be ridiculously complicated. In-fact, I proceeded to write an entire book about it, The Fear Project, and barely scratched the surface. But you have to start somewhere; and there are some fascinating basics that start to explain how people like Danny do what they do.
To read the whole story, subscribe to Surfer.
To find out more about the science of fear and how to manage it, order The Fear Project on:
I love the way stories spread in this era. A couple of years ago, I flew to Bangladesh and reported a story for AFAR Magazine about a homeless girl, Nassima Atker, who’d miraculously become one of the country’s best surfers. (Yes, there is surfing in Bangladesh.) Despite having to beg for survival, despite being constantly teased and taunted by men and women who say surfing is inappropriate for girls, despite living in a country where two million children suffer acute malnutrition, Nassima, at just 14, had managed to beat all the local boys in an annual surf contest.
“When I surf,” Nassima told me, “I can finally just be happy and forget about all my problems on land.”
An incredibly talented filmmaker, Heather Kessinger, saw that story and we just returned to Bangladesh together to make a documentary film about Nassima. It’s not a fairy tale. At 16, Nassima is still struggling day-to-day to put food on the table. But even before the film is made, Nassima’s courage is spreading. Lakshmi Puri, the Deputy Executive Director of United Nations Women, gave a speech including Nassima at the 2012 IOC World Conference on Women and Sport, saying:
“Just a year ago, more girls than boys belonged to the [Bangladesh Surf] club. But as surfing gained popularity, some community leaders felt that surfing was inappropriate for women and girls. Since then, almost every female club member has dropped. Nassima is the only one left.
Today, Nassima is an outstanding surfer and has already won several local surfing contests. If she lived here in California, she could be competitive on the amateur girls surf circuit. If her potential was discovered and nurtured, Nassima could get a chance at competing internationally. She could become Bangladesh’s first international surf star and maybe change some of the views about girls and sports.
Nassima’s example reminds us that more investments are necessary to foster women’s participation and leadership in sport. Female coaches, peer educators and sport staff offer visible proof that women and girls can excel and lead in society.”
Puri is right. We need investment in girls’ sports, and not just in Bangladesh. In Saudi Arabia, girls are largely forbidden from playing sports, one of the reasons, according to a senior religious cleric, being that the movement might make them break their hymens and lose their virginity. Even in more liberal countries, there is stark inequality. According to a study by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, more than 80% of women around the world are not doing enough physical activity to benefit their health. “Young women aged 16 – 24 are nearly half as active as their male counterparts,” the study reported, and “the statistics are even worse for low income and black and minority ethnic women.” To change the situation, we need governments, non-profits and private companies to invest in girls sports, especially in countries like Bangladesh. But to get that investment, we have to start by telling the stories of brave girls like Nassima. That’s why we’re making this film.
Recent brain-imagery research has shown that when we read or watch a compelling story, our brains go through a similar process to the characters in that tale. When we read about and imagine Nassima being called a whore, when we imagine her being beaten by men who say she shouldn’t surf (which has happened), when we imagine her ignoring the taunts and heading to the trash-covered beach with her dilapidated board anyway, we actually experience the pain she goes through everyday. And her courage. And when young girls – with their incredibly plastic brains – read about or watch Nassima’s story, they will actually be practicing for confronting adversities and fears of their own, and they’ll be that much more likely to succeed in confronting those adversities, knowing they’re not alone.
Nassima is now training to be Bangladesh’s first female lifeguard, and women and girls all over the world are being equally fearless. In Saudi Arabia, an all-girls school is fighting the clerics by playing basketball, according to Reuters. In Egypt, women are playing soccer professionally despite men saying it’s forbidden.
If you believe in the contagious nature of courage, share Nassima’s story. And if there is a brave surf company out there looking for an athlete who could literally change the world, I’m happy to introduce you to Nassima Atker.
For more stories on fear, science, and surfing, order The Fear Project on:
On Friday, August 31, at 6 a.m., ultra swimmer Jamie Patrick will begin his attempt to become the first human to ever swim around the perimeter of Lake Tahoe. Though he’ll be wearing a wetsuit, the 68-mile swim will be one of the longest nonstop swims in history. You can watch it live here, but if you’re anything like me, you might be thinking, What could be more boring than watching one guy swim in a lake for around 40 hours? He swims. He fatigues. At some point, he’s in very great pain. He either makes it or doesn’t. Isn’t golf slow enough already?
A couple summers ago, just before Jamie’s attempt to swim twice across Tahoe (44 miles), that was exactly what I was thinking. But Jamie is family (my cousin-in-law) and I wanted to support him even though his idea seemed utterly bizarre, not to mention crazy. After a casual hike in the Sierras, I reluctantly motored out with Jamie’s dad to the middle of the lake when Jamie had about five miles of swimming to go. I’m not sure what I expected to see, but it wasn’t this. Jamie, who is usually bouncing off the walls like Tigger, was swollen up and purple. He was crying. He couldn’t keep down food or water due to something disastrous going on in his belly. “Oh god, call this off,” I wanted to shout. But Jamie assured everyone — between bouts of gagging and puking — that he wanted to continue swimming. Each stroke at this point was like lifting hundreds of pounds. But it was incredible. He. Just. Kept. Going.
Far from being boring to watch, this was a nail-biter. And it actually moved me deeply. I realized right then and there that:
A.) I was a bit lazy,
B.) Most humans on earth, including me, had never experienced what Jamie was going through.
Unlike our ancestors (who had to endure all sorts of grueling survival challenges), most of us don’t know or understand our physical limits — because we don’t reach them — or even come close to reaching them. We’re afraid of the pain (which ironically creates more pain). We’re afraid of failing. Or, most likely, we don’t even think about the value of going to our limits — and thus stretching them — because we’ve been surrounded by media assuring us that having a bunch of luxuries like car seats that warm our butts is the key to happiness.
