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Fear often keeps us from diving into what we really care about, nudging us to play it safe instead. But this safety net leaves us feeling like we haven't accomplished much. Ironically, avoiding fear just makes us feel worse about ourselves. But here's the twist: we can change that narrative. We have the power to use fear to make us stronger and help us grow.

In this coaching session, I team up with Dave, a psychologist with a passion for music. Together, we'll dive into how fear prevents us from pursuing our dreams. We'll examine how avoiding fear can make us feel unfulfilled and doubt ourselves. But most importantly, we'll reveal how we can break free from this cycle.

This conversation isn’t just about conquering fear; it's about understanding it, facing its challenges, and using it as a tool for growth. We'll delve into the complexities of fear, self-belief, and the courage needed to pursue our creative aspirations.

Topics Covered

  • Acknowledging the impact of fear on actions and decision-making
  • Understanding avoidance and its effects on personal fulfillment
  • Examining fear narratives and patterns influencing behavior and self-perception
  • Exploring the discomfort stemming from avoiding fear in creative pursuits
  • Strategies for breaking free from the cycle of fear and self-doubt
  • Using fear as a tool for personal growth and resilience
  • The significance of self-trust in overcoming fear and doubt
  • The interplay between fear, self-belief, and creative aspirations
  • Cultivating resilience through a newfound understanding of fear's dynamics

Dave's Resources


Leo 00:09

Welcome to the Zen Habits podcast, where we dive into how to work with uncertainty, resistance, and fear around our meaningful work. This is for anyone who wants to create an impact in the world and cares deeply enough to do the work. I'm your host, Leo Babauta, creator of the Zen Habits blog.

Leo 00:34

Okay. Welcome, everybody. I'm Leo, and I'm here with Dave Mitchell, who came on to get a little bit of coaching. So, we're going to dive in. But by way of introduction, Dave, you're looking to create music, and we can talk a little bit more about what that is. But it isn't your main profession. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about what you do as a day job.

Dave 00:57

Sure. And I just want to say thank you, Leo, for having me in this conversation. I really appreciate that.

I am a psychologist by training, and I live in a very rural part of Nebraska. So, I have two jobs. I work in a psychiatric hospital where I'm an administrator. So, I sit in a lot of meetings all day, which is like the antithesis of my job creation at times. And then I also see people for therapy and assessments in this office I'm in now. And so in neither of those roles do I do any music stuff whatsoever.

Leo 01:43

Oh, I got it. So it's a very different thing than what you do during the day. And is music like something you've always been passionate about? Is this something you've done in the past or is it a new thing?

Dave 01:56

It's definitely not new. I started in a band when I was in fifth grade, and my main instrument was drums throughout my whole life up until today. And then along the way, I picked up some guitar and other things. And I'm probably like some other people where I did a lot of music stuff all the way through school and college, and then got out of school and all these things I used to do for fun started to fall by the wayside a little bit.

And so I've tried to make some space to do music things over the years to varying degrees of success, but it's definitely nothing new. It's something I've enjoyed for a really long time.

Leo 02:51

Okay, cool. What sparked tell us what you're trying to create now. What are you trying to do and what sparked it?

Dave 02:59

Sure. So, I guess what I'm trying to create now is I'm going to use the word album. Basically, I want to put a few songs together and record and mix the music and put it out on the streaming services. Not because I anticipate I'll make any money off it, but just to have some proof that this is a thing I worked on and accomplished. And now it's out there in the world.

So that's what I'm trying to do. It's not going to be three hours long. It's just going to be four or five songs put together. And then I'd like to put them out into the world.

Leo 03:53

And what sparked you to go from I'm therapizing people? No, I'm just kidding. I don't know what the actual term is, but working with people to like, 'Now I want to put an album out into the world'.

Dave 04:09

I think I've always been a solitary musician. When I was growing up, I was the only child in the house, and I would spend time when I was young playing drums and recording it on a cassette tape, and then I would listen to it back. And so this is like the adult, grown-up version of what I used to do then.

And I think it's just when I'm working on these things is when I feel the most myself and the best. So, it's really about giving myself the chance to feel that way more, I think. And I've always been someone who, if I have a little goal that I'm working towards, I tend to be more engaged. And so the idea was, 'Okay, I'll set this goal to make this project. That'll help me make sure I stay engaged in it and thereby helping me feel good'.

