Creativity, Part 5 of 10: Dealing with fear

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A note from the author:

By now you have been exposed to numerous techniques for generating original ideas.  Excellent!  But unless you use those ideas, and can implement them in the real world, who cares?  Often ideas aren’t acted upon because of fear.  Let’s learn how the Prince of Belle learned to deal with the fear that comes from facing the unknown…

Dealing with Fear

During the intervening days, the prince practiced nonstop on breaking routine and questioning everything about his day. He found it became natural after a very short time to notice a routine, and then break it in some subtle way.  He got more and more enthused as he discovered how much fun it was to do. As evening fell on the third day, he once again found himself entering the clearing, lit by torches and brought to life by the energy and presence of the magicians.

Tony was the first to notice the prince.  Never one to wait too long, Tony enthusiastically grabbed the prince’s arm and immediately gave him his first task. 

Turning the prince around, Tony said “Good evening my friend!  I have been looking forward to our lesson tonight!  Let us commence! The first thing you must do is to pull a ten-foot-long wooden pole out of this satchel.” As Tony said this, he handed the prince a finely polished black leather satchel about the size of a loaf of bread, with a shoulder strap and silver latch on the front.

The prince looked away from the satchel and at Tony with a puzzled look. Tony returned the look with a smile; a smile that quite frankly, was starting to irritate the prince.

The prince exploded in frustration. “How am I supposed to pull a ten-foot-long wooden pole out of this satchel, in the dark, with you all no doubt ready to laugh at me, without knowing how I’m going to do it, and what I’m going to do if I can pull it out?” said the prince, more than a little annoyed.

“Excellent! Beautiful!” said Tony. “I couldn’t have asked you to say anything more perfect. You are afraid of jumping into the water!  Fear is the biggest killer of creative ideas.  Fear of the unknown, fear of ridicule by one’s peers, fear of failure, the list goes on and on.  Even before we learn how to generate ideas, the first thing we must deal with fear.”

“To deal with fear, we must either Manage it, Reduce it, or Eliminate the fear.”

“Ideally we should be able to eliminate fear.  If that is not possible, we need to learn to manage or reduce the fear to be able to act in spite of the fear.  This is a major theme of all of our lessons—to take Action.”  

“It is not what you think that matters

It is what you DO

with what you think

that changes the world.”

Deal with Fear: Tony’s Name Spell

“If you remember, the first day we met on the ship I told you that the answer to your question was in my name, so let’s look at my name again to see if we can begin to find an answer to the question of dealing with fear.”

In answer to the prince’s unrelieved look of confusion, E’mussa stepped forward to continue the lesson. “Tony is being purposely evasive to ignite your curiosity” said E’mussa, as she playfully gave Tony a disapproving look. “But I think your curiosity is plenty ignited. Let me explain.” 

“If you stretch your imagination a little” E’mussa continued, “T-O-N-Y spelled backwards might be pronounced Y—Not?”

E”Mussa began to unravel a scroll she had in her hand as she said “Asking ‘Why not!’ is a very powerful counter spell when fear is experienced.  The entire counter spell consists of asking three questions.   When faced with a challenge, and he feels fear arising, Tony asks himself these questions: So saying, she displayed the scroll in her hand on it was written the following:

The First Question: 

Why Not?  

What is holding him back?  Can he act in spite of that? 

The Second Question:  

What is the worst that could happen should he take a risk? 

 Then Tony asks… 

The Third Question:   

How can I reduce the seriousness of the worst thing that could happen?  

E’Mussa added: “This counter spell for fear can be useful for an individual experiencing fear, and also for groups about to go through a change.”

Tony, anxious to get back to teaching, chimed in. “These are the questions I ask myself when starting an adventure or implementing an idea. More often than not, just asking myself the first question,  “Why not?!” gives me the courage and perspective to go ahead.” 

Dealing with Fear: Take One Tiny Leap

The prince was thoughtful for a moment, then added: “For this fun example, this seems simple to do, but I have much more serious challenges facing me at home. How can I control my fear at facing those challenges?”