Back on shore, 100 or so spectators waited for Jamie with signs and flowers, hands fidgeting or folded as if in prayer. Many of them didn’t even know Jamie, but they were spending their free Sunday on this random Tahoe beach. I talked to some of them, and one man said, “Maybe I’ll quit smoking.” Another told me, “I’m going to run that marathon this fall.” All around the beach, you could see the wheels turning: I could figure out a way to quit that crappy job and write the screenplay that has been in my head for five years. Maybe I could ask that guy out after all instead of waiting for him to call. Everyone was questioning his or her self-created limits.
As Jamie sputtered into shore to embrace his wife and daughter — though he was occasionally still vomiting — he gave those of us who wanted it a rare gift. Now, whenever I feel too lazy to write, or too tired to finish a run, or too tired to do anything, really, all I have to do is picture Jamie Patrick’s purple crying face (odd as that sounds) and I’m reminded that the reason I’m too tired is that I’m just afraid of a little discomfort. But the very mild pain I’m usually avoiding is, relatively speaking, no big deal. What is much worse is the feeling of stagnation that builds up from not approaching the pain and fear, not stretching my boundaries, not growing.
It’s easy to criticize people like Jamie for being crazy, but, just like we need a few mad scientists around to reveal the laws of physics (and hopefully crack the code for nuclear fusion soon), we need people like Jamie, who live to approach their physical boundaries. Otherwise, we’ll just melt into our couches.
And it’s incredible how when one person breaks through a boundary, it influences all of us. People used to say, for example, that a human being couldn’t run a mile in under four minutes. They thought it was physically impossible. Then on May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister finished a mile at three minutes and 59.4 seconds. “There was a mystique, a belief that it couldn’t be done,” Bannister said 50 years later. “But I think it was more of a psychological barrier than a physical barrier.” Six weeks later, John Landy, who had come within three seconds of breaking the four-minute barrier six times, broke Bannister’s record at 3 minutes and 58 seconds. Now, high-school students run four-minute miles.
I have no interest in ever swimming 68 miles nonstop. But I do have an interest in living a life that isn’t just about avoiding pain, living to my full potential. That’s why I crewed for Jamie on his incredible swim down the Sacramento River last summer, why I’m going to Tahoe to kayak alongside Jamie this weekend, and why you should tune in even if only for a few minutes to watch a man simply swimming in a lake.
To read my interview with Jamie about going beyond the fear of pain, click here.
And again, you can follow the Tahoe 360 Live swim here.
Our dear friend Susan Shreve’s much-anticipated novel, You Are the Love of My Life, went on sale today. Susan’s captivating prose and subtly suspenseful story-telling never disappoints, and this one sounds like both a page-turner and a rare beauty.
Here’s the synopsis.
It is 1973 and Watergate is on everyone’s lips. Lucy Painter is a children’s book illustrator and a single mother of two. She leaves New York and the married father of her children to live in a tightly knit Washington neighborhood in the house where she grew up and where she discovered her father’s suicide. Lucy hopes for a fresh start, but her life is full of secrets: her children know nothing of her father’s death or the identity of their own father. As the new neighbors enter their insular lives, her family’s safety and stability become threatened.
From a writer whose “unique presentation of human experience makes reading a delight” (Elizabeth Strout), You Are the Love of My Life is a story of how shame leads to secrets, secrets to lies, and how lies stand in the way of human connection.
“I couldn’t put this book down!” said Ann Hood of the book. “From its opening pages, which hint at the mysteries and complexities of the human heart, right until the final pages when Susan Richards Shreve reveals her characters’ secrets and disappointments and hopes, I found You Are the Love of My Life completely irresistible.”
One of the best parts of the HBO series Game of Thrones is how well the writing captures fear’s many facets. In this scene, Brandon Stark, son of Ned Stark, is asking Old Nan for a scary story, prompting ominous talk of their world’s dreadful long winters.
“Oh, my sweet summer child,” says Old Nan, “what do you know of fear?
Fear is for the winter…when the snows fall a hundred feet
deep and the ice wind comes howling out of the north. Fear is for the long
night, when the sun hides its face for years at a time, and little children
are born and live and die all in darkness…Thousands of years ago, there came a night that lasted a generation. Kings froze to death in their castles, same as the shepherds in their huts, and women smothered their babies rather than see them starve…So is this the kind of story that you like?”
Bran nods, yes.
Like so many humans (especially teens), Brandon wants to be scared, which is a little odd when you think about it. Fear is a generally unpleasant emotion that can damage health in large doses and weaken performance. But in controlled environments, fear is sort of fun. Why?
This is a complicated question that I try to answer in detail in The Fear Project (now available for pre-order), but without getting into the weeds, here are a few basics.
Most of us like feeling awake, and when you strip it of its negative associations, fear is basically a stimulant. Just like caffeine, it’s pleasant in small doses and can even improve athletic and cognitive performance (“small doses” being the key part of that sentence).
As Dr. Joseph LeDoux told me recently, when we see, feel, or hear something scary, our sense organs route a message to an ancient part of our brain called the amygdala. The amygdala tells the body to shut down non-essential functions like immunity, digestion, and sex-drive, siphoning that extra energy to muscles we might need to survive. Part of this process also includes an adrenaline boost that speeds up heart-rate. The amazing part about this completely unconscious response is that it’s lightning fast, faster than the time it takes us to consciously think about it. That’s why we jump and spill our popcorn when the murderer leaps out of the bushes. We know consciously it’s just a movie, but our fear response is faster than conscious thought. It had to be to keep us alive in the wild, and it still has to be to keep us alive on the freeway.
So during a scary or suspenseful movie we’re constantly getting hit with these little energy shots of fear, but then our conscious mind catches up and reminds us it’s just a movie. This ebb and flow of relaxation and fearful stimulation — flux between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems if you want to get technical — creates a nice cocktail of adrenaline and dopamine that makes the movie enjoyable.