Leo 05:21

Got it. But I guess I was also curious, was there anything that prompted this, sparked it to, like for you to pick this back up, something that you had been doing in the past, and now you're like, now I want to actually do this.

Dave 05:34

I can't say there was any very specific event. I do have a couple of close friends who are much better musicians than I am and are also doing it in a professional capacity. Seeing them get to work on fun, exciting things, I think that's an influence on me too. Just seeing other people that I'm close to work on things that they love makes me want to do that too.

Leo 06:06

Okay, cool. Got it. How's it going so far? What have you been able to do? Are you making progress? Any struggles?

Dave 06:16

So, it's been a long-term project where it'll go through these little stretches where I'm working really hard. And then there will be these kind of long stretches with nothing at all.

I think when I first started messing around with this stuff, it was way back in COVID. So, I had a lot of time at home, and I was messing around with stuff. But then as we came out of COVID, I went like months with nothing.

And then I would do the classic thing where, at the start of the year, I'd say, 'Okay, now I'm going to really get after this project.' And I'd work really hard for a few weeks, and then it would fall away. And so that's been the pattern over the last couple of years, I would say.

Leo 07:09

Okay. Got it. I can relate. I've definitely had a few projects like that.

And so now it's, okay, now I want to actually be committed and actually get it to the finish line. Is that right?

Dave 07:25

Yeah. And honestly, your podcast was a part of that. It was like, I've been reading you for years and years. And then it's, 'Oh, there's a podcast. This is great.' And the whole idea was let's pick a project to work on.

And I thought, 'Oh, this is great. I've had this project laying around. Maybe I can take some of these things from the different episodes and try and incorporate that into working on it.' So that's brought it more to the forefront of my mind recently.

Leo 07:54

Yeah, thanks for being open to like actually taking something that's real to you, that means something to you, and working through some of the stuff in the podcast with it.

So, what have you noticed has been helping in terms of what we've talked about in the podcast? And then like, where are you getting stuck right now?

Dave 08:19

Sure. I think in terms of helping, the first couple of episodes of the podcast were about picking a project, and which I already had, and then about getting excited and revitalized about the project.

Those episodes helped me quite a bit, be like, 'Why am I wanting to do this?'. Kind of the questions you're asking now. And it was really like this makes me feel good. I feel most like myself. So, that really helped me say, 'Okay, that's why I'm doing this'. And that was very helpful in terms of roadblocks.

Probably the main ones I run into is I feel like time is a problem for me. And I also struggle a little bit with some of these imposter feelings. I'm not a professional musician. I've never worked on record. I don't know how to mix and record things yet. Super great. So, there's some doubt, self-doubt, and also worries about what other people are going to think of these things if anyone ever happened to listen to it. I'm sensitive to other people's opinions about things.

Leo 09:50

And if we were to focus on one of these areas, for one, is time, and the other one, I don't have enough time. And then the other one is, I have a lot of these self-doubts and imposter syndrome stuff. Is there one that would be more helpful to you, more powerful?

Dave 10:08

Probably resolving the self-doubt piece. I've taken some steps to try and carve out slots of time for me to work. And I've been doing okay with that the last few weeks. But I think as I get further and further into it, the doubts seem to be creeping in more and more.

Leo 10:38

That makes sense. Okay, got it. So, we'll focus there. And actually, I think your instinct is right because it's rarely an issue of time.

I was just talking to a relative who had been wanting to start this side hustle. He had a regular job and he wanted to start a side hustle for years. And then he had the opportunity because he I think he got laid off or a buyout or something like that. So, he had a year and a half with no job, and he's like 'I had all the time in the world, so time was no longer an issue,' and I still wasn't doing it.

I thought that was such a great illustration of how we think the issue is time, but it's rarely that. Even if you had all the time in the world, you would still be struggling. And the time is like actually a great excuse because, 'Oh, I don't have time. I'm busy,' which is true. I'm sure you are busy. But it just makes it easier to say no to the thing that we're scared. Like we're feeling some fear around. So, let's take a look at this fear.

So if you were to put, let's say you put your music out into the world. Is it, is the fear like, people are going to be like, 'Who does this guy think he is? He's not a professional musician. He's not even that good.' Or is the fear more like crickets? No one says anything. There's no response at all. Either of those?

Dave 12:20

It would definitely be closer to the first one. If it was just crickets and nobody even noticed that these things were there, that would be okay. But if people had a negative reaction, 'Oh, this doesn't sound like it's done very well. This doesn't make any sense,' or this or that, that's much more what the fear is about.

