Steve Bivans

Author, Fear-Less Life & Self-Publishing Coach

Tag: courage

Fear and Courage: Can Our Fears Be Useful?

[The following is a draft from my upcoming book, The End of Fear Itself]

Fear and Courage: a Positive Relationship?

If Fear can trigger positive reactions and emotions in response, then it still has some use.

I mean, if it keeps you from French kissing cobras, it’s useful. If it keeps you from jumping off a building without a parachute, it’s helpful. If, however, it keeps your mind in a place of scarcity, of hoarding, of distrust of friends, family, neighbors, whole groups of people, or from doing those things that you want to do most, then it is wholly destructive and should be rooted out.

Can Fear trigger positive responses?

Yes, I think it can, but we have to think about Fear in a very different way, as something that occurs naturally, but as a verb, not a noun, a thing.

We need to realize that we can be fearing without having Fear. There’s a big difference between doing, and being or having. Fear, as a noun, is a very bad thing. Fearing, the verb, is momentary, an event, something we do, but we don’t have to keep doing it.

If we own the Fear, it’s always with us, and to a certain extent, becomes an essential part of us.

But fearing can trigger one of the most powerful responses: Courage.fear and courage

We’ll talk more about Courage later in the book, but I want to say, here, that if something fearful happens, and your reaction is to be courageous and face it, then the act of fearing served a very good purpose.

Fear and Courage have a very interesting relationship, in that, one can have Fear, but no Courage. The inverse, however, is NOT true; you cannot have Courage, without Fear. Courage, one of the most positive emotions and mindsets, is wholly dependent upon the existence of Fear, or at least Fearing.

A little fearing can be a good thing, if our response is Courage. More on that later.

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Sellers, Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians,The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

Fear as a Signpost: Where is it Pointing?

How do we end Fear itself?

That’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot the last few months, and I’ve come across a lot more questions than answers.

Facing our Fears is certainly one way, and a pretty effective one, because Courage kicks Fear’s ass every time. But there are lots of subtle Fears that we don’t even know we have, and those are real killers, show stoppers.

I explored that a bit in a recent post, how Writing the Toxins Out, helps us to identify a few of them, but I’m gonna go further on that in a later article, soon, I promise.

For today, I want to briefly muse upon the idea that focusing on what you don’t want, gets you more of the same: the Law of Attraction.

Sometimes, maybe all the time, when we focus too much, or for too long, on the things that are wrong in our lives or in the world, we just create more of it. It is when we stop resisting those negative things, or emotions, that they disappear.

That’s not to say that we should not identify our Fears. I still think that is the first step in dispelling them. But we shouldn’t dwell on them for very long.

Fear as a Signpostfear as a signpost

Identifying our Fears, or the things we don’t want, should only really serve as a way to point us towards what we DO WANT. This comes back to the idea in my post the other day on Golf is Life: What’s Your Target? What do we want?

Fear can point us in the opposite direction, and only then is it useful to identify, or talk about them. After that, other methods must be applied, like rewriting our story to be one of heroic happiness and joy, instead of a victim of Fate.

I’ll expand on that idea in the next few days.

For now, I’ll leave you with this question:

What do you NOT want in your life, and what is the opposite of that?

 

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Sellers, Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians,The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

Beauty in War?: Power of Storytelling, pt 3

[This is part 3 of a series on the Power of Storytelling. You can start anywhere, but if you want to, or feel compelled to, you can start at Part 1: Ruminating on the Power of Storytelling, or Part 2: Human Nature & Old Pianos]

 


I’m a military historian, by training. I study war, weapons, tactics, and strategy. I read and write about how people find ways to efficiently kill each other.

It’s not the most uplifting subject, I know. But I love it. I used to love it because I was Hobbesian, a believer in the nasty, brutish, and shortness of life. Now I love it for a different reason.

The Beauty in War.

I know that many, probably yourself included, would argue that there isn’t any beauty in the senseless slaughter of war, and I definitely get where you’re coming from, and a large part of me would agree. War is completely avoidable, in theory at least, and is chock full of senselessness and tragedy, no doubt about it. But to argue that there is no beauty in war depends entirely upon the focus of your attention, the story you want to tell about it.

That’s because as much as Thomas Hobbes, and his followers–one of which used to be me–want to argue to the contrary, people are generally good.

There, I said it. They aren’t basically evil, or self-centered, and there are so many examples to support my statement that I could write volumes upon it, and maybe I will at some point.