Extreme sports aren’t so different. When you launch off a cliff on the ski slopes, there’s a quick, fearful energy boost looking over the edge, but when you land (hopefully) in three feet of fresh powder, unharmed, there’s a sense of relief that keeps the fear response from mounting into panic and keeps the adrenaline at an enjoyable level. (In large doses, adrenaline can actually be toxic to the body.)
Some of us, like Brandon Stark, like being scared more than others. The reason Brandon is lying in bed listening to stories is that he was dare-devilishly climbing the walls of Winterfell when he was pushed off. Even after being paralyzed from the waist down, however, Brandon only yearns for adventure. This qualifies him as what psychologists often call a High Sensation Seeking personality. HSS personalities — according to Dr. Marvin Zuckerman, who developed the sensation seeking scale — tend to get more pleasure out of the novel, scary, and often risky situations they get themselves into than the average person. One reason seems to be that their brains are actually structured differently. They get a larger dopamine release (a pleasurable neurochemical) than average when they encounter a novel situation. Interestingly, this High Sensation Seeking trait seems to be about 60-percent genetic, according to Zuckerman, and appropriately Brandon’s dad isn’t one to shy away from a fight or an adventure either. This is, in part, why the elder Stark is so revered, and it’s precisely that bravery has been so needed during human evolution that Zuckerman says High Sensation Seeking survived in the gene pool. As he wrote recently in Psychology Today:
“Humans are a risk-taking species. Our ancestor Homo sapiens originated in East Africa, and within the relatively short span of 100,000 years or less spread over the entire globe. It turns out that explorativeness may be the key to the survival of the species.”
Hunting, war, and seeking new sexual mates all required a tolerance for high risk, but attraction to risk is “most adaptive when it is in the middle range,” Zuckerman notes. “Too much risk-taking leads to an early death, too little to stagnation.” Brandon Stark may have stepped over the line in Season One, but there is no black and white when it comes to risk exposure, and I have a feeling Season Three will reveal that Brandon’s High Sensation Seeking has benefits too.
Order The Fear Project on:
I ate pig cheeks last night. We’d just arrived in the small, medieval town of Evora, renowned for its hearty cuisine and wines. As one who leans vegetarian, pig cheeks were the last thing I was craving. But sticking to my Portugal road trip policy of openness and zero expectations – and with our waiter insisting the pork cheeks are the best fare in the region – I leapt.
I’m now a huge fan of the pig cheek; and I’ve actually always been fairly game for trying weird foods in my travels. Even as a fairly strict vegetarian, I often broke my vows to sample something bizarre. And as I watched my six-month old son devour his second solid meal ever – pureed carrots – across the table from my pork cheek extravaganza, I wondered if the trait is partly genetic.
Yes, at least according to a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that examined food neophobia – the fear of new foods – and its genetic origins. The researchers surveyed the parents of 5390 different pairs of twins about their children’s willingness to try new cuisine. It turned out that the identical twins were much more likely to share food aversions than the non-identical twins. Identical twins share all their genes, versus only about half that for non-identical, so the researchers concluded that food neophobia is largely genetic, perhaps as inheritable as height, according to Jane Wardle, director of the Health Behavior Unit at University College London, one of the study’s authors.
Other experts think eating habits are more learned. “It can’t all be genetics,” Marcy Goldsmith, a nutrition and behavior specialist at Tufts University, told the Associated Press in regard to the study. “Parents need to offer their children new foods so they at least have a chance to try it.”
It’s true that it would be plain crazy to say openness to food isn’t partly learned. Travel through Oaxaca, Mexico, for example, and you’ll meet tons of kids whose favorite food is fried crickets – chapulines – but you’d be hard pressed to find many kids in the United States who wouldn’t find the idea of eating a single cricket repulsive. Our environment certainly shapes our eating habits, and the authors of the AJCN study don’t deny that. They simply argue that genes are far more important, having a 78-percent influence on food neophobia, with environmental factors only responsible for 22-percent.
I think more studies need to be done to make any definitive statements on the matter, but I find this genetic theory more convincing than the oft-cited theory that willingness to try new foods is an extension of human openness to any new experience. Under this theory, so-called High Sensation Seekers (based on the famous Zuckerman-Kuhlman Sensation Seeking Scale), people who tend to crave new experiences of all kinds, would also be more open to new foods. Hence, shy kids would be more prone to food neophobia and outgoing kids would be willing to eat anything. There may some truth to this. Zuckerman has shown that sensation seeking level is a highly heritable trait too (about 60 percent based on studies of twins), but having done the sensation seeking questionnaire myself, I think the questions – True of False: “I do not worry about unimportant things” – are a little too general to be used in the case of food. And frankly I think this an example of why the scale is somewhat flawed.
I have a dear friend – I’ll cal him J – who has a food phobia and has thus eaten little more than pizza and beef his whole life. That may sound limiting, but this friend is extremely intelligent (he literally scored a perfect on his SATs) and has turned his phobia into a passion for pizza that rivals any Neopolitan pizza chef. J can not only cook the best pizza you’ve ever had. He can tell you where to get a good slice just about anywhere on earth and J knows this because he is a classic High Sensation Seeking personality, constantly seeking new travel experiences, new social encounters, and to top it off, he loves surfing. He has HSS written all over him. The thing he fears deeply, however, is greens. During his bachelor party, in-fact, one of the challenges he had to complete – along with numerous embarrassing public displays of male ridiculousness – was eating a salad. Walking up to strange women and making a fool of himself wasn’t the least bit difficult but you could see genuine anxiety rise up when the salad plate came out. He practically swallowed the leaves whole, downing them with gulps of beer.
Experience tells us that J is far from alone in being a High Sensation Seeking food neophobic. The other extremely food reticent person I know (a big character in the coming Fear Project book), is Jamie Patrick, a professional adventure swimmer who recently nearly killed himself swimming twice, non-stop, across Lake Tahoe, 44 miles. (Tell him that he’s low on the Sensation Seeking Scale.) Now think of all those kids you know that love sensation seeking type sports or hobbies – skateboarding, football, punk rock – but wouldn’t eat spinach if their lives depended on it.
