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There’s a new book out by journalist Jaimal Yogis entitled THE FEAR PROJECT. I initially heard about it through open water adventure swimmer Jamie Patrick. And, as the book has gone from concept -to- launch, I’ve enjoyed hearing about the ideas and psychology behind it, because it resonates so deeply with my own evolution as an athlete and an individual.

I’m nowhere even close (and even that’s a very severe understatement) to the distance of open water swimming that folks like Jamie and others like him undertake, but I’m finding that I’ve also been out in the water for distances much further than most people will ever even consider undertaking. So I can speak competently about the fear involved in sports like open water swimming. Fear is a part of any long-distance endurance sport; especially when it’s done out in remote areas. But the type of fear involved in a long trail run or a long mountain bike solo is much different from the very primal level of fear I found in open water swimming (you can read more about that experience in my post “The Mental Toll”).

After my 4.5 mile end-to-end swim of Honeoye Lake last July, I was exhausted. I expected to be, but not to the extent that I was… and it was the strangest thing – I wasn’t physically exhausted, but I had several weeks where I was almost depressed. Emotionally exhausted; and I couldn’t figure out why, after all, I was elated at my accomplishment. It took me awhile to pinpoint and understand that it was a psychological response to the experience. What I found, in reflection, was that open water swimming faces one to confront very primal fears. And that my experience had, in fact, quite simply drained me emotionally more than anything I’ve ever encountered.

Now I absolutely love the water, but when you swim down the middle of a large body of water for hours on end – submerged in it – with no protection or buffer… you feel exposed. You begin to understand that you could very easily drown, or get hit by a boat. But – even scarier – is the subconscious fear. It’s dark under the water. Lord only knows what’s down there. You’re afraid of what might come looming out at you from the depths. And yet you know that you absolutely cannot dwell on these things if you hope to make it through.

You begin to, after awhile, shift from a place of low-grade panic to a certain peacefulness and confidence in the midst of a broader unknown. And that’s why THE FEAR PROJECT is so profound. Because it digs down into the inner-workings of our psychology of fear, something that’s part of how we’re wired as human beings. Through the powerful metaphor of sport, we get a clearer understanding of how overcoming our fears – especially our deepest fears – unlocks unlimited potential in us. Not just in sport, but – more importantly – in life. Because once you’ve successfully faced your fear, you get a powerful taste of your own capabilities.

SYNOPSIS: “Who among us has not been paralyzed by fear? In THE FEAR PROJECT, award-winning journalist and surfer Jaimal Yogis sets out to better understand fear  – why does it so often dominate our lives, what makes it tick, and is there even a way to use it to our advantage? In the process, he plunges readers into white shark-infested waters, brings them along to surf 40+ foot waves in the dead of winter, and gives them access to some of the world’s best neuroscience labs, psychologists, and extreme athletes.  In this entertaining, often laugh-out-loud narrative, Yogis also treats himself like a guinea pig for all of his research, pushing his own fears repeatedly to the limits—in his sport, in his life, and in love. Ultimately, Yogis shares with his readers the best strategies to emerge triumphant from even the most paralyzing of fears.”

What are you afraid of? What could you accomplish if that thing wasn’t holding you back? These aren’t just pie-in-the-sky infomercial pep talk questions. These are very real questions that, when you begin to fight through the answers, will absolutely reshape the way you approach life and value yourself. Take a look at THE FEAR PROJECT website and book – I think you’ll be amazed.


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