The Iocane Powder approach to overcoming your fears

As a musician, an artist, a creative that's blazing my own trail, there's a lot of resistance. It comes masked as rejection from family, friends, peers, and the industry itself.

But the worst is when it comes from within myself.

I gave up on my dreams once...

I was a freshman in college. I had applied for a prestigious Music Composition program in the midwest and after submitting scores and failing an instrumental audition, I was given a provisional admission to the School of Music, but not the Composition program. I figured it was because I'd never had a music lesson in my life, and that my first semester voice lessons were the gateway to program entry.

I was wrong.

I applied for the only Music Composition course I could take: Intro to Music Comp. Turns out, it's a course most Junior and Seniors music majors took as an elective. I was the only Freshman, and the only female in the class. I'm not bragging when I say that my compositions consistently outperformed every other dude in the class, and I got the highest score on our final exam - a 10-person performance piece I wrote that was probably more musical theater than straight composition. It was more complex, more intricate than anything any of the guys in class wrote. I was busting my ass so that I could get out of this "intro" stuff and get accepted into the full Composition program. I figured that my talent would get me a spot in that prestigious program.

I was wrong. Again.

Turns out, the real reason I wasn't accepted into the program was because I was simply too young. Freshmen were not allowed into the music composition program - regardless of gender, talent, or connections with the teachers. It wasn't who you know, it was how long you were willing to wait it out to be "of age" to get in.

Patience is not my virtue.

Ask any teenager and they'll tell you they know everything they need to do just fine in life. I was a 19 year old, miles from home and "on my own" thank you very much, so of course, I knew how to show these people what they were missing out on.

That's when I "Pulled a Groucho" and quit school.

Back then, I used to think it was the horror of horrors to not have a college degree. Now, unless you need a college degree for your vocation (doctor, lawyer, etc.), I really think college can be overrated.

I think it was Groucho Marx who said he didn't want to be part of any club that would have him as a member. So I pulled a "Groucho" and left school.

"They'll see!" I said to myself as I packed my stuff and headed out to stake my claim on my dream. "I'll go to California and be a staaaaaahhhr!"

But, somewhere along the way, life happened. I didn't make it to Cali (yet). I stopped short in Salt Lake City, had my first real relationship, my first kid, and my first epiphany about what it really means to live on your own. Then, I came back to Michigan, where I had family and a chance to start over with at least a small amount of dignity.

Life is a series of do-overs.

During my single mom years, I finished my degree - in music theory/history, which was as close as I could get to music composition in my hometown. More importantly, though, I learned how to write, how to perform, and how to inspire through music. I also learned how to market, build a following, and do graphic design - because I was a poor college student who also happened to be a single mom (can you relate?) And I packed away my musical dreams as my son started school.

Then came love, marriage, and the proverbial baby carriage. Life's responsibilities took center stage and dreams were relegated to stolen moments behind a locked bathroom door (because that's the only privacy you get in a given day).

I stopped living life with intention, and just focused on putting out fires, until one day, the smoke cleared, and I saw myself: older, wiser, a bit more cynical about the world, and ready for something different.

You always have a choice.

I've said that so many times in the past - to myself as well as my clients. We always get to choose. Sure there are choices we think we have to make, but there are people every day that don't make them. They choose a different path, and like Robert Frost said, it's the choice that makes all the difference.

So last fall, when I was facing another do-over moment, I asked myself what it was I really wanted to do.

If I could really start over, what would I devote my energies to?

The answer came in a flash from the core of my heart (perform and inspire), and right behind it came all kinds of "reasons" why it was a bad idea.

Each "reason" was fear showing up in a sneaky way.

As I've written before, fear is like iocane powder. Each "reason"  is  odorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly (into your psyche), and is one of the more deadly poisons known to man.

And, with time, you can build up an immunity, too.

How to build an immunity to fear: The Iocane Powder approach

You've got to give yourself permission to own your dreams. That means building up a resistance to the excuses about why you can't do/have/be them. Because there will always be excuses - or haters. They will come from everywhere - including inside yourself. But if you really want to own your dreams, you've got to have an immunity.

1. Take it in - you've got to actually hear the excuses, the comments and the crap. Hearing it isn't the same as internalizing it, though. Hearing it gives you a chance to assess it. If a respected person in your industry is offering useful feedback, take it in the light it's intended - which doesn't mean you're awful. It means you've got room for improvement. On the other hand, if your cousin Pete tells you to stick with something "safe" because you don't have the looks/money/connections to be successful (or your 8 year old kid tells you you can't sing), play a little "bless and release" with him, and keep doing your thing the best way you know how.

2. Give yourself some time - immunity takes time to build. It's not an instant thing. You've got to gradually thicken your skin to the comments - and learn to practice compassion with yourself when "reasons" crop up. It's a lot easier to ignore everybody else than it is to ignore the voices in your own head. Again, hear them, then bless and release them in a show of personal compassion. Remember, Westley took 5 years to build up an immunity to Iocane Powder. You can overcome many fears a lot more quickly.

3. Expose yourself to more of it. You can't build up an immunity from a one time exposure - unless you're getting innoculated, which means high concentration all at once. Most people can't handle that kind of fear blasting all at once. You've got to face it a little at a time over a period of time (see number 2). I can't tell you the number of clients that shy away from hearing the criticisms and fears. It's normal to avoid "pain", but when you re-train your brain to see these as opportunities to build up your immunity to Iocane powder, it gets easier to see them for what they are: your lizard brain trying to keep you "safe".

4. Create a stock pile of evidence that says you can own your dreams. That file clerk in your head will collect up all the evidence you offer - either for or against your desires. Ultimately, you control the outcomes by what you feed your brain. Are you creating opportunities for yourself to validate that you CAN own your dreams, or are you conjuring up "I toldjaso" moments that only fuel the "reasons" that keep you from finding success on your terms? A massive dose of Iocane will kill you (just ask Vizzini), but if you listen to # 2 and #3 above, and keep creating opportunities to expose your "reasons" a little at a time, you'll create enough confidence and close the gap from where you are and where you want to be.

It's not hard, but it's not easy, either. It takes time, effort, and commitment to being consistent. Only then can you overcome your fears because that's how they lose their grip on you.


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