Overcoming Fear: How to Move Past Uncertainty and Do Great Things

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Uncertainty is a part of life, a part of business, and usually a part of big decisions.

Are we in the right career? Are we working at the right company? Should we get a job or try to stick things out as a freelancer? Should we finally start that business we’ve been dreaming about?

Overcoming fear is the only way to move past uncertainty, get an answer to these questions, and do great things.

The good news is that overcoming fear is easier than most of us think, if you take the right steps.

I recently spoke with Jonathan Fields, the author of Uncertainty to talk about what you can do to overcome fear and how you can do great things by making the decisions that scare you.

Watch it now:

What To Watch For…

You’ll enjoy the entire interview, but here are a few of the highlights…

2:00 — Equipping yourself to go to the place where great work happens
3:45 — What happens when we try to do something that we haven’t done before
7:15 — How to reframe your mind
8:46 — How to walk away from a high–paying job that isn’t right for you
11:00 — How to own your life and allow you to take action in the face of uncertainty
13:20 — How to optimize your brain’s power to overcome fear
16:30 — How to become more creative
17:20 — How to improve your personal practices to deal with uncertainty
22:00 — Why your environment is a critical factor in your success
25:20 — Why judgment is a good thing
27:40 — What you can do to maximize your environment
30:10 — How world–class performers use fear to create great work

The Key Takeaway

Our process for overcoming fear can dramatically impact the happiness and success we experience.

To put it simply: we will never have all of the answers. And it’s only natural to worry about the outcome of things we don’t know.

At some point, however, we will need to take action regardless of what we don’t know or haven’t done. The strategies Jonathan shares in the video above are great for that. You’ll find many others in his book.

Where can I get more tips like this?

Join Passive Panda’s free newsletter for more information on overcoming fear, crushing uncertainty, and making progress.

40 Responses to Overcoming Fear: How to Move Past Uncertainty and Do Great Things

  1. Tram Tran says:

    Thanks for the awesome post. Definitely fear is one of the many reasons preventing anyone on doing great things. I’m writing my post on this topic as well. Would it be cool I link to your site? I’m sure a lot of people would find this post helpful.

    The book seems to be the next big thing. Everyone is talking about it. Pat from http://www.smartpassiveincome.com talked about it as well. ;)

    P.S. cool domain name man. Everyone loves panda, especially a pa$$ive one;)

  2. Akhil says:


    Thanks for posting this interview. It helped me figure out root causes of a few fears and anxious situations.

    Also, the fact that lot of successful people meditate is a good push to try it out.

    Thanks again!

  3. Zach Friedman says:

    Great interview James. I wish these lessons were taught in school. Building the fundamental framework for overcoming fear and anxiety is much more important than any technical skill, knowledge, or certification.

    Without a strong foundation to always come back to and lean on, we will exhaust ourselves trending water in the ambiguous sea of life.

    • James Clear says:

      I agree. Fear can cripple any amount of ability, so it’s critical to understand how to embrace uncertainty and move past the roadblocks.

  4. The best thing I read this morning hour. I ordered by book before the end of the interview.

  5. Experiencing greater degrees of discomfort, aka fear, based on the perception of how much it matters. Wow. That’s so true.

    I sense that I tend to avoid that discomfort by playing it safe, not putting too much into any one thing. If it doesn’t succeed I can say, “yep, told ya so.” Yet at the same time doing nothing brings about a cognitive dissonance that motivates … I need to be doing SOMETHING, so that I feel some sense of worth.

    Staying safe by dancing on top of the bell curve though screams mediocrity.

    Jonathan says to ask different questions. Two that I’ve applied more recently come to mind: “What’s the worst that can happen?” Of course. But one I’ve begun to examine as applied to new endeavors is, “What’s the best that could happen?” At least as far as can be estimated. Failure to prepare for success can likewise be paralyzing.