So, in sum, I think this AJCN study is fascinating and well-crafted. It makes sense that food neophobia likely evolved, as the researchers state, to prevent mammals from eating poisonous foods. It makes sense that neophobia was important enough for survival to become a part of our DNA in some cases. And it also makes sense that openness to new foods has been crucial enough to our survival – diversifying our food sources, preventing disease, etc – to also become part of our DNA. But I’d venture to guess the gene(s) for food neophobia and food openness are separate from the genes that tend to lead to shyness (which has also been shown to have heavy genetic origins).
I was a very shy kid, for example, but I’m definitely eating the pig cheeks again before leaving Portugal. Maybe even a few snails.
For more on the Science of Fear, click here.
One shot. That’s what many of these Olympic athletes will get. The stress is nearly unimaginable. How do they deal?
I recently caught up with Jamie Nieto, one of the Team USA Olympic high jumpers, who will be competing in the high jump qualifier in just a few hours. Nieto, who is 35 and likely competing in his last Olympics (extra stress), told me that he and one of his former mental trainers, sports psychiatrist Dr. Michael Lardon, have worked on framing stress positively. “We’d think about all the hardships humans have endured, like being out in the wild and surviving,” Nieto told me. “And that would make you think, ‘if they can do that, I can do this?’”
Elite athletes are going to feel nerves. But it’s how those nerves are framed that will likely affect whether the stress harms their performance. I examine the science of this in detail in my upcoming book, The Fear Project, and it’s complex. But it’s also common sense. Think about giving a speech. If, at the first heart flutter, you think, “I’m going to flop,” you probably will. But if you feel a faster heart-rate and think, “this is exciting. I’m prepared. I’m going to have fun,” the same physiologic response can actually make your speech dynamic, exciting.
Scientifically, there is more to it than this, but basically, stress is just arousal: a little extra adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol in the body – bumping up heartrate, tensing muscles – which, like caffeine, in proper doses, can help athletic performance. The trouble comes, as Dr. Lardon told me recently, when stress triggers over-trying and over-thinking.
When Nieto completes a high-jump, he has done it so many times, the action is already ingrained in his muscle memory, or stored in the auto-pilot part of his brain called the striatum. (I wrote about this in more detail in a recent ESPN Magazine piece.) If his nerves are framed negatively, it might trigger worry, causing the brain’s conscious (and slow) smarty-pants parts to try to butt-in — fix the jump, try to win. Nieto doesn’t need any help from his inner rocket scientist to fix his jump. It’s gorgeous already or he wouldn’t be where he is. Interference from, say, his pre-frontal cortex, near the forehead, is only going to end up in an awkward change in his form that results in a choke. Nieto needs to Just Do It.
“I’m physically strong enough to jump that high,” Nieto has said of the world record height, “but am I mentally strong enough?” That may depend on how he decides to frame today’s pressure.
For more on how athletes can regulate stress and fear, read Dr. Lardon’s superb book, Finding Your Zone. It makes an incredibly complex topic simple.
University of Chicago Psychologist Sian Beilock, author of the new book Choke, also helped me understand this science a great deal. Her book is one of the best for understanding the complexities of stress and performance. Highly recommended.
Check out an interview with Nieto here. Go Jamie Go! Hope you take home Gold, but just have fun.
Vegan terrorists? Yep, they’re out there, one of the FBI’s top domestic terrorism priorities. I just spent a couple months reporting on their primary umbrella organization, the Animal Liberation Front, after the organization anonymously claimed responsibility for bombing California’s largest beef producer, Harris Ranch. (Read the San Francisco Magazine story here.)
One of the most interesting part about my reporting was what I gleaned about the changing nature of activism, specifically the use of fear tactics. When the ALF first cropped up in the UK during the 70s, burning animal testing facilities to protest animal cruelty, huge groups of activists protested when the ALF arsonists were jailed. With more than 10,000 Facebook fans, the ALF still has its supporters, but so many of the vegan animal rights activists I interviewed were angry at the ALF for using fear tactics to achieve their goals. Not only did they say tactics like property destruction or the intimidation of scientists gives the movement a bad name; they also told me fear tactics are just not productive. As the famous Stanford law professor and animal rights attorney Bruce Wagman told me: “All blowing something up does is make people angry.”
At one point in the story, I interviewed the notorious ALF activist, Peter Young, who went to prison a few years back for breaking mink foxes out of their cages. I found Young to be very intelligent and I agreed with him in many of his views on animal welfare, certainly his views that fur farms are barbaric. And really, I would challenge one person to watch some of the horrific undercover videos that have exposed factory farms recently and not see why the ALF feels a need to take immediate action. But I disagreed with Young that the Harris Ranch bombing was “impressive.” Blowing things up always looks stupid and the wrong tactics so often do more harm than good for a cause.
“How is what you guys are doing different from a pro-life activist bombig a clinic?” I asked Young.
“It would be disingenuous for me to say that it’s not very similar,” he said. “That’s not to say I support the pro-life movement, but interestingly, I recently read that it wasn’t until bombings started that the abortion issue really became a mainstream debate.”
Bombing activism was ridiculous in the old days too, but the difference, as I concluded in the San Francisco piece, is that “those initial abortion clinic bombings took place in a pre–September 11, pre-Internet world. If arsons, bombings, and vandalism seemed blunt yet effective in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, now—with a video campaign like Kony2012 getting nearly 100 million views on YouTube—these actions seem utterly counterproductive. Just as blogs, undercover videos, and social networking have pushed many consumers to expect more humane farming practices, those same consumers also seem to be expecting more humaneness (and cleverness) from their activists.”
In other words, fear is out. Creativity is in. And as much as I sympathize with some of the ALF’s goals, blowing things up to get your way is no more noble than mistreating animals. Just like being a good parent means thinking of creative ways to deter your kids from violence (i.e., not hitting them), trying to promote an enlightened society that treats all animals (meat eating humans included) better means leading by example.
