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Don’t Dodge Your Fears—Channel Them

Have you ever used fear as motivation? This might seem conflicting to some, but good fear can be a powerful stimulus in creating change—if you channel it the right way.

The greats in sports and business know how to use their emotions to their advantage, and no one—in my opinion—exemplifies this principle better than Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Tony La Russa. Throughout his career, he has used good fear to achieve incredible success.

La Russa, best known for his managerial positions with the Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals, led his teams to a combined total of three World Series titles, six league championships and 12 division titles.

He’s achieved magnificent levels of success, but the fear of failure—and disappointment of losing a single game—motivated him on a daily basis to give his ultimate best. One defining characteristic of the great ones, like La Russa, is that they hate to lose more then they love to win. 

I had an opportunity to talk with La Russa on his philosophy of “good fear, bad fear” and how recognizing the distinction between the two can help us succeed in our own goals.

La Russa, who is famous for his intense preparations, considers the first hint of anxiety a crucial crossroads on whether we will take or dodge a challenge. He told me that anxiety—or good fear—can motivate us to prepare more in order to avoid a bad outcome.

“It’s okay to have anxiety,” he says. “You’re going to face a lot of opportunities where there’s an uncertain outcome. You’ve been given an opportunity.

“Bad fear means you call in sick,” La Russa says. Good fear propels you to face the challenge with a stronger mindset and better preparation.

Responding to bad fear by avoiding challenges leaves you with a weak ego and a lack of confidence, La Russa says. That creates more anxiety as we obsess over the opportunities that we passed on.

Have you ever channeled fear into success? What are some good fears that have helped you respond to your own challenges? I want to hear your story. Leave me a comment below and let’s discuss good fear, bad fear!

Anxiety can be a positive force. Discover more about the upside to stress and how to use it as motivation to ace your next life or business challenge.

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