How To Use Fear To Accomplish The Impossible

Sep 27, 2022

Fear of failure might stop us from doing things we want, but most importantly, it'll deny us the opportunity of doing it wrong and learn from it. What about our goals? Is setting realistic goals a way of creating down-to-earth expectations, or is bending our way around our fears and self-imposed limitations?

In today's episode, we put a magnifier on those things that look impossible to us and put their nature to the test. We look at our goals and question the path we choose to get to them and, above all, the routes we choose to avoid. We also talk about what it takes to hone a craft, highlight the need for iterations, and define what it means to do things bravely. 

In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • How can fear take our chance of learning by failing (2:38)
  • It's not about the hours; it's about the iterations (6:13)
  • What is hiding behind setting realistic goals (10:18)
  • Bravery really isn't pretending fear is not there (13:36)
  • Sometimes, the impossible is a matter of perspective (15:43)
  • How to use fear as fuel to get us where we want to be (19:01)


  • Book: Steven Kotler - The Art of Impossible: A Peak Performance Primer
  • Quote: Steven Kotler - Motivation is what gets you into this game; learning is what helps you continue to play; creativity is how you steer, and flow is how you turbo-boost the results beyond all rational standards and reasonable expectations."
  • Quote: Naval Ravikant - "It isn't 10,000 hours that creates outliers; it's 10,000 iterations."
  • Unlock Your Unrivaled Momentum Training 
  • Interested in Working with Clint? Send a message to [email protected]

Let's Connect!


Clint Hoopes: Sometimes we want to say, “Oh, well, let's be a little more realistic with something. Let's be realistic with our goals.” I've said that before. “Hey, let's be a little more realistic. Let's bring this down and focus on that, something we can accomplish.” Versus the aspect here where you take your goals to a level that forces you to change everything, not just work harder, but completely shift the way you are going at the problem.

Welcome to the Unrivaled Man podcast. Today, we are celebrating a significant milestone for the podcast and for myself. Today is the 100th episode of the Unrivaled Man podcast. Now, I honestly can hardly believe that we are already at 100 episodes. And for those of you that have been here since the beginning, thank you for sticking around and being here. For those that have found me along the way and that are finding me today, welcome. This has been a fun journey and we're going to continue on so many wonderful experiences, so many wonderful interviews, and wonderful lessons learned along the way. There have been changes to the show and really positive growth for myself, all along the way. And I'm so grateful to have been able to share this all with you. 

Today, in this 100th episode, I really want to talk about how we get to where we want to be. Now, for me, this 100 episodes really is one milestone, it's one that I set my sights on a long time ago. And honestly, like I said, I can hardly believe that I'm here at this milestone. And it's amazing, all of the different things that have happened along the way. When I first started the podcast — the very first episode, I believe — I shared the fact that I had almost started this podcast years ago; over 10 years ago, in fact. I even went so far as to record a few episodes and post them only to have the fear, which honestly caused me to take them down the next day. I recorded several episodes. And they were not great but they were done, they were out there in the world night and I pulled them back out. I was able to overcome that fear enough to get them out and then pull them back. Honestly, just scared about what people might think. If people will think, “Who is this guy? What does he know?” And really, as I look back, I think, “Wow! Why did I let that fear overtake me and stop me from doing something I wanted to do?” Because honestly, it's in taking the steps and actually doing the thing we want to do that we get better at it. So I robbed myself of all of that growth and learning that would have come years ago. And it kind of reminds me of that quote that we often hear: When's the best time to plant a tree? And depending on what version of the quote you hear, it's 20 years ago or 30 years ago, but a long time ago, and the next best time is today. And that's really where I got a couple of years ago when I decided to finally start this podcast. It got to the point where I'm like, “Who cares what people think? They can listen if they want to, they can not listen. If it was that bad, no one will listen, and then what do I have to be embarrassed about? So, I finally got to the point where I don't care, I'm doing it. I set a date on the calendar and said, “No matter what, I am releasing an episode on this day and I am putting it out on social media and saying, ‘Here it is world.’” And that's what I did. And it was scary. But yet I decided I'm going to do it, and I did. And honestly, I'm very proud to have said that I was able to overcome that fear. And still, along the way, we have fear that pops up and tries to stop us, things that happen. And really it's all about just continuing to improve and iterate ourselves over and over again. 

A quote that I heard recently that I really love is by Naval Ravikant. He has a book he's written, as well as he’s famous for a lot of his tweets on Twitter. One of his quotes is this: “It isn't 10,000 hours that creates outliers, it's 10,000 iterations.” Now, often we hear that 10,000-hour quote that says, “Hey, it's 10,000 hours that makes you an expert.” And I love what Naval Ravikant is saying. He's saying that it's not just the time passing by that makes us an expert. It's not 10,000 hours, it's 10,000 iterations of us, of ourselves, of what we're trying to accomplish. And that's really resonated with me because it's not just the time passing by, it's not just the time spent doing the thing that we're trying to improve on. Like right now, we're doing life. We may be fathers, we may be husbands, we may be business owners, business leaders. And it's not just our time in those seats or wearing those hats that make us an expert on those things, it's intentionality, it's the iterations, it's all of the different things that we're doing to tweak and to improve the little things little by little. It's each of the steps in the right direction, the course corrections, the honing things down to the little point that we're trying to do until it becomes razor sharp, what we're trying to accomplish. 