Right now I’m traveling through Portugal with my wife, Amy, and our six-month-old son. It’s our first time to Portugal and an experiment for me. While I couldn’t help dreaming of a wonderful trip while we eagerly planned where to stay, I also made a point to read almost nothing about Portugal before coming. The point has been to let the country to fall onto my senses as much as possible like it’s entering the mind of our six-month-old: fresh and without preconceived notions – a Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind vacation.
This has been difficult. We spent three days in Madrid on our way here (also a first for me) and landed in the middle of the city’s riots against the European Union’s austerity measures. Rolling our stroller home from dinner one night, we had to run away from an angry mob burning garbage cans and breaking windows. When we made it safely to our hotel, I found myself saying to Amy: “maybe we should go to Italy.” My plan to be a perfect Zen traveler was being replaced by that yearning for the safe and familiar (not to mention pizza).
We didn’t go to Italy – and my request was met by a disgusted look from Amy who did the majority of planning work for this trip. But I’m glad we didn’t. Portugal turns out to be stunning, and I’ve learned something: With our uber-complex future-oriented brains, it’s tough to find that truly Zen zone of no expectations. But it’s less hard to lower them.
After the riots, I decided Portugal might be terrible. Then, when we arrived in Lisbon…the narrow cobblestone streets, the tiled churches, the Moorish castles, the women drying laundry on the line, the surprisingly good wine: turning each corner that first night was like unwrapping a new Christmas present. Pure magic. I had that distinct feeling in my chest the whole week in Lisbon: Yes! This is why we travel.
Lisbon is a beautiful city regardless of your expectations. But if I had read, say, Frank Bruni’s gushing article about the city in The New York Times before coming, I think it would have been less magical.
And this has gotten me thinking. Expectations are such an important piece of our satisfaction, and so much of the media we consume serves to raise our expectations to ridiculous heights. Our TV stars all have perfect bodies, travel magazines show only the most gorgeous beaches, ski magazines only the most stunning powder days. It’s no wonder we have a nagging sense that things somehow aren’t quite good enough.
It may sound strange to lower your expectations to raise your happiness, but given the fairytale images we’re constantly fed, lowering expectations might just be a matter of bringing them into balance. Consider the fact that Denmark has ranked above any other country in life satisfaction over the last 30 years, and scientists think the main reason is their low expectations. “If you’re a big guy, you expect to be on the top all the time and you’re disappointed when things don’t go well,” Kaare Christensen, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, told The New York Times recently in reference to the happiness study published in BMJ. “But when you’re down at the bottom like us, you hang on, you don’t expect much, and once in a while you win, and it’s that much better.”
In Portugal I’ve learned this again and again. After a starry-eyed week in Lisbon, we headed to Peniche, a surf town. Being summer – they’re season of small waves – I didn’t expect to surf much at all. I didn’t even bring a board. But when we found little one-foot waves a place to rent longboards, I had some of the most blissful surf sessions I’ve had in months on waves that I wouldn’t even look twice at if I was back home in California. On the contrary, being in Europe, I’ve expected food that would send me into spontaneous orgasm, and good Portuguese restaurants, it turns out, are a little less abundant outside of cities like Lisbon. As a result, I’ve found myself extremely grumpy at several restaurants that weren’t really bad. Just not great.
Neuroscientsts have a theory about why this expectation lowering might improve satisfaction. Dopamine, a feel good neurochemical that we get a boost of during sex or after a hit of cocaine, is also increased in the brain when we come upon something unexpected. It’s evolution’s way of motivating us to check out new things – learn. Lowering expectations allows something that might seem otherwise average to be surprising. If you can be in a perfectly present state, letting the world rain down on you as you take a walk down the street or eat a simple English muffin – no thoughts of future or past – surprises pop out everywhere. But since this can be a difficult state for we busy folk to access — save when we’ve just walked out of a yoga class or finished a jog — lowering expectations seems a good fall back.
For those who have been reading my articles for The Fear Project, you may be scratching your head now. Lowering expectations flies in the face of some of those positive psychology studies on overcoming and managing fear. As we’ve seen, doing well in the face of something scary is often about thinking positive, visualizing positive outcomes, debunking our hard-wired negativity bias, and, of course, training hard, which in and of itself requires hoping for a good outcome. But my bet is that ever-elusive happiness is a much more wily dragon to tackle than simply accomplishing a scary goal. Happiness, as so many sages have reminded us, tends to come not with objects or medals or accomplishments but the simple ability to appreciate what is in front of you. And for what’s in front of you to be satisfying — if you’ve been well-trained by our fairytale media – you may have to check your expectations now and again.
There’s probably a balance to find. After all, Denmark is the country that produced LEGOS and the quantum physicist Niels Bohr. They work hard and set goals and accomplish those goals well. If they weren’t optimistic enough to believe they could accomplish these goals, they wouldn’t even set out to attempt them.
So perhaps the Danish have somehow mastered the art of what I’ve been struggling to do on this Portuguese vacation: dreaming big, going hard, and yet expecting… nothing.
We’ve just arrived in the lovely city of Porto. I’m going to continue the experiment.
For more on neuroscience and fear, go to www.fearproject.net
Being in Porto, home of that famous mix of brandy and fermented grapes, I thought I would do a short post on the affects of alcohol on fear. It’s well known that having a drink or two takes the edge off, reducing stress, but psychologists at the University of Wisconsin recently showed alcohol doesn’t affect all types of stress. Consistent with animal studies in the past, psychologists Christine Moberg and John Curtin showed that getting drunk reduces our anxiety, but not our fear, suggesting that these two emotions are somewhat distinct neurological processes.
The researchers demonstrated this by getting university students drunk on 100-proof vodka mixed with juice. They then gave the boozed-up students (all of age) a series of predictable and unpredictable shocks. The unpredictable shocks produced what the psychologists call anxiety because the students didn’t know when the shock would come so they were left with that annoying feeling of uncertainty. The predictable shocks created flat out fear because the students knew for sure that something painful was coming – more like hearing a bear rustling in the bushes and knowing it’s coming for you.