The Other Side of War

One of the things that happens in war is that thousands, or millions of men and women go out and kill each other. But the other thing, or I should say many things, is that men, women, and sometimes children, perform extraordinary acts of kindness, charity, compassion, courage, and self-sacrifice all for the sake of their shared humanity, or for those whom they love, for whom they feel comradeship, and even, many times, for those whom they are fighting against: their enemies.

In fact, I think that the level of beauty in war is equal, or greater, than the ugly that occurs. This is an equal and opposite reaction. And the beauty could not happen, without the ugly. It is very much a Yin and Yang scenario. Without the bloodshed and mayhem of war, you cannot have Courage and Compassion that war brings with it. Courage never exists without Fear–something there is no shortage of in war–and Compassion (defined as to suffer with) cannot happen without a heavy dose of suffering–something war delivers in spades.

This is NOT to say that I think war is a good thing. I do not, although I have said such ridiculous things in the past. I was a bit mentally untidy at the time. War is destructive, and should be eradicated. But when we do, we will also eradicate a lot of opportunities for amazing Courage and Compassion.

Angels in Rivers of Blood

By Something Original at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By Something Original at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

In the American Civil War, Americans slaughtered each other in the hundreds of thousands. Six hundred thousand Americans died during that war. The majority of them died of disease, but plenty of them died of bullets, shrapnel, and rifle butts to the side of the head. It was a brutal war by any account, and compared with any in history.

But that’s only part of the story.

In one of the most brutal of the battles of that war, the Battle of Fredericksburg, in 1862, the Union army attempted to seize Marie’s Heights, the ridge overlooking the city, from General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia. Wave after wave of blue uniforms marched up those hills, and wave after wave of them were mowed down in a hail of hot lead, in clouds of sulfurous gun-smoke to the roar of cannon fire and the smell of cordite.

The first night of the battle was a horrific scene, as thousands of Union men lay dead and dying on the hillside in the cold December air, while an eerie light-show appeared in the heavens—a rare occurrence of the Northern Lights. The wounded cried out in agony for death, for relief, and for the comfort of their mothers, no doubt.

They had no food, no water, no shelter from the cold.

Into this morass waded one Confederate soldier from South Carolina, Robert Rowland Kirkland, with canteens of water, with food, and with blankets. For over an hour and a half he returned, again and again, passing out what little comfort he could to the wounded: Rebel & Yankee alike. Miraculously, no one on either side opened fire upon him, mistaking him for an attacker.

For his bravery, he is known as the Angel of Marie’s Heights. Unfortunately for Kirkland, he would not survive the war. He was cut down in the Battle of Chickamaugua in 1863, but his act of Courage and Compassion in the face of so much inhumanity is now legend, even if it’s also fact.

“War is hell, it’s all hell”, General William Tecumseh Sherman once said.

But that’s only one way to write the story.

War is indeed Hell. But it isn’t all Hell. The story of war can also be written from the perspective of Courage and Compassion, like Kirkland at Fredericksburg. The story of September 11th, can be told as the story of self-sacrifice by firemen and policemen who rushed into those buildings to save their fellow human beings. Many of them never came back. Their deaths, while a tragic, are stories of Courage, Compassion, and Sacrifice.

I recently read a quote from the great Fred Rogers, of the famous, Mr. Roger’s, television show that illustrates this point. He said that when he was a child, and he saw, or heard news of tragedy and death, it would upset him, until his mom told him, “Always look for the helpers.” What amazing advice. He spent most of his life doing just that: looking for the helpers, and becoming one himself.

While war, or suffering in general, isn’t beautiful in and of itself, there is always beauty, usually in the form of Courage and Compassion, following in its wake. You just have to look for that story. It’s always there.

We get to choose the story we want to write, about the world we live in, and about ourselves. So the next time tragedy comes into your story, how will you rewrite it? Will it be one of suffering and defeat? Or will you find a way to make it a story about Courage, Compassion, and our shared Humanity?

