“It’s Important to Be Scared”

This past week I heard an amazing interview on NPR with a cave diver named Jill Heinerth, who has lost over 100 colleagues during her years as a professional cave diver.

One thing she talked about that struck me as making a whole lot of sense was the importance of being scared. As she puts it:

“I don’t want to go diving with people that are fearless. I want to go diving with people that are scared, because to me that tells me that they care about the outcome, and that they’re not going to be foolish if we encounter something underwater.”

This struck me as an excellent attitude to have—and one that is undervalued in a world where swaggering and boasting have become the new normal.

How does it apply to what I (and you) do?

It applies whenever you are nervous about a big presentation or interview.

As I tell my clients who have hired me to rid them of their nervousness,

“Don’t get rid of it. Use it to help make you more effective.”


The same way Jill Heinerth does.

In her interview she mentions that prior to every dive,

“I actually think about what would kill me today. But I envision myself solving each one of those [problems], and sometimes I’m actually, like, moving my hands and reaching for a valve or a button or whatever to solve each of those issues, so that when I get in the water my mind is really free.”

Excellent advice for any high-stress situation, and exactly what I tell my nervous clients: control the things you can control. Imagine how you will handle the problems you can imagine.

All of which will enable you to approach whatever occurs with far greater mental ease and freedom.


For more on now to handle pre-speaking nerves, take a look at S.T.R.E.S.S.E.D. about Speaking in Public? Here are Tools to Calm You Down.

For more on how to handle pre-job-interview stress download my FREE “Interview Wow” App.

FYI: the picture, above, juxtaposes one of Jill Heinerth’s cave diving photos with one taken just after Keith and I finished snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef – which was plenty scary enough for me. I find Jill Heinerth amazing!