Fear As A Compass


“It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.”

-Telamon of Arcadia, mercenary of the fifth century B.C.

In 2014 one of my mentors recommended The War of Art by Steven Pressfield to me. I have revisited it a few times since then and each time gain a little more insight from the book. This time through what really resonated with me were his thoughts related to fear:

“Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North – meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing. We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others. Rule of thumb: the more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

Are you paralyzed with fear? That is a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it. Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That is why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there would be no Resistance. Have you ever watched Inside the Actors Studio? The host, James Lipton, invariably asks his guests, “What factors make you decide to take a particular role?” The actor always answers: “Because I am afraid of it.” The professional tackles the project that will make him stretch. He takes on the assignment that will bear him into unchartered waters, compel him to explore unconscious parts of himself. Is he scared? Hell, yes. He is petrified. If you are paralyzed with fear, it is a good sign. It shows you what you have to do.

If Resistance could not be beaten, there would be no Fifth Symphony, no Romeo and Juliet, no Golden Gate Bridge. Defeating Resistance is like giving birth. It seems absolutely impossible until you remember that women have been pulling it off successfully, with support and without for fifty million years.”

In my line of work my compass mainly points to difficult conversations that need to be had. There is a moment when I being to rationalize, and think about why I don’t need to address a problem early. But with the compass in mind, it helps to propel me forward.

What is your fear telling you?


Leave a Reply