The Fears That Hold You Back (And How To Fight Them)

The Fears That Hold You Back (And How To Fight Them)

Note from Jonathan: When Maneesh asked if he could write a guest post for Paid to Exist, I was eager to see what he’d come up with. I’d seen his work at several other places, such as Scott H Young’s blog, and I knew it would be great. Of course, Maneesh didn’t disappoint.

Please take the post below to heart, and try to commit to doing one thing this week that scares you. Also, don’t miss the special bonus he’s put together just for Paid to Exist readers below.

Take it away Maneesh…


A few weeks ago, an intense feeling came over me.


It was about 3pm on a Thursday afternoon in sunny Medellin, Colombia. I sat down at a table to eat lunch, and noticed two beautiful women a table over. I really wanted to talk to them, but a sudden fear came over me. I was fixed in my chair.

“Well dammit, maybe if I write about this situation, I’ll feel a tiny bit less embarrassed.”

So I pulled out a notebook and wrote, for the first time ever, a list of my fears. I composed an email for my readers on paper, headed upstairs to my office, and hit the send button without proofreading it:

Subject: Fear
I’ve spent the last several years trying to engineer a lifestyle of freedom. I’ve followed my instincts. I’ve tried to only listen to myself, and flip the bird at naysayers and conformists.But right now, as I look around me, all I can feel is a single emotion–the emotion that, for years, I didn’t believe I experienced.


  •  I’m afraid of failing.
  • I’m afraid that I’m wasting my life—that what I’m doing doesn’t really have meaning.
  • There are two insanely beautiful paisas sitting a table away, and I’m afraid of approaching them.
  • I’m afraid that I’m fat, that I’m ugly, that I’m unemployable, that I’m unlikeable, that I’m annoying, or — worst of all — that I’m boring.

And I don’t know what do about it.

I’ve known for a long time that I’m 50x more productive when I don’t have my laptop, but I’m afraid to go anywhere without it. Not having my laptop or phone inspired this post—I’m feeling naked without technology.

This essay has no answers. I’m not here to tell you how to face your fear, or become a digital nomad, or sell you shit, or whatever-the-hell you expect me to do.

I’m just here to tell you that I know you’re afraid of something. Me too. And it’s killing me.

And maybe if I reveal my fears to you, you’ll reveal yours to me. And we’ll fight them together.

The #1 and #2 Most Common Fears

Now, usually when I write an email to my newsletter, I get around five or six email responses. But this time, when I checked my email the next morning, my jaw dropped. I had received over 120 emails.

The responses arrived like a tidal wave. Men, women, old, young, American, non-American—every demographic had something to say about fear. And these hundreds of emails helped me understand something very significant.

For many people — maybe most — fear determines the way they live their life.

So I sat down to respond to these emails and I watched a pattern emerge. The most common fear, as I expected, was a fear of failure. Dozens of people wrote their stories, how they wanted to build a business, how they wanted to quit their job, how they wanted to travel the world—but they were afraid of failing.

They were afraid how their family and friends would look at them if it didn’t work out as they hoped.

But the second most common fear intrigued me. It was the fear of success.

That’s right. The most common fear and the second most common fear were exact opposites of one another. Dozens of readers were afraid that, if they did in fact succeed, they would be even worse off. They might have too much responsibility. They might not like the kind of person that they would become.

These two fears — the fear of success, and the fear of failure — were so debilitating that it left the majority of my readers unable to do anything. They were, quite literally, paralyzed by fear.

Think about it, if you are afraid of both failing and succeeding, what are you left with? Doing nothing. And that is what most people ended up doing — simply existing, engulfing information, reading blog articles, but being too afraid to actually take any action.

Do you find yourself afraid to take action?

My biggest goal at Hack the System is to get readers to actually DO something. Actionability is one of my central tenets—how can someone use the info I provide, TODAY, to actually make something happen?

So when I delved deeply into these paralyzing fears, I realized that there are deep-set fears that prevent people from taking action. That is the real consequence of fear—inaction.

But, to achieve any goal, action is the most important step. So what’s stopping you from taking action?

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
— Dale Carnegie

If you are ready to start facing your fear, check out my recent article on Fear and Getting Thrown Out of An Airport Lounge. And, by grabbing my special guide, written just for Paid to Exist readers,  you’ll learn the exact actionable steps to fighting your fear via systems.

What do I mean by systems? A system, as I define it, is an automatic, self-perpetuating contextual set of instructions that induce success. One of my most famous examples is how I forced myself to lose 23 pounds in 28 days. I knew from years of experience that I always fail when I try to use willpower to force myself to succeed. Instead, I built a context that required me to succeed—I moved to the desert with a limited amount of food and water for 28 days. I shaped the context around me, so that there was no way to fail.

Listen—I’ve spent years dramatically helping others face their fears and achieve their goals by shifting their context and mindset. And I want to help you do the same. No fluff, just pure actionable content. That’s why I prepared this special resource just for you.


About the Author: Check out Maneesh Sethi over at Hack the System where he shows you the ultimate Cheat Codes for Life. He’s put together a free resource just for Paid to Exist readers. Head on over and grab your copy of How to Fight your Fear through Systems and his free travel hacking guide today.

Be Your Own **** Boss

Get everything you need to finally leave your job for good. Including a detailed field guide, daily steps to freedom right to your inbox, and detailed case studies.

Learn more

The first few weeks of the Job Escape Kit has already produced some outcomes I’d never thought I’d see in my whole career.” ~ Nick Burk

Comment & Add Your Voice

Leave a Comment

Sites That Link to This Post

Previous post:

Next post: