Soften the Fck Up

Lessons Learned Part 1: Fear

This is the first part of a series of posts dedicated to lessons I’ve learned over the past year working on the campaign “Soften the Fck Up”.

“Fear is good. Fear means that you’re doing something that’s on the edge, that you could fail but you know if it works, it will have a massive impact.”

I remember sitting at a coffee shop outside Central with Kerry, just slightly under a year ago when I told her everything that I wanted to do and all this big dream I had. Kerry being Kerry, she nodded, listened and gave me advice with much patience and very carefully encouraged me but subtly telling me to be careful about dreaming too big and start nowhere.

Thinking big is easy, but turning them into action is the hardest part, and that is why often, many consultants are happy to help you dream big and give you some of the best recommendations but they won’t get involved with any implementation. Over the past year, I’ve also had a lot of people who come to me for advice and share with me their project idea – some huge, bold and brilliant ideas but often too complex to start without a large investment.

When Kerry asked me why am I not doing anything yet, that stopped my train of thoughts and immediately put all my big dreamy perfect world to a halt.

My fear when taking on “Soften the Fck Up” as a project was two folds. The first one was the fear of failure and the fear of criticisms, but those were quickly suppressed temporarily when Kerry told me that it is actually a good thing that I have this fear because it keeps me in check and it also means that I am doing something on the edge and what I am doing would actually have an impact. If I had felt comfortable and safe, I might have just been reinventing the wheels and therefore, have nothing to be afraid of.

However, at the back of my mind, I knew my fear was actually more than just that. I have always been a rather bold person – speak to my mum and she’d tell you how much of an adrenaline junkie I can be. However, when it came to Soften the Fck Up, my biggest fear that kept me awake was actually the fear of being judged, the fear of criticism, the fear of being thought of a bigger person, and the fear of losing my track – possibly the fear of being the tall poppy.

I was most afraid of what my friends would think. Would they distance themselves from me and would they think bigger of me and/or lesser of themselves?

I tugged that fear deep because I am very well-aware it sounds like a really stupid fear.

I didn’t know who to tell and as I marched on through my rather ordinary life, I kept all the dream I had to myself.

It wasn’t until about a month later when I made an appointment to speak to Aleem who at that time was a very busy CEO, but very generously gave up 2 hours of his time to hear me rant. He dug deep and got me to finally tell him all my fears. He said many things to justify my fears but in the end, it was a sentence along the lines of, “your action might make you a less popular friend, but your inaction means the suicide rate amongst men will continue on to be where they’re at”.

I think I speak for every do-er that fear is the primary inhibitor when starting anything. The amount of time, energy and resources wasted because of fear is unjustifiable but one thing that I realised is that once you get started and build the momentum slightly, it gets easier and you get bolder.

Surround yourself with giants – amazing peers and people who you have a whole lot of respect and admiration for. For me, it is all the team members behind the project – all forty of them keeps me sane (or insane), keep me grounded and constantly encouraging me to be the best that I can be. They give me strength and they give me the courage when I needed them the most and they constantly inspire me to do more.

If there’s anything I can share about facing fear to start something or do something, I’d say is to find a dedicated and remarkable mentor (I have two long-term ones that I am forever indebted to), and surround yourself with people who share the vision with you. Allow these people in and co-create something bigger than yourself and your dream together rather than to try and manipulate the result. If you’re doing good, you’d realise that at the end of the day, you’re all on the same page.

  • Pingback: Lessons Learned Part 2: Doubt – EHON CHAN

  • Sue

    You overcame your fears and successfully fulfilled your dream.  I was humbled and honoured to be at the launch of “Soften the fck Up” .  Thank you for making this wonderful website a reality, suicide was almost a reality for us.

  • BrisbaneBoy

    When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.
    Well done and great advice Ehon.  Please do keep it up!