'Everything You Want is on the Other Side of Fear' - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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'Everything You Want is on the Other Side of Fear'

Jul 09, 2016

'Everything You Want is on the Other Side of Fear' 

He's an entrepreneur, explorer, author, speaker, ultra-marathoner, and success coach.

He's fallen and risen time and again, like Phoenix rising from the ashes.

He recovered from substance abuse in his college days, combatted the blood disorder thalassemia, experienced near death in the US Marine Corps in Iraq, and escaped being hit by a giant glacier while trekking in a mountainous region.

Akshay Nanavati's life has been full of adventure, hardships, and triumphs.

He attributes his success to one fact - the ability to face, embrace, and overcome FEAR.

He believes 'that bliss and fear are complimentary' and that bliss in fact lies on 'the other side of fear'. But you reach bliss only by completely immersing yourself in fear. Akshay calls this state 'Fearvana', a portmanteau of 'fear' and 'Nirvana'.

He recently started a non-profit foundation of the same name, particularly addressing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), often experienced by trauma victims and war veterans.

Fearvana is just one part of Akshay's mission to help people overcome the obstacle of fear. He is currently launching his book, The Other Side of Fear, inspired by a line from renowned author Jack Canfield: 'Everything you want is on the other side of fear.'

'Fear is the number one obstacle we face in getting from where we are now to where we want to be,' he says describing the premise of the book.

Akshay constantly challenges his own fears through adventure sports like mountaineering, glacier caving, cave diving, ice diving, and skydiving. In 2012, he spent a month dragging a 190-pound sled across Greenland in temperatures as low as -40 degrees.

His latest mission is to run from border to border across every country in the world. And in the process, Akshay wants to put an end to the strife and indifference in the world.

When home, he is an entrepreneur who conducts coaching sessions through his company, Human Potential Development LLC. Here he uses his life experiences, neuroscience, and psychology to help entrepreneurs overcome their perceived limitations and other anxieties.

Speaking to me from his home in New Jersey, USA, Akshay discussed how one can transcend human limitations, break old patterns, and find new bliss.

Read the full interview here...

Your life has been full of trials. What internal strengths did you develop to combat these?

I used to be afraid of everything when I was younger. I grew by taking one small step toward fear at a time.

The first risky thing I did was bungee jumping, at the age of 13. There were so many rewards after taking that first leap... Thereafter, by continuously fighting battles against my own limitations, I have grown in resilience.

In the largest study ever conducted on happiness, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi concluded 'of all the virtues we can learn, no trait is more useful, more essential for survival and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge.'

We learn to do that by seeking it out, not running away from it. The most important skill one can develop, is a positive relationship with psychological and physical suffering.

You've made fear the basis of your work. What do people fear most and why?

Fear is the most important topic to address, because it's our brain's first response to novelty. The thing people fear most is fear itself and its neurological siblings, stress and anxiety.

None of these emotions are inherently negative - it's natural to fear - but we live in a world that is looking for instant gratification and an easy way out; hence, people today are less likely to embrace fear.

For example, it's not that people fear change; it's the experience of change and the inherent stressors that come with it that scares people.

One needs to develop a positive relationship with fear, and not just wait for it to go away.

What tips would you give people to overcome fear?

The most important is to change your mindset about fear and then practice it... Solutions are simple, but not always easy.

Physical exercise is a good way to push yourself... You are not just growing the physical but you are also growing psychologically, and strengthening your will. Exercise helps connect the mind, body, and soul.

Your adventures have taken you deep into nature. Can you describe what nature means to you?

Nature in its brutality is very humbling. It is indifferent to everything around it. It's beautiful and spiritual. It connects you to yourself.

Nature simply 'is', and that really makes it a pure and beautiful playground for you to go up against yourself.

What are your biggest learnings from running across countries?

Human beings have great potential to show greatness or weakness, depending on what we choose to bring to each other.

For instance, when I ran across Luxembourg, a gentleman in a small town invited me into his home for water, hugged me on my way out, and wished me well.

Adversity helps you shed a sense of otherness and connect with people. When you struggle together, you grow as human beings; you bond... Ultimately, this helps create more peace.

What's on the other side of fear?

Everything. You discover yourself. You find your own greatness... You are capable of so much more than you ever imagined.

'Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go,' said TS Elliott. We reach enlightenment through our fears.

How was the transition from being in the military to being an entrepreneur?

Initially, adjusting to normal civilian life was a struggle. There is a certain comfort in war... Life is simple there... All you have to worry about is living or dying. Outside of war, we have more choices, more issues.

Also, military life has a structure. As an entrepreneur, I had to create my own structure. I had the luxury to sit by myself. There was stillness, no hostile environment...

