The Business Rusch: Fear Itself

The Business Rusch: Fear Itself

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Not making it to Los Angeles last week set off a little fear bomb inside of me.  (For those of you who don’t know what happened on our way to LA, here’s the link.) Instead of focusing on what had gone right—we got Dean out of the heat where he could heal, and a possible serious (hospitalization) crisis got averted—I’ve been focusing on what ifs.  What if we had continued on the drive? What if I hadn’t noticed how the heat was affecting Dean? What if, what if, what if….

Sometimes this kind of rumination is good.  In fact, I think using hindsight to figure out what went wrong is an excellent way to learn.  I wrote a post on hindsight for the Freelancer’s Guide.  But at a certain point, you have to stop ruminating and start moving forward.

I’m doing that, but forward is forcing the issue since I’m planning for another trip.  I’m heading to Germany in ten days for research and a convention.  Along with Greg Bear, I’ll be the guest of honor at Elstercon in Leipzig, a trip I’ve looked forward to for months.  I’ll be blogging about it here if the computer connections are as good as everyone says, and I’m looking forward to that too, sharing the research and the sites, as well as the convention itself.  (If the computer connections aren’t good, I’ll upload everything when I get back.)

But trying to let go of an aborted trip before I head on another one has made for a bizarre loop.  First thing I did when I got home was check the weather in Leipzig, even though Dean won’t be coming with me.

I thought this fear loop was just another Kris pathology until yesterday.  I watched the news, talked to some friends going through a crisis, read a few blogs, and got some interesting e-mails.

Behind every conversation I had, everything I read, everything I heard?  Fear.

Fear is particularly prevalent in publishing right now because the future of the field is uncertain.  Even people who understand how to read tea leaves are having trouble predicting the future.  It’s in such a constant state of flux—almost daily—that people are terrified because they don’t know how to behave.  Suddenly all the rules of what’s right and what’s wrong have gone out the window, and it’s left us with a complete unknown.

Add to that the economic uncertainty.  Unemployment is still about 10% in the U.S. (which doesn’t count the underemployed or those who have given up, weird as that may be), and the good economic numbers that came out in June and July are being revised downward.  The televised newscasts, from the networks to the talking heads on cable, are paying more attention to fringe elements of all sides of the political spectrum than they are to the day-to-day stories that have an impact on our daily lives.

(Televised news, which needs to make a profit, has always done this.  It’s just gotten worse in the past few years because of…you guessed it…the economic situation. Ad revenues are down, so everyone is slashing budgets left and right.  And the expensive items in news department budgets are often hard news, which people have trouble watching, versus entertainment news which is codified gossip.  As much as we all decry gossip, we all strain a little to hear it.)

The net effect of all of this, however, adds to the uncertainty about the future and adds to the fear factor.  Unemployment is so high that most of us know someone who is struggling financially—and by that I don’t mean they’re unable to buy the latest iPhone.  I mean they’re in danger of losing their house (or they already have); they can’t pay their medical bills; or they’re unable to feed their families.

Mixed into yesterday’s celebritainment news was the fact that President Obama has done what every president before him has: He’s redecorated the Oval Office (using campaign funds, not tax dollars, as every news cast was careful to point out).  Around the new rug in the Oval Office are famous quotes, including arguably the most famous words Franklin Delano Roosevelt ever uttered: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Let’s look at that statement for a moment, so we share a context.  Roosevelt spoke those words on March 4, 1933, as part of his first inaugural address.  At the time, more than a quarter of the workforce was unemployed.  Twenty percent of New York school children were malnourished.  In mining country, some estimates put the number of malnourished—or starving—children at 90%.  People who still had work had their hours reduced and their paychecks slashed.

Historian Jeff Shesol calls the Roosevelt of March 1933 “a light in the darkness.” Shesol writes in Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. The Supreme Court (W.W. Norton, 2010), “By the clarity of [Roosevelt’s] words, his voice, and his purpose, he transformed the national mood even before he left the inaugural podium.”

This is important, because up until that point, the nation felt as if it were drowning—and, honestly, it was.  Mired in debt and loss, hopelessness seemed both natural and normal.  But the problem with hopelessness is that it paralyzes, and becomes part of an endless loop.