Leo 12:50

Okay, got it. And if you imagine this is your fear, not your irrational brain, but if you can imagine the worst thing, the most judgmental thing they could say about you, what do you think it could be?

Dave 13:06

I think it would be something along the lines of what you were just saying. My least favorite feeling in the world is feeling stupid, and it would be something like, 'This is ridiculous that this is out there. You obviously don't know what you're doing. This is just stupid that you're pursuing this.' It would be something like that.

Leo 13:37

Yeah, I can relate. I was just thinking about a time recently where I was feeling a lot of uncertainty and fear around something where I felt stupid. And the word that I was using was inept, like I didn't know what I was doing and I was just bad at it. Really interestingly, people who are really smart, like you are, one of the fears is, 'Oh, I'm going to be stupid,' or people who are really good at things, it's, 'Oh, I'm not going to be good at something. I'm going to be incompetent, inept.'

One thing my coach helped me to see is that's a story, like inept is the example that I was looking at, which is a story, a narrative about a certain set of feelings or a sensation and experience. Do you know what I mean by that?

Dave 14:32

Yeah. It's a story I'm telling myself.

Leo 14:36

'Yeah, I'm stupid', but if you were to have the actual experience of feeling stupid, it would be that narrative about the feeling, because it's not that the feeling isn't that you're stupid. It's just a sensation in the body, right?

Dave 14:57

Right. Like, logically, I understand I'm not actually stupid. But yeah, there is a story and feeling that I'm telling myself that characterizes it that way.

Leo 15:12

What would the feeling be? Let's say that you have a story that I'm stupid in this moment. Like right now you're just, 'I feel stupid', but then what's the actual sensation or experience.

Dave 15:26

Like physically? I guess it would be in my stomach a little bit, like anxiety in my stomach. And if there was someone else around, I can imagine myself not making eye contact, like looking at the floor. I wouldn't want to engage with somebody else if they were around, an embarrassment almost. But yeah, mostly in the kind of stomach area physically, yeah.

Leo 16:13

Okay, great. And is that a familiar feeling to you? Have you noticed that feeling in other places?

Dave 16:21

I do notice it sometimes. I was saying earlier that I'm really sensitive to what other people think about what I'm doing. That's something I've been working on myself. If I'm one-on-one with one of my kids, for example, things go wonderfully, and we just have a great connection and things are great.

But then if we go out into the world and there are other people around and my child is inevitably doing something they're not supposed to be doing, I get really uptight about other people thinking that I have kids who don't do what they're supposed to. It reflects badly on me as a parent. And as soon as there's an audience, I can get really sensitive to that kind of stuff.

Leo 17:19

Yeah, I can relate. I think any parent can relate to that. So, you want them to reflect well on you, right? People will be like, 'Wow, what a good parent he is,' and when they're not, it's, 'Oh, there's what a terrible dad.'

Dave 17:38

That's what I imagine they're saying when the reality is no one's paying any attention to me whatsoever, but in my head, they're all paying attention.

Leo 17:48

So, what I'm getting is that you actually feel the same kind of experience, the anxiety in the stomach in that moment.

Dave 17:58


Leo 17:59

Okay. So it is familiar. You can notice that it shows up in other places.

Dave 18:06

Yeah, I can notice it when I'm feeling that judged, embarrassed, 'I'm not doing good enough' type of feeling; that's where it shows up.

Leo 18:17

Yeah. Okay, great. So what we're distinguishing here is the narrative we have, the story that we have, how we're labeling it, like 'I feel stupid,' 'I'm stupid,' or 'I'm a bad father.' And then underneath that is the actual experience, which is just a sensation, a set of sensations. Let's say some kind of anxiety in the pit of your stomach.

Anxiety is actually also a label, but I get it's hard to describe these physical feelings. So I get what you mean by that. Like for me, sometimes it's a tightness in my chest. For other people, sometimes they'll feel like some lump in their throat or warmth somewhere.

So, these are all physical sensations. None of them actually have any meaning, but we give them. Our brain gives them meaning, 'Ah, I feel really stupid,' 'I'm a bad father.' And so then we create significance from that feeling. So, it's just, 'Oh, I don't like this feeling. I feel stupid. I don't want to ever put my work out into the world,' right? I don't want to do this again.

