How to Overcome Fear and Use It to Boost Your Success

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
―Nelson Mandela 

"Sherold Barr" "How to Use Fear to Boost Your Success" "Fear of Failure"
St. George and the Dragon / Wikimedia Commons

I was at my first healthcare technology trade show in 1998 as a PR person representing Microsoft’s Healthcare Vertical Industry Solutions Group, and my client had booked his own event outside the usual venue.  He had invited 7,000 people.  Telling you that I was nervous is an understatement.

My client leaned over that first day and asked me how many trade shows I had done.  I said this was my first.  He laughed and said, “You are drinking from the fire hose!”

How did I manage my fear in the face of this new experience?

I took action and faced my fear.  This was a job I had wanted for one year.  I had set my sights on technology PR and making my niche healthcare technology.  In my small community of Eugene, Oregon, I held one of the top PR jobs – a hospital PR director/spokesperson – and if I wanted to continue my career, it was beyond my community. 

The year was 1998, and working virtually was unheard of at that time yet this is how I started my first business – my boutique PR firm called Extraordinary Work Group.

I had a dream, and I would do WHATEVER IT TOOK to build my dream business.

I commuted for seven years twice or more each month to Portland, OR, which was two hours north so that I could be in the office of the PR agency that had most of Microsoft’s work.  

We ended up buying a second residence in Portland so that I could work from there as needed. I ran everything through my accountant and my business paid my rent on the condo in Portland.  I rented a room to a friend who also commuted into Portland each week.

What I learned was this:  when you have a dream – you do whatever it takes to continuously take action and walk straight into your fear.

I never let an obstacle stop me.  I was unstoppable.  I simply learned a new skill and put in the time and effort to make it happen.

Taking consistent action and accomplishing new challenges gave me self-confidence.  After all if I could handle a big client such as Microsoft and deliver high value, I could do anything!

What I want you to know is that I was not an expert when I got this opportunity.  I became an expert.

I was willing to do whatever it took to be great in this position.  I had the healthcare knowledge, and I was a rare find for Microsoft.  I learned the technology lingo on the job.  Because I was passionate, I made it a strength.  I saw it as a game — a challenge — in how much media coverage I could get.  I wanted to go for the stars and see how many business publications I could get to cover my clients’ customer case studies.

I was not afraid to hear “no.”  I have another story to share in a separate blog on how I learned how to have thick skin and do this, and this is a key to success — not being afraid of hearing “no.”

If you never take a risk because you fear rejection, you will never be successful. 

I never hesitated to contact The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The BBC Worldwide, BusinessWeek, Fortune or Forbes. I knew what the media would be interested in, and I pitched them Microsoft customer stories of how technology was changing the way physicians practiced medicine. 

Guess what?  I got front-page stories from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and got stories from every publication I mentioned above.  When I pitched a story, I was tenacious and even told my employees to nickname me “Tenacious B” (for Barr).   I built media relations into a strength.  I was not trained in PR before I started my hospital job back in 1987.  I took my weakness and learned everything I could about it.  I took something that scared the pants off me every time the news media would call me at that hospital job and turned it into a huge success for my clients and me. 

I faced that fear down and took action.  I knew this – what was the worst thing that could happen?  I could handle almost anything except not giving my dream my 100 percent.

Here’s what I know for sure.  The greater your fear, the more certainty that you are doing what you are meant to do here in this life.  Tweet that!

“The cave you fear entering holds your treasure.”

Joseph Campbell

Now I want to hear from you.  

  • Have you faced down your fear?
  • Have you overcome the fear of rejection (hearing no) and gone for your dream?
  • How have you used fear to help you become successful?

Related Posts

How to Boost Happiness + How We Are Wired for Fear

Facing Fear Is A Victory for Your Soul

Use Fear As Rocket Fuel To Live A Courageous Life

When Did You Start Hiding?


  1. Caroline – thank you so much for your comment. I am happy to hear that you are tapping into your inner wisdom and that it has helped you feel more in balance. I will write more about fear this summer. Seems like a hot topic;)

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