To Be Afraid Is To Be Alive

First she went to North Korea, broke all the rules, risked jail. I was really upset at her.

Then she went to war-torn Chad by herself into the middle of the desert.

All for vacation. She’s completely insane and she’s my friend.

Don’t go to Chad, I told her before she went. There’s mines, there’s terrorists, there’s kidnappers. You’re going to get hurt.

No I won’t, she said.

How do you know?

She shrugged her shoulders. I don’t.

She wrote a book about being a tourist in North Korea. You should buy it. It’s called “My Holiday In North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place in the World.”

I recommend buying it because I wrote the blurb at the top. Plus North Korea is crazy, ugly, and boring. Why would someone be a tourist there? You can read about it instead of going.

In my blurb I say it is “death-defying.”

Most blurbs I write before I read the book. But for this one I read the book first because my ego wanted to see if I was mentioned. I wasn’t.

Farnoosh Toorabi, host of the CNBC show “Follow the Leader,” asked this question to Wendy at her book launch party. She asked, “Why?” Because there’s absolutely no good reason.

Until Wendy answered.

“To be afraid is to be alive,” she said.

I didn’t really like that answer and I don’t know why. I don’t like to be afraid and I think I am alive. In fact, I hate being afraid. I hate struggle. I hate when relationships end. I hate when businesses fail and I’m afraid I won’t make payroll.

In fact, I really hate fear.

But then I thought, what if people were never afraid? The ones who were never afraid never ran away from the lions in the jungle.

The ones who WERE afraid became our ancestors. Became Adam and Eve and ran as far as they could from the Tree of Public Education. Adam and Eve were very afraid and then they had babies.

If I was never afraid I probably wouldn’t experience the joy of connecting with others (which probably started off as either insecurity or a fear of being alone).

The bliss of doing things that I love (I started off doing them for fear I’d be a useless idiot, which I still often am but at least I’m not afraid of it anymore) .

All of the writing I have done (since I don’t publish a single thing unless I’m afraid to hit the “Publish” button).

Here are some things I am afraid of that in the past year have created riches in every way in my life.

I Asked For Help

I’m afraid to ask for help. I don’t want people to think I am weak. Or I am somehow so incompetent that I need help.

And maybe deep down I don’t want to feel like later in life I will owe people. I’m afraid of karmic debt. I always want to save. I never want to be saved.

This is a big problem in all of my relationships.

Finally, this year I put my hand out. In cases where I was in despair I called a friend and begged to meet just so I could have connection.

In places where I needed more help in work, I called people and asked for advice.

As an experiment, I traveled one place and simply asked for a place to stay.

People were happy. People want to help. Everyone is told, “practice random acts of kindness.” But in order to do that, someone has to let them be kind.

I volunteer!

I Admitted Failure

To be fair, I’ve been admitting this non-stop since 2010. I keep finding new ways to fail just so i can admit more of it.

Before 2010, I was afraid to do it. I didn’t want people to think I was stupid. Nobody would ask me to go on TV ever again. Which is actually what happened.

So what.

Someone told me, “your mess is your message”.

My mess has generated 1500 articles, 400 podcast episodes, about 10 books, an upcoming children’s book, and a dozen other opportunities. I’m no longer afraid of my mess now.

So I’m going to repeat it:

Your mess is your message.



Last year I started a business. When you start a business you sell something and you ask people for money for your service.

I’ve been in business many times. The hardest thing for me is when you hit that point where you have to say, “well….it’s going to cost you $X.”

When I met with Tony Hawk last week he told me he was always accused of being a sellout once he started sponsoring things.

“But you can’t be a sellout unless you are selling something,” he said.

And in order to sell something, it means you are offering something that creates greater value for others.

If I create value it means I shouldn’t be afraid to be shameless about holding my hand out. I had to keep telling myself that with every business. I was ashamed to ask.

People often don’t value what they don’t pay for. I’d like to give all my books for free, for instance, but then maybe people won’t read them. And I’d rather people read my books then have them just buried on a bookshelf.

If you aren’t shameless today you will probably be ashamed of what you didn’t do tomorrow.

Be Honest

Here’s what I think is a cop-out. Cowardice: Radical Honesty. I hate that. Radical honesty is when you have no filter between your brain and your mouth.

For instance, you say, “I’d like to have sex with you” to the check-out girl at the pharmacy. Don’t do that. That’s not real honesty.

There’s also a quote I live by that saves my life very day. Whenever someone talks to me I listen for “the good reason” and try to figure out “the real reason.”

For instance, a teenager says she wants to study at a library (good reason!) but you know there will be lots of boys there (real reason!).

Or an employee says using particular new software tool will be too expensive (good reason!) but the reality is he doesn’t know how to use the tool (real reason!).

I like to give the real reasons.

Also, honesty doesn’t mean live in a glass house. I don’t write about EVERYTHING in my life. For instance, not once have I written anything about the mother of my children.

But everything I write about, I am always dead honest on. Else, I am just living in the nice little safe comfort zone I have carved out for myself and I will never grow and learn and connect with people.

Honesty is about unique and real connection that helps you build bonds with your fellow space travelers on this planet. Or robots. Whatever.

The more honest, the more real, the more love.

Be Curious

I met with Brian Grazer last week, who has produced movies like “Apollo 13,” “The Doors,” and my favorite TV show, “Arrested Development.”

He told me that every two weeks for the past 30 years he has cold-called random people who have impressed him and asked them a ton of questions.

He calls them curiosity conversations.

This is how he met Ron Howard, who he since has gone on to produce $15 billion worth of movies with.

This is how he comes up with the ideas for every movie he has ever done. (“What was it like when Apollo 13 broke down?” he once asked astronaut Jim Lovell).

I said to him, “You seem very playful. Like a trickster. You have to be playful to not be annoying to all these people you cold call.”

“I never thought about it that way,” he said, “but that is dead on.”

So you can’t be afraid to be playful when everyone is serious. You can’t be afraid to be curious when everyone else is quiet and afraid to ask questions.

The great mathematician Godel, inadvertently proved that there are more questions than answers in the world.

If we live in our safe little universe of answers and facts, we miss out on the far larger world of questions and mystery.

Mystery leads to mastery.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

I was offered a job once at HBO. I really wanted to work there. But I felt like I needed to publish a novel, for some reason, before I took a job as a computer programmer there.

I never published a novel.

But finally two years later, I took the job. I wish I had taken it earlier. Don’t give yourself arbitrary goals. Goals are stupid.

Just go and have the experience you want, when it is offered to you. There’s no good time. And nobody cares but you.

Be the person you want to be, and then what happens? You suddenly are that person.

I was talking to Todd Herman who specializes in training elite sports athletes. He told me something I didn’t know: that every sports athlete spends hours before a big event transforming themselves into their “alter ego.” Their super hero identity.

They do this to shed all of their fears and weaknesses so they can operate at peak performance.

Who is the real secret identity, he asked me, Clark Kent or Superman?

Clark Kent!

Faking it till you make it turns you into a superhero.

Fear and mystery leads to desire. I want to know! I want to experience what I haven’t experienced before.

Desire leads to every part of your body feeling more alive. Every part of your brain on alert.

It’s a dopamine/oxytocin cocktail in your brain.

I asked Wendy how she will top North Korea in terms of fear. She said, “I don’t know. But wherever it is, I’m going.”

A long time ago I fell in love with Wendy. Maybe 20 years ago.

And the other day I sat in the audience and she was on stage, scared and completely fearless.

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