You learn a lesson because it's really significant. So, like just never do anything where you might feel stupid again. You probably actually learned that lesson at some point in your life.

Dave 19:42

I would assume I have. Yes.

Leo 19:45

Yeah. Just 'Oh God, I feel really stupid.' And okay, don't ever put yourself out there unless you're really good at something first.

Dave 19:55


Leo 19:59

Okay, so we're distinguishing between the narrative about the feeling and then the actual sensation of it. And then what we looked at was what I was just talking about was that we make it significant. And then from that, we might even create a set of rules or boundaries of how we can not actually ever feel that again.

And if you've had that experience in the past, which you said you assume you have, we can guess that's showing up here where it's just 'Okay, don't put yourself out there unless you know you're going to be really good at it', like people are going to really praise you for it or think you're smart or awesome or whatever. And so you don't have that certainty with, in this case. Is that right?

Dave 20:47

No, not at all. And it's interesting, as I'm in my basement working on these songs, I feel great and I'm excited, and I think, 'Wow, this sounds wonderful.' And then I'll just get a different perspective on it. I'll save it to my phone and then I'll listen to it in the car, and I'll be like, 'This sounds terrible. It's awful.' And I think just because it's just one step closer to being in the world, and then the criticism, the self-criticism starts to rile up a little bit.

Leo 21:31

Yeah, it might be great with wandering out into the unknown, but as soon as you get closer to the cliff's edge, your defenses go into overdrive. It's like, put on the brakes, get away from there. You don't deserve to do that, or it's not gonna work out. Who are you, right?

Dave 21:53


Leo 21:54

Okay, so we've distinguished a little bit about what's going on, the fear of being stupid would be your big one, probably. And there's probably some other related ones that are similar, but let's just say this is one of your biggest ones. I think you've actually said that, right?

Actually, let's see before we, so let's keep distinguishing. So what does this fear, and this narrative about yourself of not wanting to look stupid, what does that drive you to do?

Dave 22:38

I don't like to feel that way. And so the urge is to run away from that feeling as fast as possible. I think that's what these long stretches of me not doing anything are related to.

I might be going okay, and then I'll bump into something I'm not very good at, like I need to mix something in a certain way, which I don't know much about, or there's a particular musical passage that I don't have down yet. And I'll just say, 'I just need a little break.' I'll tell myself something like that. And then that'll turn into three months.

Leo 23:25

Yeah, got it. Okay. So the first one is just taking a little break. You're feeling the stuff start to build up, maybe like the pressure of the fear, take a break and then keep taking a break for three months.

Is there any other action that inspires you? So let's just say that's the main one. Is there another?

Dave 23:50

I'm not sure if there's another. When I'm not working on it, I'm doing lots of distracting things like watching YouTube. Sometimes in those times, I'm doing these other things that are not really productive at all.

Leo 24:07

Sure. And are you thinking about the project at the same time, or is it completely out of your mind?

Dave 24:13

It's usually completely out of my mind. It will nag at the back of my mind, 'Hey, that's a thing you said you were going to work on and you're not doing it.' Like I'll have that going on during those times.

Leo 24:30

And how does that feel when you're like, remember, in the back of your head, there's this thing that you should be doing?

Dave 24:38

It doesn't feel great. I guess I would say that, I think in your most recent episode, you talked about self-trust a little bit. And that rears its head when I'm not working on something I know I want to.

It's like if you had a friend who said, 'Hey, let's work on this project together.' And then at the last second, they canceled every single time for three months. You'd be like, 'This is the worst friend ever.'

Leo 25:12

No trust. Yeah.

Dave 25:15

And then you're doing that to yourself, or I'm doing that to myself. I think over time, you do start to lose some trust in your ability to see this thing through all the way to the end.

Leo 25:27

Yeah, I can relate. Okay. The way that this goes, if we're looking at how it plays out, right? It sounds like it's played out for you like this at least a few times, not just once.

So it's like the fear of looking stupid or being stupid. And so you feel that, especially as you get closer to actually putting something out. And then it's I feel overwhelmed by that fear and then take a break.

And then the break stretches to three months, you're distracting yourself. And at the back of your mind, at least once in a while, is this idea of 'Ah, I should be working on this. You said you were going to, you're not doing it.' And then like an erosion of trust in yourself. That's how we've laid this out.

Am I, are we getting it right? Does that sound like how it goes?