After Roosevelt spoke that famous quote, he entered into what is now called the Hundred Days, the first months of his presidency, where he proceeded to do more than any president before him.  Many of the laws that passed in those days got challenged and overturned in court (the subject of Shesol’s book), but at least it felt like Roosevelt was doing something, which was more than it seemed like his predecessor had done.

If Roosevelt had spoken those words and then done nothing, people would not have remembered them.  In fact, after his first inaugural, the “fear itself” quote was not the one the press and the country remembered.  Only in hindsight did those words become the central take-away from that momentous speech.  Part of the reason?  A man who himself could have gotten mired in fear and self-pity instead rose out of his bed after polio left him paralyzed to become President of the United States.  When Roosevelt said that fear was destructive, he wasn’t just speaking a platitude.  He was speaking from experience.

The other problem with fear is that it’s catching.  If one person is fearful, everyone else wonders if they should be as well.  Some of this is pure biology.  Fear saves lives by getting us out of difficult situations. But we no longer live in the wild.  We don’t—and can’t—run from every threat.

Fear is an easy emotion.  That’s why fear mongers thrive in difficult times.  It’s easier to decry something and look at it with a jaundiced eye than it is to examine that something—or to make changes.

I was raised by parents who were afraid of everything.  When I was in the first grade, my father—who had taken a huge career risk—failed miserably and publicly, to the point where he almost unhireable in his own profession (not because of his abilities, but because of his outspokenness).  He saw that moment as a failure that defined him, and gave up.

My mother was afraid of most everything—and understandably so.  An orphaned child in the Depression, shuttled from relative to relative, my mother never trusted anything or anyone, and firmly believed that good times would not last.  Instead of looking for opportunities, my parents saw failure lurking around every corner.

They weren’t always that way.  As younger people, they balanced each other—my father being the optimist of the two of them.  (My siblings, who are between 16 and 20 years older than me, had parents so different that it was almost as if they were raised by two people I never met.)

I was a sensitive child, and I spent most of my childhood terrified of everything.  I also remember vividly when I decided I’d had enough.  I was in junior high, and the thing that scared me the most was talking in front of class.  I wanted to be the best student in school, which meant I had to do a lot of talking without shaking.  So I signed up for the forensics (public speaking) team.  I told my teacher, Mr. Hodnick, that I was so terrified, I thought I’d die.  He promised me I would learn how to control that terror.

He did not promise me the fear would go away.  Only that I would learn how to control it.  And I did.

I still get terrified when I step in front of a crowd.  But I’ve survived it for nearly forty years now.  I know I can survive one more talk in front of one more group.

And it is the memory of that preteen me that often gets me through my fear.  If that geeky little girl could learn how to talk so well in front of groups that she went on to win speaking competition after speaking competition, then I can honor her by facing any fears that I have.

It’s not about getting rid of the fear.  Nor is it about getting rid of the situation that causes the fear.  It’s about managing the fear.

And how do we do that?

I have no idea what the experts recommend.  I only know what works for me.

First, I have to figure out what’s causing the fear.  Sometimes it’s a loop, a memory, like the one from the LA trip last week.  That, I think, was also a reaction—I couldn’t be afraid during the trip back, so I waited until the incident was over to feel the emotions involved.

Most often, though what causes the fear is uncertainty.  And there is clearly plenty of that right now.  Not only is the economy uncertain, but people’s lives are as well.  Not just people who are unemployed, but people who are employed have no idea whether or not they’ll have jobs in six months.

Add to that the rapid technological change, which isn’t just hitting publishing, but most of the arts, as well as many other industries.  Suddenly we as a people can’t picture our futures.  That’s both unsettling and terrifying.  If you can’t see where you’re going, how do you know if you’re on the right path?

The short answer is, simply, you don’t know.

But what most of us forget is this: We never really know.  We have no idea if what we’re doing from day to day is right, is useful, or is even important.  There’s a line in Matt Kearney’s song, “Closer to Love,” that strikes me every single time I hear it:  We’re all one phone call from our knees.  It’s a pessimistic view of the world, but a true one.  We all have had that phone call which completely changed our world, changed it in an instant.

