My Fear and Confidence Gap

How a Pro Athlete Deals with Fear to Confidence in Startups, Life, and Entrepreneurship

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When I was 18, I was frozen with fear the first time I got to the free throw line in front of thousands of people, and the red dots of ESPN cameras followed me.

I choked.

I missed the shot.

But I didn’t give up.

What do you miss out on because of your FEAR or lack of confidence that stops you from daring to take risks on achieving a life more aligned with your values, dreams, and goals?

There is a common myth about feeling ready to be successful in the arena of your choosing. I always felt fear when I played basketball. I always felt anxiety. I always wanted to run from it.

But I learned something from this process of daring to face my fears.

The truth is, most people think they need to feel confident before they are successful.


First, ACT confidently.

Feelings FOLLOW action.

Athletes struggle and grow their confidence every day, which is why I think we are a good microcosm or case study for other humans to figure out how to beat their fear and live their best life.

Many of the scientific ideas from today’s piece is from a book written by Russ Harris called The Confidence Gap, but relates to much of my life as a former 12-year pro athlete and world traveler searching for life lessons to spew into the Medium world.

Sports forced me to deal with my lack of confidence. It forced me to deal with my fears. My crazy thoughts. My monkey mind. Much of this stemmed from a lack of awareness and practice in knowing why fear happens, and how confidence erodes internally first.

Fear is a debilitating force that stalls our human potential from happening when we most need it.

Before one can understand confidence, they must know what fear is and how it relates to their life’s work in creating momentum to succeed.

Our species is meant to feel fear, to see harmful threats, to react to stress and let me tell you, fear isn’t the problem —


You can’t get rid of negative thoughts, but you can separate yourself from those thoughts. Much like Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, by learning to observe your thoughts, not fuse with them, you realize how crazy we can act and think at times. We are wired to have fearful thoughts, but the moment we diffuse from those thoughts and use self-awareness, we can start to understand what fear doesn’t get along well with:


Fear doesn’t have to be part of us if we can diffuse from our thoughts, feelings, about it. If we can begin to move. To act. To try. To strive and to pat ourselves on the back when we do.

Diffuse doesn’t mean ignore. It’s like getting off the exit on the highway of fear and watching all the fear cars go underneath you at the overpass. The next time you get scared, feel fear, are afraid to speak up at a meeting, or talk to that good-looking woman/handsome man, say to yourself, “Hey (enter your name), I see that (enter negative fear/thought/feeling) driving underneath me. Thanks for the heads up. Thank you for sharing your negative thought with me.”

But how you deal with your confidence gap after you fail depends entirely on some ideas that Russ talks about in his book. This process is useful to be aware of, especially as I leave the world of pro athletics and begin my career as a startup entrepreneur.

The GAP between having the confidence to succeed and fearing failure is small, and more importantly, it starts with you — with the most modest of awareness and mindfulness practices.

Russ explains these acronyms as a self-practice to move from FEAR-ing to DARE-ing.

F. — Fusion

E. — Excessive goals

A. — Avoidance

R. — Remoteness from Values

Living with these values is an excellent way to feel and practice FEAR. Fuse with your thoughts instead of observing them increases fear. Having excessive goals creates more stress, anxiety, and does more harm then motivation. Avoid the behaviors and process that helps build confidence (being afraid to ACT and shoot game-winning baskets under pressure in practice and games was an example of this for me).

Fear is a lack of practice or a lack of self-awareness or courage within these domains you want to succeed in...

I’ll talk about DARE-ing to be confident later.

Most people want to be successful, have confidence, reach their goals, but rarely do they get there. People might not become confident because their success isn’t their own. Humans often don’t define their success, and that is usually the root of unhappiness, fear, and a lack of confidence.

Russ talks about this process of building success by getting out of your comfort zone every day, by taking small steps and aligning your values and defining your success in life.

Here is Russ’s second acronym to beat fear. He uses the word DARE:

D. — Diffusion

A. — Acceptance of discomfort

R. — Realistic Goals

E. — Embrace our values

Diffuse and observe the negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions. We are wired to have them, not always be them. Our crazy thoughts aren’t always actually us.

Accept the discomfort that comes with growth. I tell kids and adults, if you want to grow, find the edge of your comfort zone and walk the line every day.

Set rtealistic goals.

Live aware of your values.

What are those values? Journal. Write. Reflect. Think about it.

Keep practicing and the Gap of Confidence will be yours.

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