But it gave me an opportunity to delve deeper into myself...and seek out a worthy struggle. Today I use military precision to track every detail of my day... It helps me grow.

What does a rich life mean to you?

A rich life is about creating the ideal lifestyle for yourself, and working backward from there. For me, that is doing what I love to do: traveling, exploring nature, pushing my limits, spending time with the people I care about, and giving back...

I visit seven new countries per year... It's more a journey than a destination.

What should entrepreneurs not fear?

Entrepreneurship is primarily a risky endeavor, and fear is the natural response to risk. But it's important to understand what that fear means.

Fear often results from the lack of clarity of what's on the other side. It's important to get clear about what the other side looks like... To create a roadmap, find the problem, and fix it...

Engage your fears. Don't run from them. Exercise your will and cultivate the courage to push your limitations. Set up habits and systems for success.

Find someone who has done what you want to do and learn from them. Use your environment to get references that help you... Always be willing to push new boundaries, and that starts within yourself - by shifting your mindset and listening to new ideas.

Your website is called Existing2Living. What is the difference between existing and living?

Existing is not reaching your true potential. Oscar Wilde once said, 'To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.'

Living is about following your own path, not someone else's. It's about taking 100% responsibility for your life. It's about battling your restrictions and coming alive!

Akshay Nanavati's LMNOP Formula to deal with Fear

L - Label and Language

Start by labeling the emotion you are experiencing. This allows us to not be affected by our emotions, consciously process them, and thus redirect our actions.

Changing body language also helps at this stage... Adopt a powerful posture, stand tall. This reduces the stress hormone, cortisol, and increases testosterone in your body.

M - Meaning

All experiences of life have no inherent meaning to them. Our brains create those meanings... It is up to us to choose meanings that empower us or leave us victimised by our circumstance.

Almost all of these meanings that the brain generates occur on a subconscious level. In this step, we are bringing the meaning to a conscious level so we can then take responsibility for how we respond to the event.

N - It's Not you; it's your brain

We often define ourselves by the emotions we are experiencing, without knowing this is just our brain stuck in an old pattern.

In this step, you acknowledge that this is just your brain doing what it regularly does. By telling yourself this, you separate yourself from those uncontrollable subconscious forces, and bring conscious awareness into the decisions you make.

O - Opt for the more empowering meaning

This step allows you to embrace the energy of any emotion and realise that it can serve you. Even stress and fear are useful emotions when harnessed.

The goal here is not to eliminate the stress or fear. Those are natural, human responses... The goal is to leverage them.

P - Purpose and Preemptive Strikes

In this step, you use the energy of the emotion to take a different action than you usually would. This action will be in line with the person you want to be and/or with your higher purpose.

The action can be a physical one or a mental one depending on the pattern you are trying to break... To then prevent yourself from getting stuck in that same pattern in the future, use preemptive strikes.

Over a period of time, the LMNOP cycle, if used regularly, will enable the creation of new pathways that will serve you better in your everyday life.


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9 Responses to "'Everything You Want is on the Other Side of Fear'"


17 Jul, 2016

@Akshay -- point well taken. Thanks for the insight. Looking forward to reading your book-- is it available online--if so, please share the details. regds

Akshay Nanavati

12 Jul, 2016

@Meena Thank you for sharing your thoughts here, and I completely agree with you as well. As I said with Shreedhar, people who are forced into fear and suffering undoubtedly have a much tougher time than someone like me who gets to choose how to engage my fears. By no means would I suggest to anyone that they simply get over their fears. I have seen first hand how hard it can be for those who have it imposed upon them. In fact, for my book, I interviewed someone who lost their parents to suicide, someone who overcame traumatic brain injury and taught himself how to read again, a woman who was raped when she was 6 years old and then gang raped again by 5 men when she was 15, a man who held his best friend in his arms as he died, and a woman who became paralyzed from the neck down and lost her son when he was 16. All of these people were forced into unimaginable suffering. All of them are some of the bravest souls I have ever encountered and I am blessed to have met them. And like you said, in their position it was a lot more difficult to face their fears, but one thing they all taught me is that even in their position, the possibility does exist and my goal is to inspire that possibility for anyone and everyone. The woman I interviewed puts it better than I ever could: "You have these feelings you have these emotions, what are you going to make them mean? I think part of it is the ability to recognize that somethings happened and to choose what I make it mean. I had refused to make it mean that because this happened when i was 6 or 7 or 8 that I can't have a really happy story and intimate marriage. I'm willing to relate to it as something I have an option for... I notice that every time something is difficult now I'm like well this couldn't possibly be the end, remember all that other stuff, you made it through. I cant think of what could happen to me that I would throw in the towel and that is a gift. I really do think that is a gift." Her suffering was inflicted upon her, she did not choose it by any means, but she did choose to become stronger as a result of it. We all have the ability to make that choice. And for those of us who have the luxury of comfort and security, I believe we must shed that comfort from time to time to engage our fears for our growth, and our happiness. As Helen Keller said "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved." If we want to have more, do more and be more, we need to take risks. We can't get somewhere new by doing the same thing over and over again. That is why I encourage the act of facing our fears so that we take the necessary risks to grow - spiritually, physically, mentally, financially, and in every way really. That is of course assuming we have the luxury to do so. If not, the road is most definitely a lot more challenging, but human beings have proven time and time again that we are collectively capable of immense courage in the face of even the most impossible of circumstances. My hope is simply that this article, and eventually my book, is able to help someone find that courage that already exists within them. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and encouraging such a stimulating conversation on fear :)