If we lived in fear of that moment, we would never get anything done.  So mostly, we ignore it, and we forget it might happen.  We proceed as if we can predict our futures when, in fact, we can’t.

Still, we want to, just so that we have the illusion of control.

Once I’ve figured out what’s causing the fear, I try to get myself out of it.  If the fear’s a loop, I usually can. But if—as is more common—the fear comes from uncertainty, I do what I learned in junior high.

I run through scenarios.

I start with the worst-case scenario. I actually imagine what would happen if everything I feared would go wrong did go wrong.  Then I figure out if I can live with that.  As a kid in junior high, I realized what I was most afraid of in public speaking was already happening: terminal public embarrassment, combined with blushing, stammering, and self-humiliation.  Since I was already experiencing that, I risked nothing by joining the forensic team.

But other worst-case scenarios aren’t as easily solved.  On the upcoming German trip, I fly out of the U.S. on September 11th.  That date reminds us all of what can go wrong.  If I’m on a plane that includes a terrorist bent on destruction—well, I hope I acquit myself as well as the passengers did on the flight over Pennsylvania.

But a lot of my friends flew on September 11, 2001, and they did not die.  Instead, they got stranded somewhere that was not home.  Just like all those tourists in Europe when the Icelandic volcano blew this spring.  That’s a worst-case I can plan for.  I can have money set aside for just that emergency.  Dean will be staying home, so he can help stateside if something were to happen.

Worst case doesn’t look as bad as it did before the planning.

Once I have the worst-case scenario and how I can live with it, I then work my way to the second worst-case, and the third, and the fourth.  I used to stop when I reached the neutral scenario—the one I expected.  However, I learned over the years to plan for the best-case scenario as well, because that can blindside you as well.

Particularly in business.  Dean and I did not plan for the best-case scenario when we started Pulphouse Publishing.  We figured best-case would take care of itself.  Instead, best-case—in which we sold all of our product the first time out—became another worst-case. We didn’t have enough funding in place to handle the production of our initial print run.  We just figured it was a pipe dream and wouldn’t happen.

The true downfall of that company happened at that moment, because we were always behind financially, and we never had a chance to catch up.  Now I’ve learned to look at the best-case as well, and try to predict what surprises lurk there.

Of course, you can’t predict everything.  And even with guessing, you’re often wrong.  But the nice thing about predicting scenarios is that it keeps you nimble, so that when something does go differently than expected, you can flow with it instead of bemoan the surprise.

Finally, the last thing I do to get rid of fear is a reality check.  I look at where I’m sitting and what I’m doing.

When FDR gave his speech in 1933, unemployment was at 25%.  That meant that 75% of all Americans were employed in one way or another.  I’m sure they were terrified too. They had lost hours and wages; banks were closing left and right, often wiping out savings; and people were rightly worried.  But most of them had enough work to pay the bills or to feed their families.

The uptick in mood that Roosevelt inspired brought an energy to the country.  It didn’t get the country out of the Great Depression.  In fact, if anyone had told FDR in 1933 that the Depression would continue for nearly another ten years, he wouldn’t have believed it.  He probably would have been appalled that it wasn’t his programs that got the country out of the Depression, but a devastating war that pulled the economy out of disaster.

Still, historians agree that FDR’s attitude, his change of pace, his willingness to move forward, helped the country survive those challenging years.  Historians disagree as to how much that attitude changed things.  But they know that the United States of mid-1933 was a different country than the U.S. of 1932, a less fearful country, one that believed in its own abilities again.

You can’t run a small business if you’re constantly afraid.  You’ll make mistake after mistake, because you’re always seeing threats instead of opportunities.  Even in the darkest times, opportunities exist.  Especially in the dark times.  It just takes someone with courage to seize those opportunities.

If you let fear control you, you won’t even try.  If you acknowledge your fear and figure out how to use it, as I learned in junior high, you can step into your own future.

