Fear. Courage. Courage. Fear.
Which one comes first?
If you think about it, in order to bring forth courage, there must be some challenge you’re facing that requires it. And, inevitably, that challenge stirs up fear.
And what does unmitigated fear do? Exhibit A: the stock market this week. Panic selling has sent the market into a precipitous plunge. There’s a fear of recession, a fear of Russia’s war with Ukraine, a fear of the economic impact of China’s Covid lockdowns, etc. Fear, fear, fear, fear. Panic, selling, loss, pain.
The fear is justified. The reaction is debatable.
Stock sell-offs in the red are a definite loss. Holds might lead to steeper losses, but they might lead to significant gains years from now because the stock market, historically, goes up over time. It swings, sometimes wildly, but its trend line climbs upward.
Now, I’m not here to tell you what to do with your stocks; there are plenty of professionals and charlatans out there for that. But I do want to connect today’s markets to how we panic sell our own dreams.
In the U.S., we’ve been indoctrinated with this idealized sense of success. It’s an airbrushed version that glosses over failure, missteps, inaction, and other blips on the graph.
In reality TV style, this misleading look at success glorifies the struggle by moving quickly through a series of carefully chosen clips of heartache in order to swiftly arrive at the sweet moment of victory. Yet behind almost every successful person or entity is a series of obstacles that can take up quite a bit of time. That time frame just doesn’t make for sexy television.
What I find over and over again is the struggle behind the curtain easily gets forgotten while watching the performance. We see the expert execution on the stage, not the rehearsals and rewrites. This gives us a false sense of what it takes to work toward and ultimately pull off an accomplishment.
Likewise, because we tend to focus on the magical and alluring end result rather than expecting a difficult process along the way, we either never start on our endeavors (thinking we have no idea how to begin) or we quit them before they’ve had a chance to prosper.
Imagine that Lin-Manuel Miranda had the idea for a musical that reimagined the story of our founding fathers with non-white actors and hip hop. Then he said to himself, why on earth would I do that? That’s a ridiculous idea. And he scrapped it and moved on. Luckily, he didn’t because we never would have had Hamilton! But if I had to bet, I’d wager that Miranda had doubts and fears along the way.
Fear is not the problem. It’s a perfectly normal reaction to challenges that are scary.
About a year ago as I grappled with what directions to go with my writing, I received advice that I found crucial to overcoming self-doubt: Meet fear with courage. As fear rises, so can courage. Fear, I also learned in that exchange, can be beneficial because it shows you what is important to you. In other words, if you’re wondering what really matters to you, then pay attention to what you’re afraid of.
If you have a dream you want to pursue, please buy and hold. Don’t panic sell your dream for a low price because you feel overwhelmed by fear as you face a setback. The downs are all part of the uptrend.