How To Overcome Fear and Unforeseen Obstacles

“The Good, The Painful — It is all a privilege.” Bear Grylls.

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

When it comes to the obstacles that stand in the way of us achieving our dreams, the role fear plays cannot be overstated. Those fears can cause us to play it safe, to not take the steps needed to push beyond that fear. But what if you don’t know what your fear is? What if it’s an abstract fear? How do you push beyond that? That’s exactly what Lucas had to figure out.

But let’s back up a little to find out how Lucas found himself in this position.

Lucas had followed in his father’s footsteps, trained as a lawyer, and on graduating joined the family law firm in his native Brazil. But three years into his work he was suffering from severe burnout brought about by the demands of the job. He was also feeling unfilled, unsatisfied and unhappy in his WorkLife. He decided to take time out and take the gap year he had planned on finishing law school. The gap year he couldn’t take at that time, because his father had fallen seriously ill, requiring life-saving surgery, which demanded a period of recovery time.

His father was now back at the helm, and so Lucas felt this was his time to take time out, to follow his dream to experience life in a different country. His first stop was Cambodia, where he took time to recuperate. It was a country he had always wanted to visit, and he chose it first because he wanted to take time to rest, and not feel the need to work. He could do this because Cambodia’s cost of living is relatively low, and so it afforded him the time he needed to regain his well-being.

From the very outset he began to document his experience, writing a blog and sharing photos on Instagram, and videos on YouTube. He quickly gathered a following, and from this he began to think about how he could somehow use this to fund his stay in Cambodia, without having to draw on his savings.

He thought about the different experiences he had planned for his visit, and approached the people running these, telling them about his growing online followers, the audience he was sharing his Cambodia story with, many of whom were planning their trip. Lucas is an amiable guy, and builds rapport with people easily. He offered to share the story of the people behind the experiences, along with his story of living that experience.

In return he asked if he could have the experience for free — not only did they agree but Lucas was also able to negotiate a commission for bookings that subsequently came through his channels.

He was putting the negotiating skills he had learnt as a lawyer into practice. He was elated. And it didn’t stop there. Soon he was eating at the best restaurants and sleeping at the best hotels as he continued to explore the country. All for free, while at the same time setting in place recurring financial rewards, through an affiliate programme of sorts: he was the go-between travellers and these venues, earning him a commission on future bookings.

Three months later and it was time for Lucas to continue his travels. His next destination was Europe, his first stop Portugal. He used the same approach he had taken in Cambodia, and soon he was travelling around Europe, having wonderful experiences, all of which were free in exchange for his promotional work, all the time earning commission on future bookings.

But then Covid-19 happened, and all travel stopped, and with that so did Lucas’s income. He was far away from home — to which he didn’t want to return because of how bad the pandemic had hit there. He was fearful for his family’s health, and he was fearful for his own wellbeing, together with the looming threat to his financial stability to survive in a foreign land with no money coming in. His fear was fuelled by the uncertainty of how long this would last. He knew he couldn’t return to his native Brazil and pick up his work as lawyer in the foreseeable future; and as to the future of a travel blogger, he knew that too would not happen in the foreseeable future.

Far from home with no income coming in, Lucas was forced to face his fear — a fear that was abstract because he didn’t know what he could do to survive. He didn’t want to tell his family he was fearful because that would have caused them worry. He felt very alone and very lonely.

Book Wisdom

Lucas had been travelling with the book Tribe of Mentors By Timothy Ferriss. It was a big book filled with “Short Life Advice from the Best in the World.”

He opened the book to the chapter in which Tim had interviewed Bear Grylls. The chapter title spoke to Lucas as being:

Words of Wisdom

“The Good, The Painful — It is all a privilege.” Bear Grylls.

As he read through the answers Bear gave in response to the questions Tim posed, Lucas considered this to be:

Sage Wisdom

This is because Lucas thought he could consider these questions and answers by adapting them to his situation, and then through self-feedback he could hopefully find a way to move beyond the unforeseen obstacle he had encountered, and the fear he was feeling in this moment — which he felt was an abstract fear because he didn’t really know what he was facing, in terms of what he could do and when he could do it.

And so, Lucas read the following questions and answers with a mind open to taking the learning he needed that would help him discover the steps he could take to push beyond his fear, to overcome his obstacle:

T.F: “What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?”

B.G: Rhinoceros Success by Scott Alexander. I read this at age 13, and it basically told me that life is tough and like a jungle. And that life rewards the rhinos who charge hard at their goals and never give up. And above all, not to follow the cows of life who drift aimlessly and suck purpose and joy out of the journey. I give it often to people I think would love or need it.”

T.F.: “How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a favourite failure of yours?”