Dave 26:24

Yes, that sounds like how it goes for me.

Leo 26:28

Yeah. Okay, got it. I'm sure you're not the only one. This is why we're actually doing this coaching call recorded. So people can relate to this. So yeah, if you're actually watch, you definitely are not alone. In the worst case scenario, it's a club of two, me and you. But no, I would say I would probably, I would guess our club is in the millions, if not, a good portion of the world's population.

And then what does that create? If we looked at like the kind of life that creates, the results that creates for you, what's on the other side of that in terms of the life and the results it creates for you?

Dave 27:10

I think it just saps the spark out of life a little bit. Where it just starts to feel dreary. Go to work, come home, watch TV, go to bed, do it all over again. And so by avoiding and not engaging in this project or hobby that I enjoy, it just starts to feel drab and monotonous.

Leo 27:43

Got it. So it just sucks all the joy and life out of your life.

Dave 27:49

Yeah, I guess not all, but certainly that little, certainly everything around that activity is gone.

Leo 27:59

Yeah. Okay. Got it. Yeah. Obviously, I'm sure when your kid's around, you're feeling pretty good and maybe once in a while, your wife. But in general, around especially around this area, it sounds like it sucks out a lot of the joy and fun, all the aliveness that you really want. That maybe music actually has you feel, right?

How does it leave, looking at I'm not able to actually put my music out into the world or create it in the way that I want to have access to all of this aliveness and joy. How does that leave you feeling at the end?

Dave 28:40

I think just empty and dejected, at least around this. I'm a person who throughout my life, light has been an achiever. I guess that's an identity trait. And so then not seeing something through doesn't fit with that part of me. And you just feel dejected around it.

Leo 29:09

Yeah. And not seeing something through, not being able to trust yourself, and not being able to achieve what you'd like. You're someone who can achieve, I really get that. This is not like you've done nothing in your life. It's not like you can't actually get stuff done or do hard things, but in this area, it feels like you're not actually able to do that.

So if you remember back in the beginning of this journey, we're laying out a journey here, I want to avoid feeling stupid. I don't want to feel stupid. And maybe I'll do it for a little while, but then I need to take a break and then I stopped doing it. I wrote trust in myself. I feel less aliveness. I feel dejected.

So, what do you notice here? Does it feel like you've actually avoided the feeling of being stupid?

Dave 30:12

It's almost like you've swapped feeling stupid for feeling unaccomplished or something. It's almost like trading one kind of negative feeling for another I guess. But obviously, that must mean that the feeling of being unaccomplished doesn't feel quite as bad as the same feeling?

Leo 30:35


Dave 30:37

Otherwise, you wouldn't make the swap. I don't know if it's true or not, but I guess that's why you make the swap if one of them is not a little better than the other. I don't know.

Leo 30:46

Okay, I'd like to speak to that for a minute because I actually don't think that's true. I'd love for you to test this out, so I'm not here to tell you I have the truth and what you're saying is wrong.

But in my experience, actually... You know, there's a famous marshmallow test where someone wants the thing right now and can't have delayed gratification. And in my experience, that's actually what's happening in this. We're avoiding something right now, but we're actually giving ourselves more of something later.

Yeah, it's different than the marshmallow test, but hopefully, you can get the kind of idea of like right now. I understand what the swap is that I'm making. It's actually that I'm just avoiding it right now because this is what's in front of me. And then that avoidance actually gives me maybe more pain.

And actually, usually in my experience, it's actually more of the same thing that I'm avoiding. So I don't know if that's actually true in your case, if you actually feel stupid as you feel unaccomplished, but often that's how it is.

Dave 32:08

Yeah, I could definitely see the truth to that, that saying I'm going to work on this thing, even if it's just to my wife, and then nothing ever materializes from it, yeah, I'd probably end up feeling stupid about that. Even by avoiding the feeling, I'm creating the same feeling, I guess.

Leo 32:29

Maybe even more. If you just let yourself put it out there into the world, you might've felt some, but actually, we would drag it on, in your case, for years, and definitely in my case as well. So it's actually I'm giving it to myself over a prolonged period of time, way more than I would have if I just did the thing.

Dave 32:52

Yeah, if I had just recorded this and put it out in six months, and that was two years ago, any emotions around that would be long gone by now.