Result? The mixed drinks didn’t change the students’ fear (predictable shocks) but it did reduce their anxiety (unpredictable ones).
The study has other much more complex variables, which you can read all about here, but it may explain why we tend to drink more when we’re stressed out about what will happen in the future. (Will I keep my job? Will Janet leave me? Will I do ok in the speech tomorrow?) But we don’t generally reach for a flask in the middle of an emergency.
So how might this apply to a typical night out at a bar? We all know well that having a few shots reduces the anxiety of approaching a potential mate, i.e., cute girl, studly dude. After all, the potential mate’s response is unpredictable – anxiety. But when the cute girl’s boyfriend (or perhaps studly dude’s girlfriend) taps you on the shoulder and raises his (or her) fist — a predictable cue — good luck getting any benefit from those shots. Hopefully they’ll help with the pain.
I should note, however, that other studies have found that continued use of alcohol to reduce stress ends up having a negative affect on stress and health. In the words Emma Childs, co-author of a recent study on alcohol and stress at the University of Chicago, alcohol “may actually make a person’s response to stress worse, and prolong recovery from a stressor.”
In other words, use only in moderation (and I would personally stay away from the 100-proof vodka all-together). I’m going to go taste some Port now.
For more on the science of fear, stress, and performance, check out www.fearproject.net
Spiders. Snakes. Heights. These are the common fears people list in polls. But, as I wrote a couple weeks ago, a lot of us would rather confront any of these three terrors than have to ask a random beautiful girl or guy on a date. Our fear of rejection is so overblown, many evolutionary psychologists say, because the tribe was such an important part of our survival for hundreds of thousands of years. Fear of rejection is built into us. After all, rejection back in the Serengeti could often mean death.
Obviously, it doesn’t now. One rejection is just that: one rejection. But not to the ancient, unconscious brain — the part that controls fear.
As the military has found, learning to do something scary requires repetition: simulating the scary battle situation over and again until the ancient brain learns that it can survive X scary scenario. In battle, of course that’s not always true. Battle simulation is meant to trick the brain. It is true, however, in dating. But what weirdos simulate asking hot girls or guys out on dates?
It turns out, a lot do. And a few years back — single, naive — I was given an assignment for San Francisco Magazine to spend a weekend with these masters of pick-up. Frankly, I’m still not terribly keen on the pick-up artist scene, but you can’t deny they have cracked some anthropological truths about love, fear, desire, and attraction. Below, the surprising story from San Francisco Magazine of how: repetition can = courage can = love.
It’s an average afternoon at the Z. Cioccolato candy shop in North Beach. The young employees are bored stiff from hours of arranging taffy and playing with toy cows that defecate Dr. Pepper-flavored jellybeans. That is, until Jesse Hull walks in.
Jesse is a 6-foot-2-inch 33-year-old with a goatee and dark, curly hair that he pins back with, not one, but two pairs of sunglasses. He’s flaunting blue and gray snakeskin shoes, Diesel jeans, and a see-through button-down with fishlike creatures embroidered on it. It’s a style pickup artists like Jesse call peacocking, a way to set yourself apart from the masses.
Jesse is one of the many acolytes of Lance Mason, the number-one pickup artist in the Bay Area. As founder of PickUp 101, a two-year-old company that teaches men how to flirt, date, and generally pick up women, transforming average guys into flawless ladies’ men, Mason is the leader of San Francisco’s new posse of PUAs. I’m hanging out with Jesse after my first day at one of Mason’s workshops, which I am studiously observing.
If you haven’t heard of PUAs, you will. You may have already slept with one. They’re men who spend incredible amounts of time zealously analyzing what to wear, say, and do to attract the opposite sex.
Today we leave sunny (flippin’ hot!) Lisbon, and hit the road to find some Portuguese waves. It’s a different kind of surf/road trip than the ones I took in my teens and 20s. I have a 5 month-old, a lovely wife, and my mom is with us. But it feels more magical and rad than ever. Yesterday, we hit the castle-filled town of Sintra and found out that the Portuguese god of the sea is a gnarly local.
You can see why with secret spots he has to protect. This is Cabo do Roca, not far from the Palace of Pena.
Next stop: Peniche.
Like much of the planet right now, I’m obsessed with HBO’s fantasy series, Game of Thrones. I think about it pretty much every waking minute, but there was a moment in last Sunday’s episode that has really stuck with me. It even puts a lump in my throat.
Robb Stark, the honorable King of the North, is remembering his father, the brave Ned Stark, who was so loved before getting unjustly beheaded for trying to save his family and the people of Winterfell.
Robb’s speech went like this:
He was the best man I ever met…. He once told me that being a lord is like being a father, except you have thousands of children. And you worry about all of them: The farmer plowing the fields is yours to protect, the charwomen scrubbing the floors, yours to protect, the soldiers you order into battle. He told me he woke with fear in the morning and went to bed with fear in the night. I didn’t believe him. I asked him, “How can a man be brave if he’s afraid?”
“That is the only time a man can be brave,” he said.
The passage brings tears, I think, because it’s a conclusion I’ve been slowly drawing myself. When I began doing research for my book The Fear Project a few years ago, I thought I wanted to be fearless — a superhero. Like Robb, I would’ve asked my father, “How can a man be brave if he is afraid?” But after reading hundreds of studies about fear and talking to some of the world’s experts on fear science, my view has evolved.
First off, fear is very complex. But the young Robb was right that fear can keep us from being brave. One of the features of our fight-or-flight-or-freeze response is that we can become paralyzed and simply do nothing under threat — a deer in the headlights. Not very brave. Another feature is that we might go into complete autopilot and harm someone we don’t mean to: a scuba diver who, panicking, inadvertently steals his partner’s air supply; a police officer who thinks a man’s cell phone is a gun and mistakenly pulls the trigger. Again, not brave. Study after study has shown that fear and self-doubt also make us perform less than our best. If you tell a group of math students they’re being filmed while taking a test, or that there’s some money on the line — as psychologist Sian Beilock describes in her excellent book Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal about Getting It Right When We Have To — most will underperform from the raised stress. And how can you be brave like Ned Stark if you can’t perform up to par? Ned had to be ready for battle at any moment.
