At his 1933 Presidential Inauguration, Franklin Roosevelt said the following:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

This is a powerful quote for me, because I think we see far more fear around us each day than we realize. Fear comes in many forms: a fear of being physically injured may guide us toward lives of little risk; fear of being poor may lead us to accept or keep jobs that we don't really want; fear of being made fun of or of not being accepted may lead us to avoid deviating from the norm or what we believe is expected of us.

This thought was on my mind quite a bit at the Live and Learn Conference last week. As I looked around, I saw children who wanted nothing more than to live in a world without fear. They demonstrated this by being completely free - talking to whom they wanted about whatever they wanted, laughing, playing, dressing up, trying new things, making mistakes, creating, singing, dancing - whatever their hearts guided them to do. Some of them predictably wanted nothing to do with adults at all, but most wanted their parents and other adults to play right along with them. Some adults did, some adults didn't - - - and that left me wondering why.

Is life scary sometimes? Of course it is. Bad things can happen. People get hurt, and sometimes die. Families become homeless. Children get abused. Look around the people in your life, and I guarantee you'll find some unhappy people either close to you or on the periphery. Maybe they're unhappy with their marriage, or their job, or their financial situation. Maybe they are parents and wish they weren't, or aren't parents and wish they were. Maybe they feel disrespected, or unloved, or devalued.

God, how stressful and negative that all is. But it happens, sometimes to some people. I know there are many schools of thought that suggest that negative feelings attract negative energy, and therefore negative results. I do believe that for the most part. But I don't believe that negative feelings attract cancer, or car accidents, or job losses. Sometimes, bad things just happen. The question is not how to prevent it, or even how to deal with it. The question is simply this:

To what extent do you choose to let fear of "bad" things (however you define them) control your life?

I've had a number of close friends and family approach the end of their life with a few standard regrets: "I wish I had lived/done/loved/tried/laughed more." No one ever says "I just wasn't afraid enough" - - -they wish they had let go of their fears and embraced the wonders of life, the lessons that come from failing, the depth of emotion and feeling that separates humans from the rest. You can't do that if you're afraid to fail physically, emotionally, or intellectually.

At the very heart of unschooling is helping our children develop a zest for living and exploring - that's the very definition of "passion." We can't instruct them how to do that; we need to model it for them. And that means that we can't be afraid to wear silly costumes, or sing, or dance with our children. We can't be afraid to spend hours making a wonderful gourmet meal for them because cooking is our passion, even if they hate it. We can't allow our "need" for a clean house to override their need to build a pile of stuffed animals six feet tall. We can't walk down a wooded path and be oblivious to the ants, and caterpillars, and deer scat that we see along the way. In short, we can't allow our fears to alter our zest for living or our general approach to life. Trust me, your children want you to explore and experiment with them, and they won't make fun of you when you fail.

In the workplace, positive energy attracts positive results. There are many successful "Tiggers" in the corporate world, and few successful "Eeyores." No one likes to be around an Eeyore, because they have little energy, or enthusiasm, or creativity. I'm not suggesting that you should go bouncing into work tomorrow with off-the-wall solutions to all the problems you encounter, but I am suggesting that business leaders take calculate risks every day; rarely are conservative and fearful leaders in leadership roles for long. Be informed, use data and metrics, operate contextually -and then throw your energy and excitement into each task, without fear. Like to modeling you do at home with your children, fearlessness in the workplace helps others develop and grow by leaps and bounds.


  1. thanks for that jeff. im glad to be reminded of that today.

  2. Wow, I truly enjoyed this. Personal fears can be so deeply embedded. It sometimes starts with our own parents. I've been slowly emptying my baggage. It's about time I just dumped it out!

    I'm going to pass your link to my husband who I know will appreciate it. It was nice meeting you and your family. Ginger signed Milo's cast and you gave the boys glowsticks. Thanks! Maybe we'll see you in Ohio?

  3. thank you so much, I needed to hear these words today, right now

  4. Ya got me with this one, Jeff. At my deepest root, I'm afraid of everything, the entire univers. Therefore, I constantly examine myself to motivate myself to go ahead and jump into fear instead of avoiding it. It's never easy but always rewarding.