Leo 33:03

Yeah, ideally. Sometimes we can hold on to that as well. But if someone says 'That's the worst piece of music I've ever heard', you'll feel it. And ideally, that would be a momentary feeling of stupidity. Maybe you'll hold onto it for a few days, a week, or something like that. But not necessarily for years. Now, of course, that could happen too, but we're getting a little bit lost in the weeds here.

So, the point is that by avoiding it in the beginning, we're actually giving ourselves more of it at the end. And in fact, the way that I've been taught this is that it actually reinforces the original belief that we should not look stupid. I want to avoid looking stupid.

We don't understand. We don't see how this is actually going to give us more of it because this is not laid out in the way that we have here. Yeah. So having laid it out and distinguished how this goes for you, I'm wondering how this is landing with you and anything you're noticing.

Dave 34:12

Yeah, this is making a lot of sense to me. And I can see that I might do this in other areas of my life as well, where there's something I want to work on. I don't quite get to it as quickly as I want to. And the feeling I might be avoiding, whether that's feeling stupid or some kind of discomfort, that just over time you end up getting more of exactly that thing. So you're not really avoiding anything.

Leo 34:48

It feels like you are in the moment. If it actually feels like you don't even have any other choice sometimes. Yeah. Thanks for seeing that. Thanks for getting it.

So the gift of this coaching that we're doing right now, at least up to what we've done so far, is to be able to distinguish all of this, to be able to see it. So you know like when, 'Oh yeah, right now when I'm about to avoid working on the music or putting it out into the world, that's how it usually goes for me. And I can see I'm doing the thing that I've been doing for years now'. And that's not to judge it or make it make you wrong or bad. It's a very human thing. You're protecting yourself.

But you can see that it's happening. And if we have awareness of the system with the protective system, then we can see it in the moment when it's happening. Like right now, I want to avoid doing my music. And I'm afraid of feeling stupid when I do. You might not know that normally, but now you'll see, 'Oh, there's my fear of being stupid, and it's happening'. And here's what I want to do. Go take a break, and here's how it would usually play out.

And if it does play out that way, you just watch it happening in real time. And you can be like, 'Yep, it's happening right now. Yep, I feel more dejected and stupid than ever'. So you just watch it and you just let yourself experience it. And the more you let yourself experience it, the less power it'll have. You'll be like, 'Oh, okay. It's happening now. It's happening now'.

After a number of cycles of it, you might actually be able to choose something different. You could do it. You could choose something different immediately, but even if it doesn't go differently, even if you can't get out of it, just having that awareness is actually a huge gift and actually removes some of its power.

Dave 36:46

Yeah, I can see it. I was jotting little notes to myself here, thinking that I'm noticing that feeling in my stomach. Oh, I don't like that feeling. And up to this point, I've been interpreting those feelings as feeling stupid or unaccomplished or not very good. I think right there is the difficult pivot point about telling a different story.

And so what I appreciate about what you're saying is you don't necessarily have to immediately come up with a different story; you could just watch it play out for a little bit. I think a lot of people are this kind of fixer-type person. I want to fix it right away and get after it, but I don't have to do that necessarily immediately.

Leo 37:45

Awesome. Yeah. Great work. Being able to see that. Yeah, there's actually nothing that needs to be done in that moment if you're just in it. If the only thing you ever do is distinguish, 'I have a story, I have a fear here', first of all, just that 'I have a fear right now', and maybe even I think it's the fear of being stupid. If you just see that, that will already put you in much more awareness and choice.

But the second thing is if you're like, 'Oh, it's a fear of being stupid, but underneath that, it's just a feeling of anxiety in my gut', that distinction between the 'I'm afraid of being stupid' or 'I feel stupid right now' versus 'It's just a feeling in my gut or chest or throat or something like that'.

That will actually be really huge because then you can just be like, 'Oh, I can just feel the feeling'. It's not that big of a deal, actually. If you feel that feeling of anxiety in your gut next time you're out with your kid in public, right? Feel that feeling. Your kid will give you plenty of gifts like that. Like, 'Oh, I get some practice here'.

When you just feel the feeling, it's actually not the worst thing in the world. But again, we make it really significant. So it's just 'I need to like, calm my kid, the F down', and have them behave perfectly and not be a kid anymore. So that's what you do from like making that feeling really significant, but if you're just like, 'Oh, it's just a feeling.' And the more you practice with it, the less significance it has. It's just 'Oh yeah, I can be with that'.