Is it easy? Hell, no.  It’s a constant struggle.  If it weren’t a struggle, I would have solved the fear issue at the age of 13.  Instead, I’m obsessing about a trip to a country where I don’t speak the language (well), and where I’ll be expected—of all things—to talk in public.

Imagine me telling my thirteen-year-old self that.  She would have been appalled, surprised, and pleased. Yes, pleased.  Because she would have assumed she would eventually conquer her fear.

But I never did conquer that public-speaking fear.  I’ve just learned how to step past it.  I know it’s there, an ever-present companion.  I just know that fear is only debilitating when I allow it to be.

I started this column during my morning writing session.  I always follow that session with a run, lunch, and some errands.  As I left for my run, I realized just writing some words on the subject of fear made me feel better.  On my run, I realized I haven’t been breathing deeply this past week.  Breathing deeply calms. That’s one of the reasons meditation works.

I do a  lot of thinking while I exercise and today was no different.  The perspective I got—that I was obsessing about the past, and not really looking at where I am and what great opportunities I have—set the fear aside completely.

Yeah, I have other issues.  And I could easily substitute a new fear for those fears mentioned above.  As I said earlier in this column, fear is an easy default emotion.

But I’d rather enjoy life.  I’ve got a great month ahead.  So I’m looking forward—and reminding myself (yet again) that the only thing I have to fear…is fear itself.

I’m starting into the second month of the new column.  I’ve gotten some questions that I’ll be answering in future columns, and more ideas than I know what to do with.  But since my first business blog column, the donations have dropped off entirely.  Just as with the Freelancer’s Guide, I do need a few dollars to pay me for my time writing this blog every week.  Thanks for reading—and as always, feel free to share this column with others, so long as you acknowledge the source.





“The Business Rusch: Fear Itself” copyright 2010 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

25 responses to “The Business Rusch: Fear Itself”

  1. Great post Kris. Thanks.

    This has got me reflecting on my high school years in theater (and mime troupe).

    I was a very, very shy child and getting on stage both scared the hell out of me and empowered me. It gave me a place, a community, and something I could excel at.

    The stage fright never went away, and I came to accept it, and then invite it. I came to realize it’s purpose. It drew me into the present moment (my performance), marshaled my energies and gave me the boost I needed. Once I was in my performance all those biochemicals served, and the fear faded. It would have been sad if performing had become so ‘normal’ that the stage fright (fear) had gone away.

    I also learned two great lessons about dealing with performance oriented fears: 1) Prepare and practice extensively (as you wrote about); and 2) Get comfortable with improvisation.

    The unexpected will always happen. Being willing and ready to improvise can turn potential disasters into shining moments.

    When I was a kid I used to watch the Carol Burnet Show. They filmed it live, and the best bits were when things went wrong. Someone would start to break up, or miss a cue, or fall down and they would just ride that moment into something that was (probably) funnier than what they planned. They were all pros and great at improv, so things going unexpectedly was just fuel for the fire.

    And thanks for the blog. Your’s and Dean’s are some of my favorites and you have a great audience (the comments are worth reading, which is not always the case).

    • Kris says:

      Thanks, Robert. Great stuff about improv. I think about that a lot. When I travel, for instance, I expect to be surprised. (When I fly, I expect the worst and am often happily surprised.) Hadn’t thought about it in life, but you’re right. Improv is an important part of it too.

      I too loved the Carol Burnet show for exactly that reason. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. DeAnna says:

    Thank you.

    My high school experience was reading Spider Robinson and going, “I can always be dead later.”

  3. Matt Buchman says:

    Melissa, never said finding myself optimistic was easy. Some mornings it is incredibly hard, the fear can look huge, especially from underneath. But I start tallying what I do have: health, supportive, loving & very patient wife (she’d have to be, her husband wants to grow up to be a novelist), smart and beautiful kid who still speaks to me despite being a teenager, I live in an incredibly safe & wealthy country (I’ve ridden my bicycle through India, Indonesia, Israel just days before the Hebron massacre, and Eastern Europe while the Yugoslavian War was still going on (among other odd places I’ve been), a first world country is a gift worth being thankful for in the very worst of times… a bounty of things. My fear of being shot or contracting dysentery when I step out my front door is joyously low. Sometimes I have to reach deep for that list, but it’s there, just have to remember to go looking for it. And when all else fails, I dig out the t-shirt I made years ago: “Revel without a cause!” And I do.