It’s a tough question, and in some ways, Ned is wrong. Fear can be extremely negative. Fear keeps us from living our dreams, makes us scared of people who are different, creating war and racism. It lies to us about our potential. We want to be fearless, right?
Yes, but Ned Stark was talking about a fear for others. If I didn’t fear dropping my newborn son, I’d be more careless with him. If I didn’t fear hitting someone with my car, I’d speed through residential neighborhoods where kids are playing. When I think about the fact that I’ll die, or that my wife won’t be here forever, it makes me a little scared, but it also makes me appreciate the precious time we have together. That makes me a better husband. Fear — in this useful form, the kind Ned Stark was talking about — is not the opposite of love (as so many people oversimplify). It is love.
That said, our stress and fear response is a rather brutish part of our biology. As neuroscientist Daniela Schiller recently told me, the amygdala (the ancient part of our brain associated with fear) sends the same signals — increased adrenaline and cortisol — to the body whether you’re afraid of losing money or afraid for your child’s life. The result is a faster heart rate, sweaty palms, etc. And again, that sort of fear will likely hinder performance whether it’s selfish fear or selfless fear. Imagine a golfer who is stressed about losing a tournament or stressed about his wife’s cancer. Both types of stress might mess with his game.
So, how is Ned Stark right in saying that fear is the only way a man can be brave?
Well, for one, as sports psychology consultant Paige Dunn told me in our recent interview, if you’re not a little afraid, you’re probably not pushing yourself to your potential. Fear comes when we’re doing something new, stretching our limits. Ned Stark was such a good knight and lord — and so loved by the people — because he was constantly pushing himself to do the right thing for his family and his people. He was often tired. He usually looked haggard. But that was why we all loved him. You knew Ned was going to lay it on the line to do the honorable thing.
Fortunately, now some more nuanced scientific studies are beginning to show how the Ned Starks of the world might also perform at the top of their game despite their fear. Beilock’s lab at the University of Chicago, for example, recently showed that performance may not be hindered by fear and stress so much as how we interpret fear, how we frame it. In the Beilock study (page 141 of Choke), math students were asked to take a challenging test and had their cortisol — or stress hormone levels — measured just after the exam. Students who have a pattern of anxiety about math did more poorly with higher stress responses, but students who love math actually did better with higher stress. The reason, Beilock theorized, is that “if you can manage to interpret your body’s [fear] response to the situation as positive, as a call to action, you are likely to thrive. But if you interpret your body’s response as a sign that you are in a bad place with no way out, the worries and ruminations that result may send you into a ‘choke.’” (I recently wrote more about framing stress in ESPN Magazine.)
I relate this type of positive fear to surfing. When I’m in waves that scare me, I generally get excited and the adrenaline focuses me. It makes the surf session fun, and I surf better. The fear is transformed to focus (just like professional skier JT Holmes told me). But if I interpret the adrenaline as a sign that I’m going to get injured, I risk freezing up. I become hesitant, and my performance suffers.
I think Ned Stark was able to use fear to be brave because he learned to interpret it positively, which, in a way, transforms fear from the kind that makes us suffer to the kind that makes life exciting. He took his fear for his people — those “farmers plowing the fields, the charwomen scrubbing the floors, the soldiers he ordered into battle” — and he interpreted the fear as a call to action. That was how he used fear to be a great leader. That’s why he was loved. And that’s why his love was so great.
Now if only I could get over my fear of season two of Game of Thrones ending. How can anyone possibly see this as a positive?
For those who haven’t watched yet, here’s a little visual of the brave Ned Stark. May he rest in peace.
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My first Huffington Post Blog. The true story of how Saltwater Buddha came to be.
Your body is made of about 60 percent water. The blood in your veins is close to the consistency of seawater. Even the human brain is more than two-thirds water. Keeping this in mind, try to feel that original part of yourself. Imagine those elbows and knees, bits of tooth and jaw and skull, dissolving into an aqueous state.
You’re a puddle on the floor now, tension gone. No, larger than a puddle. You’re an ocean.
A light wind kicks up, a breeze that forms ripples on your surface. Those ripples become like little sails, catching more and more of the wind’s push. Feel them grow into mounds, spiraling. These are swells — and you, the ocean, contain them.
Now, get a close-up on one of these swells. See how the body of the swell is a domino effect of wind energy transferring between water molecules. Notice how the water isn’t actually moving so much as the energy is, the memory of wind.
What is it like to be that swell, caught in the constant churn of the spiral? What’s it like to identify with it: an individual with your own unique properties?
So there you are, an oceanic swell, traveling miles and miles over mountains and canyons. Nothing can stop you… until… wait, just below: a shimmering speck of gold. Then more of them, many specks, little stars looking up. Sand. You’re coming into the beach.
Churning momentum, grinding against earth, you trip. All your weight is thrown out and over. This is your moment in the spotlight, your flash of real firmness. You’re becoming a thing — a wave.
You hit earth and spread in all directions, fingertips reaching out onto that warm beach, settling briefly before being sucked back back back. Back into the formless. Back to containing all these individual waves and spirals, gyres and rivulets, all these births and deaths. Until, of course, the next brush of wind. Until the next time you take shape.