And, in fact, as a father, I think you might get this, whereas like when your kid is feeling anxious, and you can just, which is, what they might be doing out in public, right? They might be feeling some anxieties. So they're like making a causing a mess, right? And so when they're feeling anxiety the more that we judge them and tell them to stop being that way.

That actually does not calm their anxiety down at all, but if we can just be there with them and like breathe with them and let them know it's okay. And we're there with them. They calm down over, after a little bit, maybe not right away, but if they do, and so being with our anxiety and the stomach, the place where you've identified it. Is exactly the same thing. We could just like breathe and be with that. It's like calming down our little kid.

Dave 40:25

Yeah, I totally agree with that. I'm always amazed that for myself and maybe you notice this too, Leo, like I'm in a helping profession and I know how to help other people and I can see other people's struggles and have lots of helpful things. And then I can have the very same or similar struggles. And it seems like I'm just totally clueless about what to do.

Leo 40:53

It's freaking frustrating, I'll tell you.

Dave 40:58

I totally understand what you're saying, and I say that to people all the time. These feelings are not going to last forever. You can't stay anxious for the rest of your life. Eventually, it's going to come down. But when I'm feeling that way, boy, it feels like it's going to go on forever.

Leo 41:16

Yeah, we lose all sanity. No, I actually think this is why every therapist should have their own therapist. Every coach should have their own coach. We cannot, see it for ourselves.

Dave 41:28

I totally agree.

Leo 41:30

Okay, so we've distinguished a lot. We've talked a little bit about practicing with the feeling, and that loses its significance over time. The last piece, if you have a few minutes, the last thing that I'd like to say is, so there's a one way that you're... we could call it your default.

It's 'I don't want to feel stupid, so I'm going to do whatever I have to do so I don't have to feel stupid,' and we can see like how that goes.

But there's a different way of holding this, what you're doing with music that could feel more empowered. You've, I think you've listened to the versus disempowered episode. So for example, if we looked at the worst-case scenario, I put my music out into the world, people judge it. I feel really stupid. People judging your music right now is like their judgment of my music means I'm stupid. It's an interpretation, right?

Dave 42:31


Leo 42:32

And so, is there another kind of interpretation of that? Another way to view that scenario where you put your music out and people judge it that would help you to feel more empowered?

Dave 42:43

I think if other people had a negative reaction, a counterbalance to that might be my sense of accomplishment of having seen it through all the way to the end. That perhaps if I ever got any feedback like that, which again, it seems unlikely, but if I did, I could fall back on the idea that, 'Yeah, I liked it. And I saw this all the way through to the end. And so I feel good about that.' That could be one way.

Leo 43:24

Great. So let's come up with two or three. Do you have any other things like, so that let's say that's one possibility, anything else? So let's say you put it out and I think it sucks. What's another way of looking at that other than you're stupid?

Dave 43:44

That's your opinion, right? Everyone's going to have an opinion about something. I would assume you've gotten lots of mail and comments over the years that weren't totally positive every single time. And so people are just going to think what they think. And that has very little to do with me or what I've been working on.

Leo 44:10

Sure. Is there any gift in my negative reaction to you?

Dave 44:14

You might be pointing out something that I legitimately could work on and get better at. That's a possibility.

Leo 44:23

Okay. Yeah. So my negative reaction could be actually a part of your growth process.

Dave 44:28


Leo 44:30

Yeah, there's actually an infinite number of ways to interpret it, but like another one... Actually, one thing I like is when someone gives me a negative reaction, I'm like, 'You know what? It might not feel that great to get a negative reaction, but they were willing to, number one, read my stuff, like actually take the time to read it'.

So there was something there that they thought it provoked something in them. And who knows what it provoked, like that causes this negative reaction, but it wasn't nothing like there, it wasn't like, that, 'Ah, I don't care about this'. They actually cared enough to have a reaction and then come and tell it to me. And which is someone willing to share their heart with you.

Now, of course, they might not have done it in the best way. And there's lots of ways we could look at that, but they actually had a reaction, an emotional reaction enough to share with the creator of something that like your thing made me so angry, and it's okay there is a reaction there. There's some kind of human connection. It's not necessarily the connection that I envisioned, but I don't get to control the connection and the way that people react when I put my art out into the world.

Dave 45:51

Yeah. I love that. If I could bring that to these situations, that would be just great. You just make it sound so easy, Leo.