  4. Lisa Silverthorne says:

    Hi Kris, wow — great post! Thank you for writing this. Fear can have so much power over us. It’s a shapeshifter. Where every new thing and every old thing revisited can let it seep unrecognized into your mind. Since it can disguise itself in so many forms, we don’t always recognize that it’s fear holding us back.

    I had similar experiences in school. I would literally shake through every book report and have to throw up afterward. Every time. The thing that helped me cope was theatre. When I was in a play, I was somebody else and it wasn’t scary. Then I joined the speech team to prove to myself I could do this and I did the duo interp (got a lot of firsts and even went to State) and solo speeches. I pretended to be someone else and it wasn’t so scary then. Kind of like putting my fiction out there. I pretend that I’m someone else and it’s not as scary.

    For me, controlling the fear is a lifelong struggle and it has held me back from doing a lot of things. I never seem to keep that “performance edge” sharp enough to cut through all the fear. But sometimes controlling it can be as simple as recognizing it and calling it out for what it is. Rumpelstiltskin. Now, go away. 🙂

    Thanks again, Kris. Your columns are awesome and always make me think. Have a great weekend!

    Lisa

  5. Stephen Hunt says:

    Nice piece, Kris.

    I guess you’ve encapsulated how a lot of us authors are feeling at the moment, what with the ongoing credit crunch and the coming e-book comet (I’ve just come back from Spain, and half my relatives out there seem to have lost their jobs and had their businesses go bust on them).

    When it comes to managing fear, I always remember that quote from the Magnificent Seven film, when one of the children tells Charles Bronson that all his family in the village are cowards, and Bronson tells the kid back, “Don’t you ever say that again about your fathers, because they are not cowards. You think I am brave because I carry a gun; well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility, for you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers. And this responsibility is like a big rock that weighs a ton. It bends and it twists them until finally it buries them under the ground. And there’s nobody says they have to do this. They do it because they love you, and because they want to. I have never had this kind of courage. Running a farm, working like a mule every day with no guarantee anything will ever come of it. This is bravery. That’s why I never even started anything like that… that’s why I never will.”

    And that’s why it’s still one of the greatest films ever.

    Stephen

    • Kris says:

      I had forgotten that quote, Stephen. I love that movie (in both forms–the Seven Samurai as well–and that sentiment is in both movies. I think you’re right. It’s that acknowledgment of every day courage–getting out of bed and meeting your responsibilities, that makes both films great. Thanks!

      Lisa, sounds like exactly the same path. Kindred souls. Yes, controlling the fear is a lifelong thing. I’ve learned that there are somethings I just don’t want badly enough to climb over the fear all the time. Once or twice I can do it. Every day I can’t. For example, that’s music performance for me. I don’t want to perform badly enough. But public speaking is part of my job, and I’ve actually come to enjoy it, nervous as it makes me. I guess we do learn who we are the older we get.

      And I do know that life still has a lot of surprises in store, and some of them will terrify me. So I need to move through fear, just as practice. 🙂 Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Cora says:

    Like Mary said above, if you’re going to Leipzig I would worry more about rain and cool weather than heat. Besides, pretty much every meteorologist in Germany predicts that we won’t be seeing more heat this year, though we may still get warm days.

    Anyway, Leipzig is a lovely city with a long literary and publishing tradition. It was a nice place even in Communist times and it has improved mightily since then. If you get the chance, try to visit Auerbach’s cellar, which already existed in Goethe’s day and is the setting of a scene in Faust.

    • Kris says:

      Thanks, Cora. The convention organizers promised the guests a dinner at Auerbach’s Cellar. I’m really looking forward to it. The more I write about the trip, the more excited I am. I honestly can’t wait.

  8. “Do what you are afraid to do” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

    I read this in grade eleven, wrote it in purple in my diary, and tried to follow it ever since.

