The Month of Courage: Overcoming the Fear Factor

“There is an infinite quantity of confidence available in the universe- feel free to take all you like.” -unknown

What is the one thing that terrifies you more than anything else in the world? What great things could you accomplish if fear was not holding you back? Why are you afraid?

Fear. Just hearing the word causes a visceral reaction. What are we so afraid of?

This past month has been the month of integrity, and I am confident in saying that the Month of Courage will be much more challenging. It is not easy to develop integrity, but at least we understand it. We know what it means to be honest, for the most part, though living honestly is a challenge. Courage is different. Both courage and fear are such abstract concepts that they can be hard to wrap our minds around.

For us to understand, and properly implement the month of courage we must eliminate the fear factor. The more you try something that terrifies you, the greater your capacity to beat with that fear. Here are a few pointers to help you overcome your fear, and set good goals for the month of Courage.

1. Sometimes it helps to scream. I used to love jumping off of cliffs in Lake Powell, Utah. When the cliffs were higher than 30 feet, it was impossible to convince myself logically to jump. But, if I screamed some goofy quote like, “the only thing to fear is fear itself” or “give me liberty or give me death” as I jumped, it would help me override my natural instincts. Our natural instincts are very powerful, but they are extremely outdated.

Think about the lest few thousand years of human existence. They have been filled with famine, war, and numerous other terrible threats to our lives. The vast majority of these threats have completely vanished. When you stand up to give a speech in front of a hundred people there is zero chance you are going to be mauled by a tiger, or harpooned by a rival hunting gang (although I don’t know the actual statistics on that), yet your mind doesn’t get that- it still sends you this fight or flight response. You need to scream (even if it is silently to yourself), and use that adrenaline to give you strength to override your fear.

2. Abandon irrational fears. As a society we have been programmed to fear all strangers. This becomes a huge liability for us. Say I am taking an elevator up to the 8th floor of my building, and there is a man in a suit standing next to me silently- why on earth should I be scared of this person? It makes no sense. I should not be afraid to strike up a conversation. So I speak to him. The same holds true with talking to strangers in almost any context, what is the worst that could happen? If you try and start a conversation with a stranger, or even someone you are hoping to meet, and it doesn’t go anywhere, what have you lost? What did it cost you? This is the month of courage, so stop fearing strangers.

3. If we are prepared, we will not fear. Have you ever done a group project where one member of the group does not want to practice the presentation out loud? They make an excuse like, “I will be ready, I just don’t like to practice in front of people.” If they are too afraid to practice in front of their own group, how will they possibly be ready for the real thing? Practice out loud over and over again if you are making a presentation, sales pitch, or important call. Before I give a talk I practice out loud as many times as possible within 24 hours of the presentation. There is nothing that helps overcome our fear of speaking more than being prepared.

Hopefully this provides everybody with some good ideas for their April goals. Good luck, and I hope the Month of Courage can be a meaningful one!

Submitting to Publishers

How do I get my book idea published?

For those of you that have never tried to get a book published, here is how it works. First, you send a query letter to the publisher. This is a one page explanation of what the book is about, why people would buy it, and why you are properly suited to write it. The query process may take a month or so. There are examples of good and bad query letters in The Writer’s Market (a great resource for aspiring authors).

The second step is the book proposal. If the publisher likes your query letter, they will request a 5-10 page book proposal. This is kind of like a business plan for your book. You explain how the book stacks up to the competition, why the book is unique, and more details about who you are. This will usually include a table of contents of the book, and maybe a chapter or two. This part of the process will take another couple of months.

Third, if the publisher likes the query letter, and likes the proposal, they may request a full manuscript. If they like what they see- they send you an advance ($500-$1000 for first time authors). The interesting thing is that you don’t even need to have a manuscript to get a publisher interested- many authors receive an advance on the book before it is even written simply by writing a good letter and strong proposal.

BOOK UPDATE

In NYC I met with a publicity firm named Krupp Kommunications. They recommended that I submit my manuscript to some smaller publishers. One in particular is Benbella Books. They are a publisher out of Texas that publishes about 15 titles per year. I was given the phone number of someone named Glen at Benbella, so I called and spoke with him for a minute about my manuscript, I said that Krupp had recommended Benbella for my book. He told me that I should email in my proposal, and he gave me his email. He said he would get back to me in 1-2 weeks.

This was good news, far quicker than the normal submission process that usually requires paper submissions, self-adressed stamped envelopes, and a lead time of 3-4 months. So I jumped online to read about what was expected by Benbella in their proposal (most publishers have submission guidelines on their website). It turns out Glen is not just one of the editors, he is the Founder and President of Benbella, the company was named after his two children Ben and Elisabeth. The point is by networking through Krupp I had skipped a couple of steps- and got straight to the decision maker. It gets better.

I emailed out my proposal (expecting to hear back in 1-2 weeks). 30 minutes later Glen emails me back asking (1) if I am using Krupp for my publicity, and (2) If I can send him a few sample chapters of my book. I responded in the affirmative to both questions, and I look forward to hearing back from Benbella soon. This was a great lesson in the power of talking to the right people.

Don’t be afraid to network, in life it often helps us skip a couple of steps, and make it past the gate keepers.