Meet Me At Your Well

The Fearless Issue: Six months into the pandemic our experts share tips on how to control your fear

How does a Navy SEAL face his fears?

Listen to the podcast on Inkandescent Radio Accessing Courage: Don Mann Helps Us Embrace our Inner SEAL

How scary is it to climb Mt. Everest, Mt. Washington, and run a double Iron Man? This Navy SEAL explains it's a decision to keep going, no matter what the challenge.

September 2020: A Note from Hope, publisher, Inkandescent™ Health & Wellness magazine — Believe it or not, I met Don Mann sitting in a coffee shop in Richmond, VA back in September of 2018. We were both tapping on our laptops when we struck up a conversation about what we were writing. Don was putting the finishing touches on one of his books based on his decades long career at as Navy SEAL (he’d penned about 15 at the time). I was relaunching BeInkandescent.com — formerly a business magazine for entrepreneurs — as Inkandescent Health & Wellness: The business of mind, body, spirit, soul. It didn’t take long for us to strike up a professional friendship.

Fast forward two years. With great admiration, I introduce you to this former member of Team Six who in the years since has become an internationally renowned endurance athlete and a New York Times best-selling author. Don has changed countless lives by sharing his Reaching Beyond Boundaries philosophy, perhaps most eloquently in a trilogy of books he published this year: Overcoming Obstacles, Choosing Your Battles, and Facing Your Fears.

Given that we are a solid six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is being ravaged by hurricane and fire storms, the 2020 election is polarizing the nation only a daily basis, and the world’s economic health is in question — I imagine a better time to turn to Don for tips on how to Face Your Fears.

Scroll down for our Q&A, and learn more about the truly amazing man at usfrogmann.com.

Be sure to watch our video interview on Inkandescent.TV. 

And click here to listen to our podcast on InkandescentRadio.com. 


FACING YOUR FEARS: A Navy SEAL’s Guide to Conquering Your Doubts

A Q&A with Don Mann

Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher Inkandescent Health & Wellness magazine: I enjoy reading all of your book, Don, and one of the most recent in the trilogy you published earlier this year, “Facing Your Fears,” really resonates with me. As a Navy SEAL with Team Six, you have certainly been in some dicey situations, as depicted in the first chapter of the book where you share details about Operation Urgent Fury that occurred in Grenada in October of 1983. What I really appreciate is that you explain that it’s a common misconception that Navy SEALs don’t experience fear. That’s not the case? 

Don Mann, author: As with any large-scale military operation, things didn’t always go as planned. But thanks to their top-notch training and high level of professionalism, the SEALs that were a part of Operation Urgent Fury were able to maintain their focus and complete the missions they were assigned. Even as heavily armed enemy forces closed in on their positions, the SEALs remained disciplined and determined, achieving their objectives despite unexpected challenges.

That isn’t to say that the SEALs didn’t experience moments of uncertainty and fear. The members of Team Six who captured a radio tower on the mission you described were vastly outgunned and heavily outnumbered, which would be enough to give even the most experienced and well-trained operatives a reason to take pause. But their training allowed them to control that fear and constructively channel it towards completing their mission. After destroying the communications antenna, they were also able to make good on their escape, slipping away into the ocean and leaving their pursuers behind.

Hope: Is there a common misconception that Navy SEALs don’t experience fear?

Don: Absolutely, and quite the contrary is true. Fear is a normal, rational human emotion that most of us experience at various times throughout our lives. How we rationalize and control that fear plays an important role in how we react to it.

Hope: You say in the book that for some individuals, fear can be so paralyzing that they are unable to collect their thoughts or even make a move. For others, that same feeling of fear can create an adrenaline rush that spurs them into action, although the results of those actions aren’t necessarily positive.

Don: The key here is that no matter who you are, to overcome fear you must identifying and acknowledging those fears if you are going to maintain focus and control. By understanding the impact that fear can haven, you can also examine the ways that you can manage it, channel your emotions, and potentially overcome it altogether.

Hope: Before identifying the fears that you have in your life, help us understand exactly what fear is.

Don: Fear is generally regarded as an unpleasant or upsetting emotion that is brought on by the belief that someone––or something––is dangerous and could cause us pain or harm. This describes the feelings that we might get when encountering a stranger after dark or coming across a snake on the trail while out for a hike. Those types of fears are brought on by something tangible, however, while many of our fears can end up being more abstract and harder to actually pinpoint.

Hope: In the book, you use the example of public speaking. Tell us more. 

Don: It’s because standing up in front of a crowd and sharing a speech is often touted as what people fear most. In fact, many of us shudder at the idea of actually getting up in front of a group of people and giving a speech or presentation because it can elicit very real and visceral feelings, causing our hands to sweat, our hearts to palpitate wildly, and an uncomfortable pit to form in our stomachs. But there is no real threat or danger that comes with public speaking, so what is it about that particular activity that makes us feel this way?

Hope: You explain that studies show that other common fears include a mix of both the real and intangible.

Don: Many people list fear of heights, darkness, and flying on their list of phobias. Others rank insects, needles, and sharks. Some of those things do indeed pose an actual threat of physical harm, while others aren’t especially threatening at all. Darkness, for example, isn’t particularly dangerous in and of itself, but it does provide the ability to mask something that could potentially cause harm. An overactive imagination can automatically fill in the details, stirring up thoughts and feelings that induce fear, even when there isn’t necessarily any reason to be afraid.