Akshay Nanavati

12 Jul, 2016

@Shreedhar Thank you for sharing your invaluable insight. No disrespect taken at all :) In fact, I completely agree with you. I am fortunate in that I have the luxury to choose where and when I want to engage my fears, and I am well aware that this is a luxury. I couldn't agree with you more that those who are forced into suffering, as opposed to people like myself who get to choose it at will, are far more courageous than someone like me could ever be. I have seen people living with no food or water. I met a man in Iraq who suffered for 8 years as a prisoner of war because of Saddam Hussein. These men and women are forced to endure unimaginable brutality that I could not possibly fathom. One of the greatest books on this subject is "Man's Search for Meaning," by Victor Frankl. He was forced into a concentration camp during the Holocaust and lost his entire family, yet he found meaning in his suffering. To me, that book and his story represents the finest of humanity. So I understand what you mean and agree with you Shreedhar. Those who have fear forced upon them most definitely have tougher challenges to face and are far more courageous for doing so.

Akshay Nanavati

12 Jul, 2016

@Tariq Thank you so much for your kind words. I loved the way you described the true character of an individual. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Nelson Mandela - "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

Akshay Nanavati

12 Jul, 2016

@Jugnu - Thank you so much, I am really glad you liked the article and got value from it. I definitely agree with you about the fear of death, but like any fear it can be exploited by others and turned into a negative force in our lives, or it can be harnessed for our personal growth in every way - physically, mentally and spiritually. I like to actually hold on to my fear of death. Not only does it keep me alive when I am in dangerous situations, it also reminds me to live my life to the fullest and do something meaningful with my life to serve others. When we shift our relationship to fear itself, the fear of death can be a very powerful force to make us stronger. Like Steve Jobs once said, "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life." Like all fears, and any emotion really, I believe the key to making them work for us is to bring our own awareness to the root cause of the emotion - is it being exploited by an external force or is it something showing up within us to drive us forward - and then to figure out where we are choosing from when we act in the face of that emotion. I hope that makes sense. Thank you for sharing your insight though. Your point is invaluable in that if we are not careful, our fear of death can, and most certainly has been been exploited by others for financial gain. Ultimately, all change starts with awareness.


11 Jul, 2016

I agree with Shreedharan. This seems to be a painfully simplistic view of what fear is and how to become a faster/better/stronger person. Being Bear Grylls doesn't necessarily make you a more courageous person. A woman who suffers domestic violence, for example, lives in constant fear and telling het to face her fear and get over it is easier said than done. When responsibilities, finances and a lack of access to opportunity comes in, getting over fear ad crossing over is a lot moe difficult.

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11 Jul, 2016

No disrespect meant to Akshay or any of his tribe, but I feel the man or woman who is struggling to make both ends meet encounters "true fear"-- end of the month funds shortage, EMIs to be paid, childrens' school fees, medical emergencies, no/low retirement corpus etc -- for such a person, fear is her/his constant companion --what we need to remember is that, this person has no choice but to face his fear. For others, including myself, it is a path we choose ,when we do some adventure sport or cross country running or trekking in order to create a fearful scenario--  so in that sense, the common person in the street is far more courageous as he battles his demons continually . Regds

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Tariq Chaudhari

10 Jul, 2016

Bravo Akshay! Face Everything And Recover!! The true character of an individual is revealed based on his response to combat fear and his ability to stay focused, motivated and move forward. Kudos to you and hope you continue to inspire millions who chance to read your experiences.

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Jugnu Nagpal

10 Jul, 2016

A super article on the most devastating emotion called "Fear". Enjoyed reading it and learnt a lot. I agree about fear affecting a person which culminates into stress and anxiety. I wish to add one more facet of fear ie "Fear of Death". It can turn your life upside down and who benefits the most the doctors, the hospitals and Pharma companies.

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