    I felt humbled by this column, especially Matt’s comments. I realized that in my family, unemployment was something fearful, ideally never encountered and only discussed when necessary. Matt, I admire how you’re able to announce that you’re looking for work, you’re willing to sell the dream home you built yourself, and still waking up optimistic. I could do the first two, but I’d have to work pretty hard on the last.

    Although my worries now seem relatively trivial, I’m risk adverse. I just want to write my novels and have someone publish and promote them. But when I see the layoffs in New York publishing, including many editors who used to read my work and some who had my novels on their desk or in their inbox, I wonder how long I’m willing to hold out for a paper book with a major publisher.

    So I’m looking at this new electronic world and wondering where I’m going to fit in. Yep, fear. But I decided that I’m doing the conferences this year (NJ SCWBI, RWA Nationals, Can Con and Rutgers in October) as a last-ditch effort to do old-fashioned networking and education. And if it fails, I’ll start trying out electronic non-fiction, which has less emotional attachment for me, before I do fiction.

    No right answers, just moving forward with what feels right to me, fear or no fear.

    Good luck to everyone, with an extra shout-out to Matt.

    • Kris says:

      Great quote, Melissa.

      If you’re thinking of the electronic publishing side, you might want to come to the New Technology workshop Dean & I are holding in October (if you’re not already signed up; Dean has the list, not me.) Info here: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?page_id=50

      Some nice insights in your posts as well. We all have different things that scare us. I guess that’s what I meant by the perspective part of the post. Looking around often makes me feel better.

  9. Ryan Viergutz says:

    Oh man, Germany. I am envious. Tell what books you’re reading for research, as you go, if you want – I’m addicted to urban histories.

    Recently, I’ve learned that a key to managing the fear is to /act/. If you can trust your instincts, and not go down a horrible path, you have to keep trying to do something. You might surprise yourself.

    • Kris says:

      Good point, Ryan. Acting is so much better than sitting in fear.

      As for Germany, I’ve already done a lot of research. I’ll do more reading research when I get back. The trip will allow me to see and smell and absorb, which really helps for setting–and for understanding. For instance, in NYC, I had a meeting near the courthouse you see all the time on Law & Order. What the show misses–every time–is that the area is in one of the city’s canyons, and you feel almost underground when you’re there. It’s amazing. That’s the kind of detail I hope to find.

  10. Mary Jo Rabe says:

    Sorry. There is an English language link.
    http://www.leipziger-messe.de/LeMMon/buch_web_eng.nsf

    • Kris says:

      Thanks, Mary Jo. I saved the link for future reference.

      Matt, sounds you approach fear like I do. Head straight into it. Unlike Dean, who just dives in, I have to think about it first. But I head toward what I’m afraid of (unless it’s totally stupid, like jumping off a tall building with no net). It works so much better than hiding. Sounds like your stepdaughter has decided to be fearless as well. Which is a silly word. We’re not fear-less. We just don’t let it manage us.

      All of these posts have been great for me as well. Thank you.

  11. Mary Jo Rabe says:

    The Leipzig book fair (http://www.leipziger-buchmesse.de/) isn’t as huge as the Frankfurt book fair, but it’s worth seeing. I like the Congress Center (where the library conferences and the book fairs take place). It’s how I picture the first habitat for my Mars colony work in progress.

    Have a good time!

  12. Matt Buchman says:

    Thanks Kris. We have tiers of back doors, selling the house will be a sad step, but not a heartbreaker if it comes to that. It will open new and interesting opportunities.

    A further thought on fear. I have learned to attack what I fear, and that took a long time to learn. As you did with your forensics class (which is far braver than I was at that age), if I discover I fear something, I attack it head on. Bulldog! Pow! “Sam Seaborne shaped hole in the wall!” (One of our very favorite West Wing lines -we use it frequently.) What I find on the other side? Much less fear, and I’ve done something. Sure I get nervous or afraid (you can’t imagine what a mess I am 15 minutes before an interview, even though I know that it’s something I know I’m good at), but if I let that stop me, then where am I?

    An incredibly gratifying realization: My step-twerp is off to college in a few weeks. And over just the last month or so has come into her own and is ramrodding right over the tops of fears that would have rooted her to the spot even half a year ago. Is it my doing, the black belts we got together, a good boyfriend (and he is a great kid), I don’t know. But it is damned gratifying to watch. Fear? POW! BAM!