Now, I believe I’ve mentioned this before on the show, I collect straight razors. Now it's kind of a funny thing, and people are like, “Straight razors? Like those old razors you see in the old westerns? The old, basically, shaving with a knife, right?” Yes, the old straight-edge razors. And I love them, I shave with them on occasion. They are a ton of fun. I have some old ones from the 1800s, all the way up to newer ones that I have today, and they are a lot of fun. And they're a challenge. I think that's what I like about them, they're a challenge to use, but they give you a great shave, so it's kind of fun. And when I was learning to sharpen straight razors, which is actually quite difficult. It's different than a normal knife. It has to be razor sharp, just like it is because it is a razor, otherwise it'll give you a terrible shave. So, there are all these different things you have to do to hone it right into place. You start with a more of a gritty stone and it takes off more metal, then you go to one that’s a little less grit and it makes it a lot finer, then you get all the way down multiple different times until you're honing it on a piece of leather and it's called a strop. It’s not even taking anything off, it's just lining up. Everything needs to be perfect on the edge of your razor so that it can cut without any effort at all. 

So, when I think about these 10,000 iterations and just the focused intentionality, I think of honing a razor down until it is just so sharp that it can cut almost without any effort. That's what we're striving for; to be so honed and so dialed into our purpose that we can cut right to it, that we can leave everything else behind and cut right to what we want. So often, we're working with something that's not sharp and we're sawing back and forth and it's not making the impact we know is within us. It really is the intentionality of these iterations that will get us there. 

I've shared in the past my Unrivaled Momentum Model where we're trying to get momentum in our lives. We talked about having desire to actually become clear on each part of our life, get clarity on what it actually means, and decide for ourselves what we actually want to accomplish, as simple as that is. And then the action that comes from there. And then continuing to do that again, iterating around and around, getting clear again and what we want. Get the action to take place, take the step in that direction, and then keep doing it over and over again. Have the desire to improve, more clarity, more action over and over again. And that is how we accomplish the things that we want. 

So, I've been reading a book recently. I'm not even done with the book yet and I don't usually like to share books until I finish them but this one just fits so perfectly with what I wanted to talk about today that I couldn't resist but share a few of the insights that I've received already in this book. I can at least recommend the first half of this book for you, and I imagine the rest is fantastic as well. The book is called The Art of Impossible, and it's by a man named Steven Kotler. Now, this book is an amazing book and he talks a lot about flow. We talk about momentum and getting that momentum in our lives, getting that flow, that's what he talks about. I want to share a little quote from him in this book. He said, “Motivation is what gets you into this game.” And what he's talking about is the game of trying to accomplish amazing things, impossible things or seemingly impossible things. “Motivation is what gets you into this game, learning is what helps you continue to play, creativity is how you steer, and flow is how you turbo-boost the results beyond all rational standards and reasonable expectations.” I like that. It's funny, sometimes we want to say, “Oh, well, let's be a little more realistic with something. Let's be realistic with our goals.” I've said that before. “Hey, let's be a little more realistic. Let's bring this down and focus on that, something we can accomplish.” Versus the aspect here where you take your goals to a level that forces you to change everything, not just work harder, but completely shift the way you are going at the problem.

A couple of weeks ago, we had Dr. Benjamin Hardy on the show. And he's the author of a book called Be Your Future Self Now. If you haven't listened to that interview, definitely go back to that episode and listen to that interview. Some of his thoughts will transform the way that you think about your future self and who you can become now. This is what Benjamin Hardy is saying: “Decide who you are going to be into the future — three, five years into the future — what you want to accomplish truly and then be that future self, be that person today, do the things that that person would do, use the insights that that person will have into your life to make better decisions today, accomplish things that may seem impossible to your current self, but not to your future self because they're at a different spot.” Now, it seems just like, “Really? We're just playing semantics here and how you're thinking about it.” And the reality is, yeah, sometimes the way we think about it, our perception is reality, our perception changes everything, and it will change our actions. And we can accomplish things, results beyond rational standards and reasonable expectations like Steven Kotler says. 