For months, this is the little meditation I would guide at bookstores before doing a reading from my first book, Saltwater Buddha. It’s something you might say to an audience to relax them, but for me, it was totally selfish. It was to relax myself. I’d written the book at 26, fresh out of journalism school, insecure. Now being on book tour was the most terrifying thing I’d ever done. I had a fear of public speaking, for one. But I was mostly just afraid of ruining my life. I’d worked my ass off to go to the best graduate school in journalism, all to become a “serious” writer, and I’d been sort of doing it: living in New York, smoking cigarettes, writing about politics, sex, and death. I had a good act going. But somehow, just as things were getting official, I’d also decided — through the urging of a little-known publisher who’d read one of my more bohemian articles — to reveal all the oddest and most vulnerable moments of my life. How I’d run away from home at 16 to focus my life on surfing, how I’d spent a year in a Buddhist monastery and nearly ordained as a monk at 19, and how Zen and surfing had basically kept me from becoming some missing teen on a milk carton. Great, now anything I wrote would be considered the words of some hippie runaway Buddhist surfer. Oh, the gravitas.
The book had seemed like a great idea when I was writing it on a sailboat in Sausalito, Calif. But not long before the release, I’d become so scared of suddenly having my real life revealed — scared, really, of just being myself — I balked. I told the publisher I would give them back the money and shelved the book. It was far too risky to go public with who I really was.
But after some months away — needing money — I reread the manuscript, trying to read it as if I was the ocean recording the journey of just one wave, like it was an anonymous novel I’d picked up at a secondhand bookstore. When I read it like this, I kind of liked it. No, I really liked it.
Long story short, the book came out, got good reviews, and I toured all over the world — Canada, the U.S., Australia, Indonesia. And every single night before I spoke, I wanted to run. Tense chest, sweaty palms. But then, every single time, without fail, once I was speaking, the fear would flip 180 degrees. By the time the presentation was over, I was relaxed, joking, having fun. I felt like the real me again. I was out of the spiral of the wave, free to swim around the boundless ocean — at least until the next time I freaked out.
As it turned out, my fears of the book ruining my life were unfounded. Nobody shunned me or threw me out of the journalism club. I could still do serious writing (although I realized taking yourself seriously is sort of a bummer). Some incredible filmmakers even started making the book into a documentary. What the hell had I been so scared of?
I still use the wave meditation for myself. It reminds me that we’re all individuals with complex stories — waves who think we have lots of problems, who think we’re separate from the ocean. But we all also have the capability, at any time, to remember we’re necessarily connected to all of nature, all beings, all times and places — oceanic. Every one of us contains water that has lived on the earth since the very first days of our planet. We are literally just water and sunlight being born and dying over and over and over again, recycled into various forms, various waves.
Some people call this oceanic self God or Buddha nature or the super-ego. I have no clue what it is. But my experience of life is that we fluctuate constantly between ocean and wave. When we put down our usual story and feel connected to the big picture, the ocean, fear doesn’t bother us. But it doesn’t take long to get caught in the spiraling churn of self-obsession again, where every little fear feels paralyzing.
The book tour made me realize this more clearly than ever, and I spent the next few years trying to figure fear out. I read reams of books and interviewed many of the world’s experts on fear: neuroscientists, psychologists, extreme athletes, sports psychologists, phobics, artists, meditation masters. I also started treating myself as a lab rat, pushing myself to confront the fears that I felt were keeping me from living the life I want to. Three years later, I’m far from being fearless — and actually don’t want to be. Fear has benefits, it turns out. But the research has been so life-changing, I put the story into a book called The Fear Project. The book comes out this winter from Rodale. But fear — like love — is such a vast topic, I could never fit everything I’ve been finding into one book. I also still have so much to learn. That’s the reason for this blog.
In a way, fear is the most basic, simple, primal emotion. It evolved in the same way in all of us. It functions in our brains and hearts in much the same way. It arises in the mind and can cease in the mind — a fabrication. That said, there are a million nuances to fear that scientists are beginning to uncover, nuances that can be extremely helpful in learning how to manage fear’s crafty ways. It’s these nuances that I’ll be focusing on here.
In the upcoming weeks, I’ll post discussions about fear, stress, and courage with the likes of a world-champion mixed martial artist, a Stanford neuroscientist who studies meditation, a record-breaking ultra athlete, a famous physician who surfs the biggest waves on earth, a pathologist who became a shaman, an extreme skier with ADHD, a Buddhist monk, a Mavericks champion who battled drug addiction, and so many others — as well as post my own experiences. A few of these interviews, in their raw form, are already up on my book’s website, www.fearproject.net.
Fear won’t go away. Fear is there for a reason, a survival tool. But we can change how we react and view our most primal emotion. It can be a huge deal that becomes literally what we are. Or it can just be an occasional flicker on the ocean of mind.
For more by Jaimal Yogis, click here.
For more on Becoming Fearless, click here.
I’m super excited to launch The Fear Project blog today. For the last few years, I’ve been researching how our most primal emotion works: how we can better overcome, deal with, and even use fear. I’ve been talking to some of the world’s top scientists, doctors, athletes, artists, and spiritual teachers, as well as investigating my own fears and anxieties (they seem sort of endless). It’s a journey I recount in detail in The Fear Project book (out this winter from Rodale). But fear — like love — is so vast a topic, I couldn’t even attempt to put all my research into one manuscript. Hence, The Fear Project blog. Here you’ll find extensive interviews with athletes like world champion MMA fighter Urijah Faber and ultra-swimmer Jamie Patrick. You’ll also find discussions with neuroscientists, psychologists, business leaders, artists, and spiritual thinkers, as well as incredible real life stories, tips for dealing with fear/stress/anxiety, and a lot more.
One thing I’d like to add to the site is YOUR STORIES. It has been proven over and over again that writing down our fears is one of the best ways to be released from their paralyzing grip. Sharing our fears — whether an old fear we’ve overcome or one we’re still dealing with — is one of the healthiest things we can do. So, email me your story, or even just a story idea, and we’ll figure out how to post it on the site or even include it in the book.
We all experience fear. It’s a biologic imperative. And yet fear can also hold us back from living the lives we want to. I think understanding fear thoroughly is one of the keys to a happy, enlightened, thriving planet. Please join me in shining a light on our darkest, most primal emotion.
Look forward to hearing from you. And for more regular updates, follow me on Twitter.