Is Fear Holding You Back?

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- In the summer of 1990, while on summer break between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I received a phone call from my ROTC detachment. They wanted to know if I would accept the position of 'GMC Advisor' upon returning in the fall.

"What's that?" I asked.

The voice on the other end of the phone explained that if I accepted the position, I would essentially be responsible for all sophomore and freshman cadets next year. I was shocked. What if I couldn't handle the responsibility, and failed myself and others? I was unable to respond to the request as fear briefly took over.

Has your supervisor asked you to do something that is outside of your comfort zone? When asked, how do you respond? As a supervisor, have you challenged your Airmen to step out and test new skills or talents? Have you seen that look of fear when they realize what it is you are asking of them?

To overcome fear of the unknown, we must understand fear.

Fear, as defined by, is a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil or pain, whether the threat is real or imagined. According to Brian Germain, author of Transcending Fear, "Fear happens when we retreat into our minds. Our perception of the situation becomes the only possibility we see, and we drift into our neurotic little world of limitation caused by negative visualization and negative expectation."

Often it is neurosis and negativity that keeps us from moving forward, not the situation. Fear is what creates the danger. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." We have to overcome or transcend the fear to make progress.

I did finally manage to respond to the voice on the other end of the phone. I accepted the challenge, which allowed me to test and hone leadership skills that I may never have developed otherwise. Had you asked me 20 years ago where I would be today, I never could have guessed that I would be commanding the best Air Control Squadron in the Air Force. Conquering my own fear in that brief moment played a part in bringing me to where I am today.

Challenge yourself and challenge your Airmen. You may be surprised by the results.