Now, one of the things that I love about Steven Kotler’s book, The Art of Impossible, is he helps bring up the fact that fear is the thing that often stops us from doing something amazing. I shared the example of the podcast. It truly was fear that stopped me from doing this thing years ago. And now looking back, I think, “That was stupid. What was there to be scared off? Just do it.” But myself in the past hold a different perspective, and so fear can stop us from doing things. It takes me back to the thought that bravery is really more than just thinking that fear is not there because that's not true, bravery is moving forward even in spite of the fear. And Steven Kotler actually says, “Bravery is doing something not just in spite of the fear but because of the fear.” He says that we should be brave and do the thing that scares us, not just in spite of the fear but because of the fear, because the fear is something that can actually drive us. It can drive us. It actually helped us focus in a way that we couldn't otherwise focus. Think about a time you've been scared of something, it occupies your whole mind, it's everything you're thinking about. So you can use that to your advantage. Steven Kotler says, “Use that focus to your advantage to drive right into the fear, go straight into it.” It's an interesting thought. Rarely have I done something that scares me and had it still be scary after I've taken the first steps toward that thing. Now, I know that one of the most scary things in the world for people is public speaking. I think that's one of the stats in the world. I may be misquoting that, but it's definitely up there with, if not the biggest fear that people have, one of the biggest fears people have is public speaking. Now, being somebody that has done quite a bit of public speaking, I can tell you that the fear doesn't necessarily go away, the anxiousness, it gets better for sure. And for any of you that have done a lot of that yourself, you understand how that works. But what I've always had to remind myself is that it's after that first word. You stand up, you're ready to speak, you give that first word, you just start, the fear goes away. The anxiety, the not being sure, it just goes when you are prepared. 

So many of those things in life are that way, taking the step toward the fear, instead of letting the fear occupy our mind and cause us to freeze. Now, Steven Kotler, like I said, the book is called The Art of Impossible. And I love the way he defines impossible. He says there are two different types of impossible according to him. He says there's lowercase-i impossible and there is uppercase-i impossible. Now, the uppercase-i impossible is what most of us talk about, those are the things that seem impossible to anyone in the world until they're done. Now, what are those types of things? Landing on the moon, for one. I mean, flight at all was considered uppercase-i impossible before it was accomplished. Then landing on the moon, first step on the moon, those types of things were uppercase-i impossible until they were done. You might even categorize the four-minute mile. We always talk about that. Roger Bannister, four-minute mile is one of the common examples, talking about how doctors even thought people's hearts would explode untold back in the day, and they thought it was impossible to reach a four-minute mile. But once it was done, many others also did it. And today, it is still only the elite that can get there, but there are many more that can get there. It's no longer uppercase-i impossible. 

Now, there might be something else that you want to accomplish in your life that is uppercase-i impossible, no one else has done it before. That's part of why he wrote this book is to help people accomplish those amazing things. But he also said lowercase-i impossible is where we start. Now, lowercase-i impossible are things that are impossible to us or seem impossible to us. So, what are those things that you know would impact your life in the way that you want? What is your thing that is lowercase-i impossible, where you feel like it might be impossible for you? What is that big goal? What is that big thing you're doing that you're ready to overcome? For me, in the past, it was the podcast. There's something that's so simple, many people would look at it and go, “Oh, are you serious? You just gotta do it, just gotta record it and put it out there.” Well, guess what? There was a barrier that kept me from doing it, that eventually after enough iterations of my life, I did. Now, there are other things in my life that I might have said were lowercase-i impossible in the past that now are not because I have taken the steps to iterate myself to the point where I have been able to overcome it. Now, what are those things for you? What are those things that you have done already? Look back in your life, they're there. Things that your past-self thought were impossible, things that wouldn't happen, goals that you didn't think you'd accomplish that you did. They're there in your life. You have managed to improve your life in more ways than even you recognize until you look back and see all of the progress that you have made. And use that fuel to help you push through the fear to accomplish the next big thing in your life. 

So, what is it? What is it that you want to accomplish that scares you? You're probably thinking of it right now. I know I have something in my mind right now, one of the next things I'm trying to accomplish right now. And it puts a little fear in me. I’m thinking, “Is this really even going to be possible?” But I got it in my mind. I got it. I'm going to do it. I'm going to start taking the steps now to do this thing that I'm thinking of right now. So, what's in your mind? What is it you want to accomplish that scares you a little bit and gets your heart pumping? What would happen if you lean into the fear and used it to focus your efforts like Steven Kotler says, instead of letting that same fear freeze you? What would happen if you leaned into that fear with everything you had? I can tell you what would happen: the fear will go away, and it will be replaced with a focus, and a new perspective you didn't have before. The perspective that can only be gained on the other side of the fear. The perspective you cannot see, it is not available to you until you get to the other side of the fear. And once you get there, guess what? You'll find something else and be able to move more and more clearly. It might scare you again, you'll have to push and lean into the fear again. And once again, another new perspective will come your way. That's how you earn that perspective that will take you to the next level in your life. 

If you're listening to this show, you are somebody that is a high achiever that wants to accomplish something more in some part of your life. Yes, we talk about work in business so often, but maybe it's a personal goal that you have that you're thinking of. Maybe it's some way you want to improve yourself in a hobby, in a goal, in health, or maybe in regard to your family. Maybe there is something that you want to lean in on and accomplish. Use the fear to focus. What seems impossible to you right now, but that you want to accomplish? Take this thing, write it down and begin to lean into the fear. Make a step today and don't wait. Plant that tree today. It's within your power. No one will do it for you — they won't. No one will do it for you. You are not a victim; you are the only one that can change your future. So, do it now. Go and be the Unrivaled Man in your life.