 

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Sellers, Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians,The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

Girl Power: Éowyn of Rohan, the Slayer of Fear Itself

[The following is an excerpt from my book, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth, which I offer today as part of my Memorial Day Weekend series, because women struggle and die in war as well, many times in tiny, undeclared wars that we never see or hear about: in their homes, on the street, and at work. You can listen to me read it, below]

“Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!”
Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. “But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.” —LOTR: III, The Battle of the Pelennor Fields

The scene between Éowyn and the Captain of the Nazgûl during the epic Battle of the Pelennor, is possibly my favorite moment in all the books that Tolkien wrote. girl power

The lead up to it is gripping. The Ride of the Rohirrim, and the subsequent charge of the horsemen into the fray before the walls of Minas Tirith are in my opinion, some of the best written prose in all of literature. By the time we get to Éowyn’s stand against the Witch King of Angmar the tension is at its highest. And her fierceness is infectious. I never read that section or watch the movie version without the blood boiling in my veins. If a portal were to open up in the wall that would allow me to walk into that battle, I would do it. There’s absolutely no question about that in my mind. What a strong character she is. I fuckin’ LOVE HER!

What’s funny is that many scholars and fans criticize Tolkien for not featuring women more prominently in his works. It’s true that there are comparatively few women mentioned. But those who are, are remarkably strong characters. Does anyone really question that Galadriel could kick some serious ass? I think not. In fact, she’s probably the most powerful Elf in all of Middle Earth. Arwen, in the books at least, comes across as a marginal character, though if you read the appendices you’ll see that she really was a motivating factor in all that Aragorn did.

But of all the women, Éowyn is the strongest, quite frankly, because of her weakness: she’s only human. She has no special powers, no immortality, only her innate grit and drive to be something more than just a shield-maiden. And nothing whatsoever will stay her on her course. In the end, she, and her faithful companion Merry, take down the Witch King HIMSELF! She kills the one servant of Sauron that no man can kill; she kills Fear itself in what is arguably the most dramatic moment in the books. I think it is significant that the embodiment of Fear in The Lord of the Rings is slain by a woman. In fact, only a woman is capable of doing so.

Girl Power?

What I don’t want to do here is to make some kind of lame, feminist argument that women have some kind of special girl power they can employ to save the Earth. I’m not sure that’s true. Every person has special gifts, and that includes women. Unfortunately, for the human species, women have been relegated to secondary roles throughout much of our history and are still under-represented in leadership positions even in the so-called, free-world. Tolkien did not forget about them; that’s why he had characters like Galadriel and Éowyn. Suffice it to say that women, whether they be Rohan Princesses, or Hobbit Mamas, are essential to the goal of saving the Earth, and not just in their capacities as mothers and home-makers.

I don’t know a single man on this Earth—myself included—who is as emotionally and mentally strong as the women in my family. My mom, certainly of the Rohan persuasion—though she’s not a fan of the books—would stand up to anyone or anything that threatened her family, and woe be unto them. Much of my strength, and fire, I got from my mother, as well as my ability to see through bullshit. My daughter, Samantha, a huge Tolkien—and Buffy—fan, has never been afraid to speak her mind, especially in the defense of the vulnerable, and against injustice. My girlfriend, Patience, has overcome trials that would kill the average man.

Physical strength has been over emphasized for too long. And the assumption—among some stupid men—that men are naturally more intelligent or logical than women, should be buried and forgotten. The world needs the perspective that women can provide. Personally, I think that most women are far braver than men. Think about it for a minute. Women are on average physically weaker, and always have been. They’ve been living in a man’s world for a very long time, a world that can physically dominate them, but they have resisted that and continue to do so. They stare Fear in the face every day, and keep on going. Situations that we men see as ordinary, they see potential danger, and for good reason. But they don’t stop going. And they keep us in line and moving, too.

Women have for millennia been the caretakers of the family, but they are more than that. Most of the modern Hobbits that I see pushing the ideas in this book are women and girls. They are overwhelmingly the ones in the lead for the organic food movement. They are predominantly the ones working for social justice and human rights of all kinds, not to mention animal rights. But women need to be better represented in politics and business if we expect our civilization to survive. We need more Éowyns leading us into a new world, facing the Sarumans and Ringwraiths and taking them down!

We—those who wish to save the Earth—need brave and noble men and women who will sacrifice their time, even their lives to keep the attention of those who would destroy the Earth, distracted, and to resist those Wraiths, wizards, and orcs on every field of battle, whether that be in the street, on the farm, in court, or in congress. But in the end, the only way we can truly save our planet is to destroy the Ring, to change our minds, to realize that we were not put here to rule but to be a part of our earth. We must, in that way, be more like Hobbits, and less like Humans. It is our Hobbit nature that will save the Earth, or nothing will.

