Bryan Paul Sullo

To a Year Without Fear

In Character Development on 31 December 2013 at 8:58 am

My life, in 2013, has been a series of frightening experiences. The year began with the worst experience of my professional career. Mid-way through the year, my wife and I had twins. Scariest of all, I grew a beard.

Staring down the barrel of 2014, I can say I’m a lot more confident than I was a year ago. That’s because, in the midst of my work crisis, I came up with a one-word mantra that has changed my outlook on life:


Despair often triggers introspection. We begin to wonder how we got to this point—what we could have done differently. Sometimes, this is an unhealthy obsession with the past that keeps us from moving on. If we can remain objective, though, and we’re willing to consider the answers we come up with, introspection can be a useful tool.

In my case, I realized that what had brought me to this low point was fear. Most of the decisions I had made (or had not made) that led to this situation had been made out of fear—fear of having to confront someone; fear of losing a customer; fear of upsetting the status quo, leaving my comfort zone, and having to deal with new situations. Upon coming to this realization, I decided that I never wanted to be in this situation again, if I could prevent it. I called up my word processor, and, in the largest font that would fit on one page, typed the word, FEARLESS. The print-out is taped to the wall across from my desk.

Fearless, doesn’t mean jumping into everything with reckless abandon, it doesn’t mean becoming an autocratic jerk, and it doesn’t mean never being afraid. It simply means not allowing fear to be one of the factors in making decisions. It means confronting the fear now, rather than letting it force me to the edge of the cliff later. I keep my homemade FEARLESS poster taped to my wall because I still need constant reminding. Letting fear control your life is a hard habit to break, but recognizing it is 80% of the solution.

Having kids is scary. There are so many decisions to make. Many of the decisions don’t even have to do with the kids themselves: Are you going to let everyone who wants come and visit right away, or are you going to risk ticking someone off by saying, “No.”? Which grandmother’s advice are you going to take? Are you going to risk disagreeing with your spouse over some point of child-rearing? When you make these decisions out of fear, you end up in bad places—places of resentment and misunderstanding. When you remove fear from the equation, the choices don’t become any easier, but they do become clearer. When you’re not afraid of the outcome, you’re free to make the best decision, not necessarily the safest one.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. (If something is important enough to change, it’s worth changing now.) But, people tend to be more receptive to changing their life habits this time of year, so I ask you: Will you resolve to be fearless this year?

Have a safe and happy New Year. Here’s to a year without fear!

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