Leo 46:01

Ah no, it's not easy. When people give me feedback, I've definitely had moments where I'm just like I suck or they suck is the other one. It's obviously their problem and they have all kinds of issues. That's one way to hold it.

And then the other is just like maybe I should hang it up and not do this anymore. But so I have to practice, I have to choose into a different stance. So, It sounds like we've got some on the table. Do any of these resonate as 'Okay, if I actually had this stance, it would make me feel more empowered and actually like creating my music and putting it out there'.

Dave 46:44

Yeah. I think if I could really do any of those things, I would feel a lot better. I think again, I hope I'm like a lot of other people in that as I'm engaged in creating whatever it is and struggling, it's I don't bring enough mindfulness or intentionality to what I'm doing to give myself the chance to have some of these other outlooks.

I just go down the path my brain always goes down, and just taking maybe some time to explore some of these other ideas that we've talked about would be really helpful. And I just got to pause sometime.

Leo 47:24

Okay. We've looked at a few different of the stances do any of them is there any one that you want to actually try out?

Dave 47:36

I would love to try out the... I love what you said. This is just connecting with another person. It's not good or bad necessarily. It's just a, 'Hey, I created something and now I'm having a connection with another human'. I would love to bring that mindset to things.

Leo 47:59

Okay. Great. And there isn't a right answer here. So if you try that and it doesn't work, you can go back to, 'You know what, at least I actually like it', or 'Their feedback will help me in my growth process'. And there might be other ones as well. So what we want to do is try on a stance, not just once, but I would say try it on for at least a week.

And so you can say, 'Okay, I see the fear of looking stupid, but I'm actually going to try this stance of I'm making a human connection here. If I ever got a bad reaction, and so if I put this out there, I'm actually going to risk making a human connection, which is a really beautiful thing.'

By the way, another thing that someone shared, a coaching client today, shared with me that I think she heard on a different podcast was 'I am, I was brave enough to try.' And I really like that because it's just acknowledging the courage of just putting your heart out there, putting your art out there. And that's a courageous act. No matter what their reaction is, you're just putting it out there and being brave.

And I actually really acknowledge you for that, Dave. You have been brave enough to actually pick up this thing that has brought life to you in the past, really tried to work on it and struggle, and you keep coming back to it. And you're here getting some coaching for putting yourself out there here in this coaching call. And so I really acknowledge your courage to actually create and dare to want to put it out there.

Dave 49:41

I really appreciate that. It doesn't feel brave a lot of the time, but having that message, that's very nice of you to say, and I've really appreciated speaking with you again. I've been reading forever, listening now for a long time, and this has been wonderful.

Leo 50:07

I agree. I've really enjoyed spending the time with you. I actually hope you'll send me an email when you put something out there. I promise you it won't be judged. I will just appreciate the courage of putting it out there and just the fellow artist who wants to create something and have a good time doing it. Have some fun.

Dave 50:28

Okay, you got it. I will let you know when it is out in the world.

Leo 50:33

Okay. Awesome. I want to thank you for coming on here. It's a courageous thing to come and get coached and have it be recorded for a podcast. I actually think this will help a lot of people.

We looked at a number of concepts from just distinguishing that we have a fear, and in this case, a fear of being stupid, distinguishing the narrative about the fear from the actual experience of that fear, the underlying sensations of it. How we make it significant and then what we learn to do from that significance.

We've looked at how it plays out for you as a system and how it plugs back in and reinforces itself by giving you more of the same of the thing that you were afraid to feel anyway. And then we talked about just noticing it, noticing when it's happening, and noticing when I'm wanting to take a break and feeling guilty about it, so that you can see that it's happening and then choose something else.

And then finally, what we looked at was the idea of choosing another stance. I am standing as someone who wants to make a human connection by putting his art out into the world, and I think that's beautiful. And I want to thank you for being willing to take a look at all of this stuff and then choosing to actually practice with it and create your art.

Dave 52:02

I really appreciate that, Leo. I really do.

Leo 52:08

If you haven't already, please subscribe to this podcast in your favorite podcast app. If you found this episode useful, please share this podcast with someone you know, who cares deeply. That would be really meaningful to me. And, if you'd like to dive deeper with me into this work, please check out the blog at or get in touch at [email protected].

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Music: Salem Beladonna & Robrecht Dumarey

Editor: Justin Cruz

Post-production: Diana C. Guzmán Caro & Amanda Goddard