 

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Sellers, Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians,The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

How I Write #6: Fear Itself, the Danger of Becoming a Noun

[The following is an example of my writing process. It will most likely be a part of a chapter, possibly the introduction, to my book The End of Fear Itself. I offer it here as Day 14 of my Year Long Daily Blog experiment, and a glimpse of my writing process. It is NOT a polished piece; it is me, thinking out loud about the core concept and thesis of my upcoming book. This is how it works, for me anyway. Enjoy. You can listen to me read this by clicking on the audio file below]

 

In order to tackle a problem, we must first determine what that problem is. Part of that is to define the terms. The term I’ve chosen to use for our problem, is Fear. But what is Fear? How do we define it? This sounds like a simple enough question, but that’s deceiving. It’s not at all simple.

Fearing Fear Itself

In a discussion on Anchor, my friend Antonio Vereen, a veteran of the U.S. Military, took umbrage with the word Fear. For him, it is a very ugly, negative word, and emotion. He basically argued that he did not have Fear, but was instead, on occasion, ‘afraid.’ I’m sure his distinction stems from his training in the military.

Fear is a real problem in all armies, throughout history, something I’ve given thought to, since I’m a military historian by training. Fear can destroy a military unit, quickly, and reduce it to a pile of bones and blood, if not checked, and checked quickly.

Nouns, Adjectives, Verbs

Antonio’s distinction between Fear, and being afraid, is interesting. It’s the difference between a noun, and an adjective. When we ‘noun’ something, we give it form, and a certain reality, beyond just an emotion or idea. It becomes solid, in a way. An adjective, on the other hand, is just a descriptor of a state of being, which is more transitory in nature than a noun. It’s less solid, which may be the reason the military prefers the word, afraid, as opposed to Fear.

The only thing more transitory than an adjective, would be a verb, which depicts action, or state of being. Instead of “I have a Fear,” we could say, “I am fearING,” which means “Right now, I am in a state of Fear,” not constantly carrying around a ‘thing’ called Fear. In this state of mind, one can realize that to fear is a transitory thing, not a solid, negative object that is always in our minds, and always there to block us. It will dissipate over time, or it can. Fearing is only truly destructive, when it becomes Fear, in other words, when it becomes a noun and decides to take up residence in our minds as a permanent force.

Even as a verb, fearing can be destructive if it causes us to freeze when we should act. fear itselfIn a military unit, this is the kiss of death, and the reason why they adopt such mantras as ‘fire and maneuver,’ because sitting still when under fire, is not a good thing to do. Your enemy can zero in on your position, and bring intense fire upon you. If you are in constant motion it is very difficult to do that. It’s harder to hit a moving target than a stationary one. That’s a very good lesson for life, as well.

There IS No Stationary

To remain stationary, is an illusion anyway. Nothing in the entire Universe is stationary. Every rock on the Earth is moving through space at an alarming rate, because the Earth is moving through the Solar System, which is moving through the Milky Way, which is in turn racing through the Universe. Nothing is stationary. But when we think of ourselves as ‘not moving,’ we allow our minds to be controlled by negative thoughts, more often than not, instead of positive ones.

Action is the friend of positive accomplishments. It is also the way to achieve clarity. The personal life-coach, Philip McKernan, uses the motto, “In the absence of clarity, take action,” which is essentially the same thing as fire and maneuver, or as the great General George S. Patton used to say, “When in doubt, attack, attack, attack.” Why? Because if you are in doubt, so is your enemy, or your opponent, or the rest of the world. That gives you an advantage, if you can suck up the courage to take it.

The other reason, is that no matter what happens, when you take action, you will always, always, gain more clarity. If you fail, fall on your face, or crash and burn, you will learn something, mainly, “That didn’t work!” And that gives you clarity, because you now know what DIDN’T work, and can try something new.

There’s a phrase in modern business that is becoming increasingly popular, “Fail fast.” What does that mean? Well, it acknowledges that failure is just part of the process of learning, of growing, of figuring out very cool things. To fail fast, means that you learn those things that don’t work, quickly, and get on to those things that do work. The faster you fail, the faster you gain clarity, and can find what does work.

Fear of Failure

The Fear of failure is one of the most common fears that we all have, to one degree or another. We hate to fail. Why? Because along with failure comes criticism, something else we hate, and at the root, there is a Fear of death, or annihilation: a root Fear. Sometime back in the Stone Ages, our ancestors were faced with death around almost every corner. It was a daily threat. Failure to kill that wooly mammoth might mean starvation for the tribe, or it might trample you into fucking dust!