  13. Robin Brande says:

    Re: your junior high story.

    Further proof that our personalities are formed early. This story is why you are the success you are today. Love it!

  14. Matt Buchman says:

    Thank you, Kris, for the insights on the Roosevelt quote, one I contemplate almost daily. Your column this week evokes many things for me, I will restrict myself to belaboring only two.

    1. I find it amazing just how much we are formed in high school. My moment came in my senior year when I was given the concept that I could choose whether I stepped forward in fear or in trust. That the point was driven home by the friend I trust most, who had just betrayed my trust in the worst way I have ever experienced, only drove it home all the harder. I realized that my father had always stepped forth in cynicism. Years later he wrote to me, “I got out of school, looked at the world, and realized it was complete s***.” Me, I consciously chose from that high school moment onward to step forward in trust and optimism. It has paid me back a hundredfold.
    2. I have been unemployed for 8 months. Not even any pickup work as a framer which is what I’ve always done before. This week is when we have started discussing seriously at what point do we sell the house I designed and built for our retirement (on the market in 3-4 months is the answer). Each and every day, when I start the job hunt all over again, even today gearing up for the next 10 hours I will be working it, I find some way to be positive and upbeat and planning for a positive future, because if I don’t, then I will be given the fear, not the hope. I’d rather live in the hope.

    So, yes, I plan for the worst, hope (and plan) for the best, and shoot down the middle. But each day I breathe deeply, I shake off the fear as well as may be having learned that fear is just itself and no more, and I step forward aiming for the best.

    Again, thanks for the reinforcement of that, it is greatly appreciated.

  15. […] Kristine Kathryn Rusch » The Business Rusch: Fear Itself […]

  16. Mary Jo Rabe says:

    I’m sure you’ll have a great time in Leipzig. I have been to 4 library conferences there, and the city has really grown on me.

    Having lived in Germany for over 35 years now (am currently visiting my mother in Phoenix until Sept. 21), I can assure you that Germans are aware that they speak a very difficult language (although the grammar and spelling rules are elegantly logical) and they are very tolerant of the mistakes non-native speakers make. They are also almost obsessed with the idea of practicing their (often inventive) English, so don’t be insulted if they answer a question you have carefully crafted in German with a puzzling combination of English words.

    Enjoy; enjoy; enjoy! If it ever fits your schedule, consider going to the Leipzig Book Fair (usually around the end of March) some year.

    Be prepared for all kinds of weather (i.e. take an umbrella). In September the temperatures can range from the high 30’s (Fahrenheit) to the high 70’s, and it might rain every day or not at all.

  17. Kris, this is another excellent column. A while back, someone in the guide suggested the book The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker for freelancers to read, and I got a copy from the library. The book was a fascinating read for many reasons; Becker’s got a whole section on dealing with stalkers and the like. But the point of his title is that fear, properly managed, can work to our benefit. I’ll second the recommendation of your other reader to check out the book.

    • Kris says:

      I come to my computer this morning to find a lot of great responses. Thanks, y’all. Michael, great reminder on that book. Thanks.

      Robin, yeah, I think you’re right about personalities formed early. I simply did not want to cower through life. And I don’t–although sometimes it’s hard not to.

      Matt, sorry to hear about the lack of work and the possible downsizing. That is so hard. I’m thinking of you, although it sounds like you have a real handle on the emotional side of it all.

      And Mary Jo, thanks for the comments on Leipzig. I’m so looking forward to this. I’m brushing up on my German, but as always, language reminders only show me what I don’t know! The weather, btw, sounds like the Oregon Coast. I have clothes for that! And I’m used to that kind of weather. Too bad you’re in the US while I’m in Germany. Maybe next time–I have three books I want to write set in Germany and I only have time to research one (in Nuremberg–the others are in Berlin & Munich). But I’m thrilled about this opportunity, and a chance to meet German readers. I didn’t realize Leipzig has a book fair–maybe in 2012. (2011 is booked solid.)

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