Fear Is A Learned Phenomenon

Dear reader,

Fear is one of the biggest barriers one can have in life. 

In a study, published online in the journal Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, that showed how we compliment kids teaches them to have either a fixed mindset or one of growth. You might think it’s a good thing to tell children they are smart, but the problem is that it helps instill a fixed mindset. The children might begin to think—consciously or not—“I’m naturally this smart. This is who I am, not through any effort of my own.” 

Saying someone is gifted implies they didn’t have to work for it. It’s just something they’re blessed with until they become afraid of challenges and making mistakes. They get so caught up in the label, they forget to learn.

This is exactly what school does—and what a lot of parents and employers do, too. If you praise your employees by saying, “You’re smart, you’re brilliant”—what you’re really doing is telling them that’s what you care about and they’d better not make mistakes—creating fear. 

It is said that the fear of public speaking is a fear greater than death for most people. According to psychiatrists, the fear of public speaking is caused by the fear of ostracism, the fear of standing out, the fear of criticism, the fear of ridicule, and the fear of being an outcast. The fear of being different prevents most people from seeking new ways to solve their problems.

That is why my educated dad said the Japanese valued the power of the mirror the most, for it is only when we look into it that we find the truth. Fear is the main reason that people say, “Play it safe.” That goes for anything, be it sports, relationships, careers, or money.

It is that same fear, the fear of ostracism, that causes people to conform to, and not question, commonly accepted opinions or popular trends: “Your home is an asset.” 

“Get a bill-consolidation loan, and get out of debt.” 

“Work harder.” 

“It’s a promotion.” 

I haven’t shied away from failure. Trust me, not all of my investments are a success. But if I allowed those that didn’t perform as well to scare me away from the sometimes-risky process of acquiring assets and boldly looking for opportunities, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t have built the life of financial independence that I enjoy now.

The key is that I learned from my failures. I used them to drive me to new heights, not scare me back into what I’d done before. 

We want to label everything as black and white: good or bad, smart or dumb. But failure can be either—it all depends on how you react to it. But instead of being excited about what possibilities failure might open up, our system tells us, “Don’t fail. Don’t do it this way. Do it the way we’ve always done it.” 

And that’s never going to lead to the kind of innovation that changes lives.

Freedom From Fear

The biggest difference between an entrepreneur and an employee is found in the differences between the desire for security and the desire for freedom.

My rich dad said, “If you become a successful entrepreneur, you will come to know a freedom very few people will ever know. It is not simply a matter of having a lot of money or free time. It is freedom from the fear of fear itself.”

“Freedom from the fear of fear?” I asked.

Nodding, he continued, “When you look under the covers of the word security, you find fear hiding there. This is the reason most people say, ‘Get a good education.’ It’s not out of the love of study or scholarship. It is out of fear—the fear you won’t get a good job or be able to earn money. 

Look at how a teacher motivates students in school. 

It is motivation by fear. 

They say, ‘If you don’t study, you will fail.’ They use the fear of failing to motivate students to study. 

“When the student graduates and gets a job, once again the motivation is fear. Employers say, verbally or nonverbally, ‘If you don’t do your job, you’ll be fired.’ The employee works harder out of fear—the fear of not putting food on the table or not having money to make the mortgage payments. The reason people crave security is fear. The problem with security is that it does not cure fear. It simply throws a blanket over the fear, but the fear is always there, like the boogeyman chuckling under the bed.”

Being in high school at the time, I could really relate to the idea of studying out of fear. “In school, I only study because I am afraid of failing. I do not study because I want to learn. I am so afraid of failing that I study subjects I know I will never use.”

Nodding, rich dad said, “Studying for security is not the same as studying for your freedom. People who study for freedom study different subjects than people who study for security.”

“Why don’t they offer a choice of study in school?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” said rich dad. “The problem with studying for security is that the fear is always there. And if the fear is always there, then you rarely feel secure, so you buy more insurance and think of ways to protect yourself. You always quietly worry, even if you pretend you’re successful and have nothing to worry about. The worst thing about living a life of security is that you often lead two lives—the life you live and the unlived life you know you could be living. Those are some of the problems with studying for security. The biggest problem of all is that the fear is still there.”

“So becoming an entrepreneur means you will not have any fear?” I asked.

“Of course not!” smiled rich dad. “Only fools believe they have no fear. Fear is always present. Anyone who says he or she doesn’t have fear is out of touch with reality.” 

What I said is, ‘freedom from the fear of fear.’ 

In other words, you don’t have to be afraid of fear. 

You don’t have to be a prisoner of fear. 


Robert Kiyosaki

Robert Kiyosaki
Editor, Rich Dad Poor Dad Daily

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Robert Kiyosaki

Robert Kiyosaki, author of bestseller Rich Dad Poor Dad as well as 25 others financial guide books, has spent his career working as a financial educator, entrepreneur, successful investor, real estate mogul, and motivational speaker, all while running the Rich Dad Company.

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