Recently I had a conversation with a well-known author and sales coach of high performers in which we discussed critical characteristics of successful commercial lines producers. One stood out to me. This consummate coach of high performers identified fearlessness as a key trait that superstar producers possess, and I couldn’t agree more. After helping hundreds of entrepreneurs create new insurance agencies, I think it is a tremendous forecaster of success as an agency founder.
At the same time, however, as I reflected on our conversation, I realized there is no such thing as fearlessness, which literally means the absence of fear. Everyone, including superstar producers and agency founders, is afraid. So the absence of fear simply is not part of the human condition. If it were, we would not, and could not, have survived as a species.
When it comes to successful selling or entrepreneurial activities, the role of fear, or the lack of it, is not in the emotion itself; rather, it is in the behavior that takes place in response to it.
All successful people are able to act regardless of their fear, and that is a different characteristic altogether. It is known as courage.
But courage is also not an innate human quality. A person is not born with courage. It is a learned behavior. It is a habit. It is a behavior and habit that anyone can develop.
Here are some practical tips for developing courage and fear conquering (fearlessness).
Tip 1: Practice
When I was first training to be a pilot, I was deathly afraid of stalling the airplane. Stalling occurs when an airplane quits flying, and if uncorrected it results in a spin, which can be very dangerous and even fatal. During my training, I once put the airplane in a spin. That created a tremendous fear for me of stalling the airplane. That fear, in turn, led to poor performance as a pilot.
Fortunately, I read a story about Sean Tucker, a world champion aerobatics pilot, who had experienced the same kind of paralyzing fear of stalls. Sean learned to deal with his fear by doing hundreds of stalls. Practicing the thing he was fearful of allowed him to conquer his fear and become “fearless.”
After practicing stalls hundreds of times myself, I grew no less fearful of stalls, but I learned to perform well despite my fears. Practicing anything that scares us creates what I call “inurity.” Inurity is what you get used to, and what you get used to loses its power. When what you fear has no power to constrain you, you become truly fearless.
Tip 2: Interpretation
Another thing that can help us develop the ability to conquer fear and its limits on our progress, is interpretation. How we decide to view scary, negative and unpleasant things, including failure, determines the power they have over us.
The biggest cause of fear and the paralyzing inaction and poor performance on the part of entrepreneurs and producers is the prospect of failure. Another is the possibility of being embarrassed or of being shown to be incompetent, inadequate or unable. What superstars learn is that failure is not fatal and when interpreted and seen with the correct lens it rapidly leads to improved performance.
When you develop the habit of reflecting on every scary or unsuccessful venture, you turn failure into a learning opportunity. And in doing so, you rob failure of its emotional power. It is that emotional power which makes fear so potentially paralyzing and that prevents progress. Successful people teach themselves how to interpret scary things as opportunities to improve.
As the 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Almost nothing a producer or entrepreneur faces is death-defying, so reviewing experience as an opportunity to learn becomes transformative for those willing to try it.
Tip 3: Accommodation
New activities, unfamiliar experiences or opportunities outside our perceived level of expertise will always create a certain level of fear for us. It is also true that even routine activities may not lose their ability to frighten us.
For example, even as an experienced pilot with thousands of hours flying all kinds of airplanes under every conceivable condition, I still experience fear every time I climb into a cockpit. But I understand this fear and use it to sharpen my performance. In this way I do not avoid fear, but I also don’t conquer it. I accommodate it within myself.
This is how veteran soldiers are able to face the terrors of battle that seem impossible to those of us who have never had that experience. It is also this accommodation that allows some to become super producers and others to become successful agency founders.
Dan Sullivan, the founder of The Strategic Coach program, says, “The entrepreneur who isn’t scared isn’t making progress.” This certainly applies not only to entrepreneurs, but also to athletes, producers and anyone who seeks to be a high performer. Conquering our response to fear is what fearlessness really is. This courageousness can be created, encouraged and coached.
Those who win in sales and entrepreneurial activities are those who are willing to put fearlessness in action into practice. Understanding that anyone can become “fearless” with practice, interpretation and accommodation means that anyone willing to make the effort can become a successful commercial lines producer or agency founder.
With this knowledge you can move your own performance to a higher level and also coach your team to a place that perhaps you, and they, previously believed impossible. Those who struggle can become superstars as they become “fearless.”
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