William Winram is a Canadian world-record free diver.
One day, he was spearfishing half-a-mile off the coast of Mexico when something nudged him. He turned to see a 1,000lb tiger shark - immediately he froze with fear…his heart thumping out of his chest… physically trembling… thinking to himself, I’m going to die. Because he learned these sharks were man-eaters.
He tosses a fish towards it as bait, but the shark doesn’t go for it.
Then he accidently drops his spear because he’s shaking so much, so he lunges to recover it - and the shark darts away.
Confused by the shark’s response, he swims back to shore. The whole way back, the shark is swimming beside him, but keeping a set distance. If William swam closer, it would swim away. If he swam away, the shark would get closer - always keeping that “comfort zone” though. When he finally approached the shore, he dropped his gear and decided to try something radical.
He swam directly towards the animal and – immediately it swam away.
He realized this apex predator was not a mindless killing machine. Since then, he’s been free diving with sharks (including Great Whites) to discover the truth about these feared predators.
Here are some of his lessons:
(Just like the shark swimming parallel to William back to shore, these lessons “swim” parallel to dealing with fear in general)
#1: It Looks for An Advantage
Even though Great Whites aren’t the mindless killers movies like Jaws portray them as… they still are intelligent predators. The shark is always looking for an advantage, so when he swims with them, he always has a partner helping him - on the lookout for other sharks.
#2: Keep Eye Contact
Winram says, another way to counter this is eye contact. If the shark knows it’s spotted, it feels its advantage is wiped out. Likewise, fear tends to deflate and lose much of its power when you identify it and stare it down for what it really is.
#3: Know When To Be Afraid
According to Winram, when you can see the black eyes of a shark (the kind that stare into your soul like a house cat) that’s when you have nothing to worry about. On the flip side, when it covers its eyes with a membrane (to protect it) – that’s when it’s about to strike. With fear, it’s about figuring out when to fear and what not to fear.
#4: They’re honest.
Great whites are honest, there’s no bullsh*t.
Fear is pretty honest as well; it shows us where we are bumping up against are limitations. Whether they are imagined or not, they still feel real to us. It shows us where our current limits are.
Because they don’t have to stay at that level forever.
P.S. One of the most inspiring examples of this is Robert Downey Jr.'s journey and how he reinvented himself after huge setbacks.