We all have fears—it’s normal. As humans, our brains are hardwired for fear. All day, every day, our nervous systems are scanning for anything that could threaten our life—from a swerving car on the road, to our personal relationships, to fears at our workplace.

And it’s not even conscious all the time—we’re often unaware of how many fears are running around our mind below the surface, affecting our mood, behavior, and decisions.

I’ve been having some great conversations lately about fear.

Alla Weinberg, author of A Culture of Safety, said the number one job of leaders and managers is to learn “how to regulate their nervous system and how to continue to expand…the amount of fear and discomfort they can stand as a leader before their body goes into survival mode.”

And Jay Samit shared that the popular idea that you can overcome fear is wrong—but that what you can do is prioritize.

As we are building our startup, Nobody Studios, it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole of thinking about everything that could go wrong.

It got me thinking about how so many people fail to realize their full potential because they fail to manage their fears—thus holding themselves back, limiting their potential, or being prevented from taking the bold steps often required to achieve extraordinary results.

The Costs of Letting Fear Run Your Life or Your Team

Google’s famous Project Aristotle, which studied hundreds of teams to try to determine why some excelled and some bombed, revealed an astonishing fact: the number one correlated attribute of high-performance teams is psychological safety.

The opposite of safety, as Alla described, is fear. Yet so many teams and workplaces fuel our innate sense of fear rather than quell it. And that gets in the way of…everything.

When people start to feel fear, they slow down, hesitate, or even stop. And when we’re stationary, not acting or getting any new information, the thoughts in our head just spin around, amplifying themselves with each repetition.

Alla pointed out that when we lead or operate with “fear-based practices and are very reactive to situations, we can’t make good decisions, we can’t create safety on our team, we can’t imagine, we can’t create, we can’t innovate—all of the things that all companies want are blocked.”

When we’re caught in uncertainty or anxiety, we burn energy, but we’re not executing, learning, or progressing. We’re not even thinking clearly, as blood is literally shunted out of the cerebral cortex and sent to our limbs, so we can fight or flee.

So what do we do about all this fear?

Getting a Handle on Fear

First, we need to call fear what it is. Often we use euphemisms like “stress,” “pressure,” “overwhelm,” or “anxiety.” We’re afraid to say we’re afraid, and that stops us from addressing it.

As Tim Ferriss put it, “​​Fear comes in many forms, and we usually don’t call it by its four-letter name. Fear itself is quite fear-inducing. Most intelligent people in the world dress it up as something else: optimistic denial.

Here are more techniques I’ve gathered from my recent conversations with experts.

Inventory Your Fears

I’ve always found journaling to be a powerful practice for gaining clarity, learning, making decisions, and more. I’ve generally included items like my top feelings, decisions, lessons, notes for the future, hopes—but I’ve never included fears, until now.

Inventorying your fears is one of Alla’s top suggestions, and I have to say that doing this has been a major accelerator for me to externalize my fears, manage them explicitly, and also be able to reflect on their realness and importance.

I started doing this last month, and it’s been a fascinating experience to go back and start reflecting, even just a couple of weeks later. I can look at what I was worried about at the time, and consider how much of it has come to fruition and how much of it really matters, or doesn’t.

So I highly recommend fear journaling as a personal practice.

Reframe Your Fears

Another way to deal with fear is to seek new perspectives to see our fears in a new light. For example, a lot of people are afraid to leave a job that seems safe and comfortable to become an entrepreneur or join a startup.

But a different way of looking at it is that starting a company can actually be a great path toward a better job in the future. Or it can simply set you free.

I can’t tell you how many people say to me, “I’d love to start my own business, join a startup or change industry, role, or living location.” Yet most avoid switching it up, instead preferring to stick to their current course, hoping it will improve with time.

The truth is without trying or testing out new paths, it becomes harder each time to try anything uncomfortable, or unconventional in the future—fear takes a stronger grip of your future.

If you’re afraid to leave an unsatisfying situation for the possibility of a truly joyful and fulfilling life, ask yourself which scenario really involves “missing out.”

Managing Fear in the Workplace

Fear is this universal experience, yet so often at work we avoid talking about any emotions, especially fear.

Rich Sheridan, author of Joy, Inc., shared, “My role as a leader is to pump fear out of the room,” to foster a culture of experimentation and innovation.

That often comes down to helping people feel heard and taking action based on such input. It’s important that we can all share what our fears are, and get support to find our way through uncertainty. Any time you can help someone find a small step to move forward and learn will reduce that uncertainty and fear.

It’s also about providing safety for people to speak up without fear of judgment or punishment. How can we create room for dialogue to bring up fears, concerns, and potentially challenging thoughts in a productive way to remove barriers and support momentum?

We need to manage the transparency and vulnerability of the situation and help people not worry about things they can’t control.

I’ve personally found getting the level, detail and/or time frames of fears I communicate to team members hard to get right. What should I share? What will help, hinder or create unnecessary noise for the team? Too much can cause confusion; too little can cause concerns. It’s truly a skill to practice, reflect upon, and adapt for the culture that you work within.
A great first step is to learn how to have conversations around feelings and facilitate them at work. It could start with something as simple as learning to say,  “On <specific time>, when you <the observed behavior>, it had <the perceived impact>. Could we discuss it?”


Alla calls these “clearing conversations,” and they’re opportunities for people to be seen and heard—not to manipulate or cast blame, but actually to form deeper connections.

As a leader or team member, we all have the power and ability to initiate these kinds of conversations and build this kind of culture.

For me, it’s been fascinating and empowering to practice these new ways to relate to fear—becoming more aware of my own feelings, behaviors, and fears, and also seeing it in others and figuring out how I can suck it out of the room to help people perform better.

Facing Fears: Your Turn

The way to snap out of fear is to test it and find out if it’s real or take action to push through it.

So here’s my challenge to you: try recording your fears daily for the next week, and notice what that does for you. Does it inspire any new thoughts or behaviors?

Also, at the end of the week, go back and read over what you wrote down, and ask yourself, “Did this really matter?”

Try picking a fear that you have. Think about a small step or action you could take to test that fear. See if it’s real. What happens when you try to address it? Write down what you think might happen ahead of time, and see if the results match what you thought before trying!

If you want, you can send me your fears list or any thoughts you have about the process. Who knows, maybe if we get enough responses we’ll build a fear tracker app at Nobody Studios!