This Fear of failure has become a real problem in the modern world. We have blown it out of proportion. Failure has become a very dirty word, and we have internalized it. If we fail at doing something, we tend to think of ourselves as being a Failure, a noun in other words. We objectify it. It moves from the verb, failing, to the noun, Failure, and we identify ourselves with the noun, instead of realizing that it’s just a verb. We failed at something. So what? Let’s just try something else! But instead, we say, “I am a Failure,” which is self-defeating, and bullshit. The only way to become a noun, is to stop moving.

Nouns don’t actually exist anyway.

As I mentioned before, everything in the Universe is in constant motion. Because of this truth, there are no things, no nouns. Yes, nouns serve some useful purpose in language; they allow us to chop up reality into recognizable bits that we can talk about. But in reality, the real reality, there are no bits; everything is connected, and everything is in a constant state of flux: every thing in the Universe is verbing, not nouning.

Let’s take the following example. Is there a table, or desk, or chair in your room? Take a look at it. It seems to be a thing, a noun, does it not? You can touch it, move it around, and it’s still there. It’s solid.

But is it?

If you were to take a powerful microscope and examine that table closely, what would you see? You’d see smaller, and smaller bits of what we call matter. But the more you turn up the microscope, the more you find that there are immense spaces between all of these so-called bits of matter, and as you go deeper, you’ll eventually find that there IS no matter at all. What you’ll find, as scientists have, is that in the end, it’s all really just vibrating energy: nothing solid at all.

So that table that you think is a noun, a thing, is really a verb. It is table-ING, not being a table. It simply doesn’t exist as a static table. It is a dynamic, vibrating EVENT. It is transforming every millisecond, and so is everything else in the entire Universe.

Only One Way to Fail

So failing (a verb), can never make you a Failure (a noun). It’s impossible. That being said, you can certainly take on the appearance, or feel that you are such a noun, a Failure. But that can only happen if you stop trying, if you give up, quit, and accept failure. Einstein once said that the only way to fail, was to quit trying. That doesn’t mean that we can’t fail. It just means that it shouldn’t stop us from trying something else, something new. Not every attack, or attempt at success will work. In fact, the vast majority of attempts do fail.

Thomas Edison tried 10,000 versions of the light bulb before he succeeded in creating one that worked, and was efficient enough to sell to the public. He was determined to create the light bulb. He set out on a mission, and continued to press on, even after failing 10,000 times! And what would the world be like if he hadn’t pressed on? We shall never know.

Fear is most destructive when it is a noun, as it is in the title of this book, and in Roosevelt’s speech in 1933, when he most famously declared that “The only thing we have to fear, is Fear itself.” During the Great Depression, Fear was almost almost tangible. One could almost touch it, taste it. It was for sale, almost like a commodity. One might argue that it has always been a commodity, or at least a tool. It certainly is these days. It’s a powerful tool, used to control, to coerce, and cajole entire populations into doing the most destructive things: draw us into war, fuel greed, hatred, prejudice, bigotry, racism, and terrorism.

Maybe we should think of Fear as fearing, or being afraid, like my friend Antonio suggests? To fear is understandable; it happens. To be afraid, likewise. But to objectify, to take that verb, that adjective, and turn it into a noun? It is deadly, destructive, paralyzing. And to be paralyzed is to become a target for any number of negative things.

Danger of Standing Still

The most destructive thing about standing still, isn’t that you’ll be shot, or run over by a train, it’s that you will not. Because at least there would be an end to failure if that were to happen. No, the biggest threat of being paralyzed by Fear—as a noun—is the opportunities that pass us by, that we don’t seize, because we were standing still, shaking in our boots.

To miss out on opportunities is to be a Failure, a noun. To fail to accomplish something, while trying, is just failing, a verb. Let’s be verbs, not nouns. Instead of having Fear, let’s just acknowledge that sometimes we are fearing, we are afraid. But then let’s suck up some courage and attack, attack, attack! Let’s be a verb and keep moving. That’s the only road to success, and the sure fire way to kick Fear’s ass.

So my next book isn’t about the End of FearING; it is indeed, about the end of Fear Itself, fear as a noun. It’ okay to be afraid; it’s natural. Fearing is natural, as long as it doesn’t become Fear. It’s time to put an end, to Fear itself.

Please check out my good friend, Antonio Vereen, and his blog. antonio vereen Website-PhotoHe’s a 20 year veteran of the U.S. Military, who now works as a program manager. He writes on various topics, including success strategies, basic life advice, and his experiences dealing with depression.

 

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Sellers, Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians,The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

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