Tony replied, “Right now, it’s important that you concentrate on the present, not on all of the possible challenges you will face in the future. However, since you asked, here is another idea to help reduce the seriousness of the worst.  Try this: when possible, take a small step toward putting your plan into action and see how it’s working before putting your plan into action full force. Remember, t0 see how cold a river is, you don’t have to jump in over your head, you can just stick in one toe!”  

“When you take the first step and accomplish that tiny little act, the necessity of which may be apparent only to you, you will be astonished to feel that the effort, rather than exhausting your strength, has strengthened it—and that you already see more clearly what you have do to do next.”

Dealing with  Fear: Don’t get Tied up in “Nots”

“Excellent,” said Tony. “So now, you have one way to help manage, reduce or even maybe eliminate fear. The next way to succeed in managing, reducing or eliminating fear, is to fail.”  

“I beg your pardon?” said the prince astonished. “I thought you would want me to succeed!”

“Of course we do!” said Tony, “And to learn to deal with fear, we

want you to experience that fear right here with us around you for support, so you can learn to control fear, and not be controlled by fear.”  

“Beware, the tree behind you is about to start chanting her spells to cloud your mind.”

The prince looked back at the tree, which indeed now appeared to be sending tendrils of flame into the night sky.  As the fire flashed out, 

The prince heard a voice in his head, chanting things that made him doubt his creative ability. 

He soon realized that he had often heard these malevolent voices countless times before. He heard things like “You’re not good enough”, and “Who do you think you are?”, and “If the rest of the group knew the real you, they would know you are an imposter and would never listen to you”.

Ras spoke up then. “The counter spell to that voice in your head is a

called “Tied up in Nots.”  The voice in your head clouds your mind with all the ways your ideas will not work.”

Now Tony spoke up. “Prince, there are two parts to this powerful counter spell that will help you untie these “nots” of unproductive messages in your mind.” 

Dealing with Fear:  Failing A Lot

 “Here is what to do–Try many, many things, with the understanding that you probably will make lots of mistakes.  Remember though, if you just have one idea and it fails, it could be devastating.  If you have dozens of ideas, and a few fail, you still have many ideas that may work.”

Tony continued, “This is similar to playing cards. If one player has ten pieces of gold to risk on a bet, and another has 1,000 pieces of gold, whom is more likely to bet more, and bet more often?  The one with the most to start with, of course.  If you only have one idea, and it fails, it could be devastating. However, if you have 1,000 ideas, and hundreds of them fail, you still have hundreds that worked!”

Dealing with  Fear:  Never Failing

Tony unconsciously had stood up in his excitement and was pacing slowly back and forth in front of the prince as he pressed on his points.   “So, our first counter spell is to fail a lot. Our next counter spell is to never fail.  This seems to disagree with the first counter spell, until you understand that the only way to fail is if nothing was gained by the experience. If you can keep a cool head and learn from your mistakes, then by our definition, there really are never any failures — just lots of opportunities to learn!” 

E’Mussa chimed in. ““That is why we were kidding Tony about his and-and-polished -metal idea. At first blush, nothing came of that but a little embarrassment, but with Tony, that germ of an idea may end up as something revolutionary.”

The prince began to comprehend the idea behind this counter spell. He said out loud: “I have to give myself permission to fail, or more exactly, cultivate in my mind the attitude that there is no failure as long as I have learned something each time, even from solutions that did not work..”

Tony replied enthusiastically. “Yes, Prince!  What a wonderful ability this is to nourish. Problems will happen; obstacles will come across our path in life—guaranteed. When we use these obstacles not as something to fear, but as a fire to temper our steel and make it stronger, we become energized, and we actually seek out other challenges!” 

Tony then paused for a moment before quietly adding, “We will pause here for the evening, and reconvene tomorrow at twilight. Prince, go  for a walk now and sort through all we have told you. Before you go to sleep, review in your mind the different dishes we served tonight: The two ways to manage, reduce or eliminate fear:  Tony’s Name spell with the three questions, and how to not get Tied up in Nots by stopping the toxic voice in your head that can kill ideas.  Now that we have some idea how to conquer fear, tomorrow evening we will start to teach you techniques to take creative action and generate ideas at will.”  

A note from the author:

We are halfway done with the book!  In the very next installment, you will start finding out how the Prince of Belle will overcome the four challenges! 

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