On Being Fearless (ha!)

Alternate title: What do gymnasts and entrepreneurs have in common?

Last week, when the article about my Excelerate Labs Demo Day experience ran in the Chicago Tribune, one thing in particular stood out to me. Was it that I was doing a handstand on the cover of the freaking business section? Maybe it should have been, but no. It was the headline.

The first part is certainly true – I’m very serious about Whimseybox – but the second part? It’s part of a great quote by Excelerate Labs Executive-in-Residence Tony Wilkins. (Really, an amazing quote.) But… me, fearless?

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about fear in the last 10 years. I’ve read Eckhart Tolle and Don Miller, Henry Thoreau and Julia Cameron and many, many others. Seriously, I’ve spent hundreds of hours thinking about this. I’m not sure if there are really fearless people. I tend to doubt it, but I know some really badass people so maybe. Either way, I know one thing – if there are fearless people, I am not one.

Once upon a time I thought that maybe one day I would finally be fearless, and then…. then I would do all the stuff I dreamed of.  Now, I try to just do stuff anyway. What changed? Nothing. I just realized that I wasn’t going to wake up one day and feel differently, so I had better get started.

And that’s what a great gymnast and entrepreneur have in common- they work through it. The fear remains, but they keep going anyway. You know when you’re watching the Olympics and see a gymnast perform unimaginable feats on a 4″ wide beam? She’s scared too. Focused, strong, talented, well-prepared too, but also scared. But she stands up there because she’s figured out how to do it anyway.

A few more things we have in common…

Great coaches. I’ve had good ones and bad ones. The bad ones drop you and you get hurt. The good ones you trust with your life.

Conditioning. It’s really a matter of inertia. If you worked hard last week, you go into the next week stronger than before. If you didn’t, you suffer. I try to keep up the momentum.  It’s the best I know how to do.

Team. Most people think of gymnastics as an individual sport, and it is, but it’s also a team sport. Not just in competition, but in practice. Different strengths, different weaknesses, different personalities all come together to create something more than just the sum of it’s parts. The Whimseybox team is small but mighty, and now we have the Excelerate Labs team on our side too. Look out world!


Related, on Seth’s Blog: Conservation of Anxiety


  1. Tony Wilkins says:

    I reiterate – fearless – but will accept the friendly amendment that it doesn’t mean ‘never fearful’ but rather, able to stifle it when it’s show time and not let it influence the performance. Technically speaking, you rock. Please continue!

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