Fear as a driving force

Zac Bower works as a snake handler at the Australian Reptile Park.

In his profession, Zac regularly milks hundreds of venemous snakes a year for their venom. Everytime he has finished milking a snake and putting it back in its enclosure, his hands tremble with fear. Having done this task successfully all these years hasn’t reduced his instinctive fear of getting bitten. The risk is higher still, given that Zac is allergic to the anti-venom that can save him if he’s bitten.

Fear often keeps us from achieving the things we want to. A person of a weaker resolve than Zac’s would have quit handling snakes. Yet, even in more mundane situations, fear holds us back. It keeps us from putting our hands up to volunteer or to ask a question. It deters us from pursuing projects we have always wanted to. It prevents us from reaching our potential.

Our response to fear is to often wait for it to go away. We tell ourselves that we will do something once we overcome that fear. Yet, our fear is hardwired. We will never overcome certain fears – even when the stakes are far lower than getting bitten by a deadly snake.

On knowing that fear is a constant companion? How do we deal with it? How do we dance it?

There is a means to turn our fear into a motivator. The key is to ask ourselves which of the two things we fear more. Is it the act of trying and failing at something? Or is it the act of not having tried and regretting it later?

In most cases, we only realize too late that our regret of not having ventured is greater than the fear of failure. In Zac Bower’s case, this choice is clear. Sure, Zac fears the snakes he handles, but his work saves thousands of lives in Australia. The fear of walking away from a contribution that saves those lives motivates him more than the fear of getting bitten.

The next time you sense fear holding you back, ask yourself what you fear more – the potential failure or the missed opportunity?

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