    Thought-provoking: Single-tasking, meditation, good stuff. And surrendering the outcome. Compensating for fear with control is so huge. Fear says stay with the plan! Until the pain of stagnation and failure overcomes the perceived pain of change.

    Thanks, James, for the interview. I agree as well!

    • James Clear says:

      Garry, you’ve made a lot of great points in this comment, but my favorite might be about success. “Failure to prepare for success can be paralyzing.”

      That’s so true. Many people are just as terrified of achieving large success (and all that goes with it) as they are of failure.

  6. ExcelAssist says:

    A great reminder that we must equip ourselves, but may never feel ‘ready.’ We need to take the leap and trust the outcome will teach us something—a reinforcement we are heading in the right direction or a ‘check’ guiding us to pursue something slightly different.

    • James Clear says:

      Yes, I don’t think it’s about being intentionally unprepared or reckless, but realizing that embracing the feeling of uncertainty and moving forward is just as critical as preparing for it.

  7. Jayesh Haryani says:

    It makes me well aware of the situation actually I am currently in. Thank you so much. Hope to see more.

  8. Francesca says:

    Hi James,

    Thanks for another good post… do you know if there is an Italian version of Uncertainty? Thanks.

  9. Melanie says:

    Super interview James – thanks!

  10. Tiffany says:

    Sounds like this could be a video I really need to check out. Unfortunately don’t have 30 mins at work so I will check it out when I get home. I think uncertainty is something that stops so many people and the fact is nothing is really certain. Even if you have a job and do it well you can still get fired or laid off.

  11. Denis Alexander says:

    Thanks. Loved “uncertainty.” I carry it around in my back pocket. There were lots of tools I needed in the video.

    Thank Jonathan Fields for the insight. Passive Panda got so much information we can use in class. “GREAT” still uncertain but now I can work on it.

  12. Jack Settles says:

    Thanks, I feel like “I needed that”.

    Fear of failure is a big deterrent and I think I was taking longer and longer to do anything for fear of another failure.

    Not doing anything is a form of failure too. Thanks again, Jack.

    • James Clear says:

      Glad that interview hit the spot for you.

      Very true that “not doing anything is a form of failure too” … sometimes it’s all how we frame the problem in our minds.

      A small adjustment in how we view things can give us the courage to start.

  13. AJ says:

    Nice post James!

  14. Wojtek says:

    Very inspiring stuff. The bit about meditation is so true. And the part about not waiting until you have all the answers – I think you’ve covered it in some other posts as well.
    Thanks for the post!

  15. Juan says:

    Can’t watch the video ;-(

    is it down ?


  16. Pamela Olson says:

    Good stuff James! Though concepts in the conversation are not new, Jonathan’s language around the neuroscience, psychology, and also touching on “running lean” concepts are all worth hearing AGAIN, and again, and again…thanks for the reminders!
    You’d be surprised how many executives and CEOs of small/middle market businesses fall into the fear/uncertainty stuck positions — they do fine, but don’t let themselves create GREATNESS!

  17. Sid says:

    Would it be okay to post a transcript of all audio conversations? this way, one can read while in the office…easier than listening..

  18. Lovely Chu says:

    Passive Panda is unbelievably awesome. I can’t keep my eyes from reading the great articles. This is of great help to everyone. Kudos.

  19. RL Mathews says:


    Excellent interview.

    Not only has Jonathan re-affirmed one of the main barriers (i.e. Fear) and the required mindset (i.e intrinsic motivation) that prevent many aspiring entrepreneurs from success, but he has included some additional important aspects for dealing with fear that I had not heard before, such as incorporating the workflow, personal practices and environment ideas he mentioned. This definitely gives me some new knowledge to draw from as I pursue the life I imagine as a successful entrepreneur.

    Thanks for sharing!

  20. Amazingly interesting and valuable post. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Michael Watkins says:


    I am writing a book on leadership and came across your piece on finding your passion. I would like to reference your thoughts in my book.

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