If You're Not Scared, You're Not Doing It Right

Fear as an indicator for love

  • Justin Zoradi
If You're Not Scared, You're Not Doing It Right

I’ve been scared for the last 3 years...

Scared about the direction of my organization, scared about making sure I can pay the mortgage, scared I’m pigeon-holing my career before my 30th birthday.

When the noise of my own self-doubt becomes unbearable, I have a special spot I like to go in Portland down the street from my office (see above). I sit on a grassy hill, littered with weeds, and lean against a broken light post. My spot isn’t picturesque; it overlooks a truck depot and a freeway on-ramp, but it’s mine.

Some people say God talks to them at length. Full paragraphs and jokes and all. For me, on my grassy knoll, God has been more of a broken record lately. When the world feels like it’s crashing down, all I hear are the same two lines:

1. “If you’re not scared, you’re not doing it right.”

2. “Just. Keep. Going.”

I hate when I’m in the middle of it, but fear is good. The more you love something, the more you’ll fear it, because you know it can hurt you. People don’t quit their jobs because they’re scared of them. People quit their jobs because they’re bored of them. You lose the fear, you lose the love.

If you remember anything, remember this...

Fear is an ally and an indicator of what you have to keep doing in life.

Steven Pressfield sums it up well in his groundbreaking work, The War of Art:

“Self doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself, “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The Counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”

Are you scared to death or wildly self-confident? A true creator or a counterfeit innovator? Evaluate your level of fear. You’ll know what you’re meant to do.

- JZ

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Comments (21)

  • Kristin Ritzau

    Kristin Ritzau

    07 March 2012 at 22:43 |
    I feel this way about everything I write and going back to school... but I also carry around a little note in my wallet that says, "I am not my fear." Even though that little voice is there, I refuse to let it dictate my life into paralyzation. Instead I face it head on and find the message it is delivering. Well said my friend. Keep going indeed.
  • Justin Zoradi

    Justin Zoradi

    07 March 2012 at 22:45 |
    Thanks Kristin! And yes, you are not your fear. Great for me to remember.
  • Katie Hunt Sturm

    Katie Hunt Sturm

    08 March 2012 at 04:06 |
    You hit the nail on the head with this one, Justin. Been sitting here for a week, petrified to write anything. Afraid I'll fail, afraid it will be in vain, afraid that I'm not any good. And I think the deepest fear is that I might succeed... because then I'll have to BE the person I dream of being. Then I'll be responsible to it. But I keep trusting in the promise that Perfect Love casts out fear. I mean, I know a lot of people tell you to use your fear, and I'm kinda for that... but more, I want to be the kind of person who has faith in the perfect love that decided I needed to be *exactly* who I am, *exactly* when I am, and *exactly* where I am, doing what I do.
    So good... Thanks, and hope you don't mind that I'm gonna link to this in the post I'm gonna write, despite the fear. :)
  • Justin Zoradi

    Justin Zoradi

    08 March 2012 at 06:45 |
    Thanks Katie. Keep going. That's all you can do. Just keep going.
  • Chad Gibbs

    Chad Gibbs

    08 March 2012 at 22:46 |
    Great words Justin. I'm scared hitting the post button on my blog, and terrified sending a chapter or proposal to an editor. Heck, I'm scared sending stuff to friends who I know will tell me they like whatever it is I sent. Great reminder to just keep going.
  • Justin Zoradi

    Justin Zoradi

    09 March 2012 at 00:18 |
    You got it Chad. You and me both. We gotta just keep going.
  • Cris


    09 March 2012 at 05:10 |
    Great blog, I have learned to befriend my farm face it and embrace it has become my motto. As a late bloomer in life, I feel like I don't want to waste anymore time allowing fear to dictate what I do or don't do, instead I will use it for my advantage. Thank you Justin for keeping it real.

  • Justin Zoradi

    Justin Zoradi

    09 March 2012 at 05:21 |
    You got it Cris. Use that fear to follow what you love.
  • Cole Wilson

    Cole Wilson

    12 March 2012 at 06:45 |
    Thanks for your honesty, brother. Great playing with you today.
  • Justin Zoradi

    Justin Zoradi

    12 March 2012 at 19:42 |
    Thanks Cole. Great playing soccer with you as well. Appreciate it man.
  • Nate G

    Nate G

    12 March 2012 at 20:29 |
    Justin, this is great. I often forget about this. Fear can be so debilitating that it's sometimes hard to figure out how to move forward (or even just setting priorities). Anyway, thanks for the reminder. I can't believe we are in the same office building and we don't get coffee or lunch more. Let's change that!
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      13 March 2012 at 21:49 |
      Thanks Nate. Appreciate your comments. Yes, lets get together. Been way too long.
  • Lisa


    13 March 2012 at 20:34 |
    Your words of reality and visual imagery hit home for me today! I love that God is a broken record right now: "If you're not scared, you're not doing it right." So real and so raw. We skirt fear and pretend it doesn't exist when the best thing is to face it and deal. Not stay stuck in it but deal. That's risky business. Stepping out into uncharted territory to do a new thing brings you face to face with fear. Stay strong. Susan Jeffers wrote a great book with a great title: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. Keep doing that Justin!
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      13 March 2012 at 21:51 |
      Thanks Lisa. Your words are a great reminder for me today. Feeling overwhelmed again. I need to face it and deal. Susan's book sounds amazing.
  • Angie Rines

    Angie Rines

    03 April 2012 at 18:47 |
    What is it about that 30th birthday marker? I'm coming up on that one too! And it is causing me to definitely evaluate and reevaluate!
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      29 June 2012 at 03:13 |
      Seriously Angie, there is something about it. 30 did something weird to me.
  • Bruce Doane

    Bruce Doane

    28 June 2012 at 03:26 |
    My roommate and I just finished talking about some major fears. Thanks for the encouraging words.
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      29 June 2012 at 03:12 |
      Thanks Bruce!
  • Melanie Glass

    Melanie Glass

    28 June 2012 at 06:49 |
    Whenever I would write a longwinded e-mail to the head of the Lit J department explaining why there was no hope of me ever turning in a quality piece if writing , he would address my concerns and say simply, "Just keep going." Possibly the most valuable piece of advice ever given to me.
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      29 June 2012 at 03:13 |
      That's it Mel. Just keep going. It's all we can do.
  • Misty Hodges

    Misty Hodges

    07 November 2012 at 04:07 |
    It is strange that I happened upon this tonight. I have made a major decision in my life to pursue my love of photography. Tonight for some reason I have hit a level of fear haven't felt so far. Then bamm I find this. Though you wrote this a while ago and may not see this I am still compeled to thank you for writing this.
    when it comes to my decision to pursue my dream I have never felt so sure of anything in my life and so terrified.
    so thank you I was on the verge of letting my fear win until I read this.

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