Hope: You say that one of the most common version of this is the fear of failure.

Don: Most of us have goals for ourselves both professionally and personally, but often we end up stifling those dreams out of a fear of never being able to attain them. We’re so afraid of failing that we don’t even try to achieve the things we want, preferring to stay safely inside our comfort zones where we never have to risk anything at all. By playing it safe we do avoid the possibility of failure, but we also eliminate the chance of success at the same time.

Hope: Let’s talk about how you encourage us to embrace our fears.

Don: Navy SEALs learn that the human mind is a powerful tool that can work both for and against us. Left to its own devices, our brains will create all kinds of scenarios that can lead to disaster, fueling the fears that we already have and potentially even creating new ones. In fact, that is one of the ways that our fears can go from things that we are madly concerned about to full-blown phobias.

On the other hand, a strong and disciplined mindset can allow us to control our fears and even potentially discover ways to make them work in our favor. Learning to channel our thoughts in a positive way can give us the ability to embrace fear, learn to live with it, and eventually release it altogether.

Hope: You explain as part of your training, SEALs learn to use visualization techniques to help them develop a stronger mindset.

Don: Visualization plays an important role in not just learning how to identify and control their fears but finding ways to channel it to achieve a specific outcome. Essentially, a SEAL runs through various aspects of his upcoming training sessions or mission in his brain, considering all of the ways that things can go right and wrong. This allows them to explore the possibilities for success and failure ahead of time, while also creating a sense of familiarity with the operation.

This technique can be used to our advantage because one of the biggest fears that we all have when taking on any ambitious project — such as starting a business or planning a major event — is that we won’t actually be able to pull off our grand schemes. We worry that we aren’t smart enough, talented enough, or hard working enough to actually achieve our objectives. We fear that we’ll just end up looking like a massive failure in front of our friends, family, and coworkers. But if we take a step back, carefully examine our plans, and look for potential areas of concern ahead of time, we can begin to consider all the ways that things could possibly go wrong.

Hope: I imagine that Navy SEALs share many of the same motivations when it comes to training and preparation.

Don: Knowing full well that failure comes with significant consequences, Navy SEALs push themselves to constantly improve their skills, talents, and physical conditioning. They know that when they are in the field they need to be as prepared as humanly possible, otherwise they aren’t just letting themselves down, they are failing their teammates as well.

Converting our fear of failure from a barrier to our success into a source of motivation means embracing that fear completely. Once again, by acknowledging the things that we are afraid of we can start to diffuse their power over us and channel that energy elsewhere. The result can be incredibly empowering, allowing us to shift our mindset away from being so afraid of failure that we can’t even begin to try, to instead fearing what might happen if we don’t try at all.

Hope: How can learning to embrace our fears help us confront them?

Don: Acknowledging that fears exist in your life is a good first step, but that alone won’t help you overcome them. These fears will continue to hold sway over you until you decide to embrace and face them more directly. That means summoning up your courage and finding ways to put yourself in situations where you can experience the things that you are afraid of. This is known as immersion therapy, and as you gain that exposure you may start to find that the things that truly frightened you really aren’t all that scary after all. At the very least, you’re likely to learn how to manage and channel your fears more effectively.

This means that if you have a fear of talking to strangers, you look for ways to put yourself into situations where you are forced to chat with people you don’t know. Perhaps you join a book club or a hiking group filled with individuals you’ve never met before. The point is to get outside your comfort zone and begin to interact with new people. In this way, you can learn to get more comfortable with the idea of conversing with others you don’t know, or at the very least start to feel more confident when meeting strangers for the first time.

Hope: How comfortable are you personally when you step outside of your comfort zone?

Don: I’m like everyone else. Stepping outside the comfort zone is incredibly unsettling at times. I’ve simply had decades of experience working my way through it. I know those on the brink of this may find themselves feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed, and ready to retreat back to the safety and predictability of your normal life. But if you pause to take a deep breath, remind yourself that you can control your fears, and focus on your goals, you’ll likely discover that things may not be quite as terrifying as you once thought.

The truth is that in our daily lives, the comfort zones that we’ve built for ourselves serve as a shield against some of our most common fears. While operating within those zones we are well protected from our fear of failure, our fear of the unknown, and our fear of change. Each of those fears can be a significant roadblock to our success, preventing us from pursuing our objectives fully.

Hope: While we could chat with you to learn even more, we’ll now encourage our readers to check out your books for even more valuable lessons. But to finish here with a valuable lesson for our audience, tell us what’s the bottom line to Facing Your Fears?

Don: I think one of the biggest lessons is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable is that you’ll discover that your once small and confining comfort zone will suddenly start to naturally expand in size. Things that routinely made you feel anxious and afraid in the past will no longer be quite so intimidating or frightening.

You’ll become accustomed to embracing your fears and testing your limits to the point that it will no longer feel quite so unnatural to tackle the unknown. Instead, you may find that there is an enormous sense of self satisfaction that comes from personal growth and achieving the things that you’ve set your mind too.

Don’t allow fear to keep you from living the life you want to lead. By taking the bold step of facing down your fears, your courage and trust in yourself will grow to new levels, taking you to places that you’ve only imagined. Be bold and trust in yourself and your goals will never be out of reach.

Hope: Thank you so much for your time, Don Mann!

To learn more, visit Don’s website: usfrogmann.com And click here to learn more about all of his books.