B.G.: “I failed selection for the British SAS on my first attempt, and it ripped my heart out at the time. I had never given so much for anything and to fall short was soul-destroying. But I went back and tried a second time and eventually passed. Four out of 120 will generally make it, and they often say the best soldiers pass the second time. I like that. It tells me that tenacity matters more than talent, and in life, that is certainly true. Failure meant struggle, and it is struggle that has always developed my strength.”

T. F.: “If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why?”

B.G: “Simple one for me to answer: ‘Storms make us stronger’. If I had one message for young people embarking on life, it would be this. Don’t shy away from the hard times. Tackle them head-on, move towards the path less trodden, riddled with obstacles, because most other people run at the first sign of battle. The storms give us change to define ourselves, and we always emerge from them stronger. The other key is to be kind along the way. Kindness matters so much on that journey of endeavour. It is what separates the good from the great.”

T.F.: “In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?”

B.G.: “Learning to enjoy the process, rather than always striving for the future. Sometimes in these jungles or deserts, I am desperately trying to get through it, do my best, work hard, work fast, and get back to my family. But I realised I was spending so much time dreading what was ahead, or striving to be out of where I was. Learning to embrace the moment changed a lot for me. The good, the painful — it is all a privilege.”

T.F.: “When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?”

B.G.: “Hold tight, focus the effort, dig deeper, and never give up. It isn’t rocket science but it is hard, as most people, when it gets tough, start to look around for an excuse or a different tactic. Often, though, when it starts to get tough, all it requires is for you to get tougher and hold on. The magic bit is that when it get like this, it often means you are near the end goal! One big heave of focus, dedication, and grit, and you often pop out of the other end. Look around you, though, and you see that most people are gone — they gave up in that final bit of hurting.”

Lucas knew he could hold tight, and that he could be tough. He had done that when his father had become seriously ill. As the oldest child, he had held it together for his family. And being fresh out of university, he had taken over the helm at the family business and had held on tight, steering the company and its workers through choppy seas, brought about by clients, shareholders and investors becoming nervous because they questioned how as a young man, with little experience in the business, he could run it with the success his father had. It was tough but he had held on, and he had gotten through it. It had resulted in him seriously burning out; and again he had gotten through that, by recognising it was time to take time out.

Maybe in his own way he had already adapted what Bear had said about enjoying the process, in that, when he went to Cambodia to recuperate, in slowing down, for the first time he stopped striving for the future. He had also realised that he had been spending a lot of time dreading what was ahead. It was in Cambodia that he had learnt to embrace the moment. Lucas, could now see: “The good, the painful — it is all a privilege.” He also felt that the storm he had ridden out at the family business, while causing him severe burnout, had also made him stronger, in that he pushed through it with all his strength. He had given it that one big heave of focus, dedication, and grit, that Bear had spoken about, and through that he had taken everyone safely to the other end.

It had been a struggle, but he now recognised it had developed his strength. He hadn’t given up, and he wasn’t about to now. He had overcome obstacles and pushed through fear before; and although what he was facing was still very abstract, he now had more clarity that he could do what was needed, which was coming from a sense of belief in himself in knowing he had faced his fear and obstacles head on before.

Lucas reflected on what he had done that had helped him before. He remembered in the past when he needed to work through things he’d hit the gym and worked out — the exercise and the buzz he got from being around fellow gym goers always seemed to bring him the clarity he needed. But the gyms were closed, so that wasn’t an option. The only thing he could do was to work out from his apartment. He did this by Zoom, connecting to family and friends back home. This was simply because it gave him a sense of being connected, which in turn helped him to feel less alone and lonely.


During one of the sessions Lucas noticed his sister Ana, who was exercising with him, was wearing something around her waist. When the session ended and they were off-camera he asked what it was and discovered it was a Slendertone Abs toning belt, which she wore to help tighten her tummy muscles. Lucas had an idea, and that was to order a belt, and to then wear it when he was exercising on Zoom, by way of promoting the product. And to then approach the company to ask if he could set up a link through his social media channels.

That would allow him to earn a commission on any purchases that came from that. They agreed and very soon Lucas had money coming in from the exercise/toning experience he was sharing. And it didn’t stop there. He was soon promoting exercise wear and home exercise equipment to an audience of home-gym goers. Lucas had faced his abstract fear, and had found the answer to the courage he needed to overcome that. Was courage needed? Well Lucas thought so, because he had to work out wearing only shorts, so people could see the toning belt. That, Lucas felt, needed courage on his part — especially starting out, as he was in effect not just exercising, but was in fact performing to an ever-growing audience of onlookers.

Today’s featured book is: Tribe of Mentors, by Timothy Ferriss.

Lucas’s story is one the stories featured in my book: How To Overcome Your Fear To Live Your Life With Courage, from The School Of WorkLife book series.

WorkLife Book Wisdom

The intention of this story is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.