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As told to Cate Scaglione - Life As Fine Art


“Fear is the lengthened shadow of ignorance.” ~Arnold Glasow

As artists we are a different breed within the human race. Our right brains guide us with a heightened sensibility, to help us translate the world in an emotionally meaningful way.

We’ll witness the same events and circumstances entirely differently than others, and often with more intensity. These are our blessings, except perhaps when the worst demon surfaces. Fear.

All humans experience fear in one form or another. But is all fear bad? Is there such a thing as beneficial, “positive fear”?

It’s positive fear that prevents us from swan diving into the Grand Canyon and expecting to survive. It’s positive fear that reminds us, “My child should wear a helmet on his bicycle, or he might get hurt.” Fear is very real, and in many cases very healthy. Based on facts, it’s this positive fear that keeps us alive.

Worse than fear itself is the shadow of fear, an illusion created by blocking the light, the light called possibility. We stand in its way, like a blockade. We project a shadow that becomes so dark and long it’s almost too scary to manage. Because this shadow has both a shape and a name. This seemingly real “thing” becomes lethal to us as working artists and business people.

It’s that creepy macabre whisper that plays in our heads and sounds something like this:

…“What if I my investment in this fails?”
… “What if they don’t buy it?”
…“What if my plan doesn’t work?”
…“What if they don’t like it?”
…“What if something goes wrong?”
…“What if I don’t make enough money?”
…“What if they think I’m a fraud?”

None of these questions are based on precedent. Without context (positive fear) we have no idea how to let the light of possibility in. We tell ourselves we’re being savvy and prudent, but these are not positive fears. They’re shadows. These shadows prevent our full potential, stymie our talents and drain our abilities. They steal our peace and joy.

How can you create a sense of composure when the outcomes are all so unknown?

By recognizing choices. In reality, fear can be simply failure to understand that we have superb choices in front of us.

A few years ago I made some majorly poor decisions, intimidated by my own capabilities, and my business really suffered. As a result, I felt I had lost everything that I’d built. I lost trust in others… and more tragically, in my own judgment. I felt without options. Only an extreme intervention would reverse me.

Wait…“Reverse me?” That was the answer. I decided to take a 180-degree approach. I chose to reverse those horrid questions that played in my mind…

“What if I my investment in this fails?” became “What if it succeeds, enormously?” “What if they don’t buy it?” became “What if they buy it all?”
“What if my plan doesn’t work?” … “What if my plans DO work?”
“What if they don’t like it?” … “What if they LOVE it?”
“What if everything goes wrong?”… “What if it all goes right?”
“What if they say bad things about me?” … “What if they say great things about me?”
“What if I don’t make enough money?”… “What if it makes TONS of money?”
“What if they think I’m a fraud?”… “What if they think I am a genius?”

By reversing your own “what ifs?” you’ll often discover that fear of failure is more often a fear of actually succeeding. Life conditions us to be fairly cynical and success often seems like the luck of the draw. Once we identify fear in our lives, we realize we have a sense of control. We can step aside and let the light of possibility shine through. We can make plans. There are no shadows anymore, only choices.

My ability to reverse debilitating fears blew my mind. It took time and plenty of tears, but I began to think about my entire business model differently. Hard knocks taken, I had those “positive fears” under my belt and I knew who, what and how to avoid so as not to make the same mistakes. I began to look at everything differently, because fear is just a wild animal begging to be fed. I stopped feeding it. Success was waiting for me if I chose it. And best of all, those choices were on my own terms.

I chose what images I wanted to shoot, and how.
I chose complete authenticity.
I chose clients who wanted to work with me.
I chose my brand as an extension of the person I am, not just the photographer.
I chose an endless pursuit of improvement.
I chose to let go a little.
I chose to make integrity the only option.
I chose my price strategy.
I chose to take calculated risks.
I chose to offer the best possible quality.

You have choices, too. Don’t be afraid of your own shadow.

Step aside, identify your fears and you might just see the bounce of your own brilliance flash upon you.

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