Milton Kamwendo: Motivated by fear like Cosmas

FEAR is one of the oldest, strongest and hardiest of emotions.

Greatness is either motivated by inspiration or desperation; by fear or by faith. Fear has stopped and immobilised many who had dreams of greatness. It has also inspired many and jolted many out of complacency.

It is easy to sleep when you are not afraid. It is difficult to stand still when you are afraid. Elsewhere I have written about fear as an enemy.

However, in this instalment I exhort you to embrace the positive elements of fear and use it as a powerful motivator. I learnt this lesson from Cosmas.

Step onto the front stage. Fear remaining at the backstage for so long that you miss your part on the stage of life.

Cosmas grew up in the squalor of Makokoba in Bulawayo. His father had little means, a huge family and ever-growing extended family obligations. Cosmas was always late for school. No amount of threats, punishment or reprimands helped the situation. He was deemed helpless in that respect by teachers and prefects at Mzilikazi High School.

They just did not understand something that he shared with me when we met and became friends at the University of Zimbabwe. One day, almost out of tone Cosmas burst out: “Fear motivates me, I will go places.”

Before I could rebuke him for being negative he continued: “I do not want to go back there where I grew up and I am too afraid to be complacent at anything I do!”

He was not yet done and went on to relate his story and the power of fear as a motivator for him.

He feared going back to live like a sardine. He feared having nothing to eat. He feared always having to dress in hand-me-downs. He feared dying uncelebrated, limited and maimed. He was too afraid of where he had come from that he could not tolerate laziness.

As we walked from the UZ Library towards Manfred Hodson Hall, I listened patiently as Cosmas related how his mother passed away when he was in fifth grade. Although his father worked hard, he had a huge family and many responsibilities and earned little. He soon had a stepmother who was a diligent but a poor homemaker.

There was always little to eat or wear and his fees were always paid late if no relief came from elsewhere. He never had a complete uniform. By the time he went to secondary school, he knew that this was not the situation that he would want his own children to grow up in.

A deep fear engulfed him and spurred him. He was determined to do all he could to get an education and help his siblings and lift himself out of poverty.

He hatched a simple plan. He would start selling newspapers. Everyday he would wake up before 5am to stand by the traffic lights and sell newspapers.

He would be selling newspapers until about 8am, when most people would start work. From there he would run to school and was sure to arrive after 8.30am. He knew what waited for him daily, likely punishment for late-coming because school started at 7.30am or punishment for not having the correct uniform.

Usually he would join the rest of the pupils in class at break time onwards or if he was lucky from 9am.

It was a daily but determined grind. He did not enjoy the process but he had to make a little money to ensure his fees were paid and there was some food at home.

It was not an easy life for the young but determined Cosmas.

He was too afraid of what complacency could do for him that he faithfully kept his routine until he passed his A-levels and got a place at UZ. For him, fear was a positive driver, not an enemy. He would keep repeating that he was too afraid of his past that he would push for greatness by all means and for sure he did.

He had tasted his past, he did not like its bitter taste. He strove for more.

While we were at university he took up several part-time jobs. After lessons, he worked and with whatever he could find he helped get his siblings through school. When we graduated, he already had a job and had taken some lodgings in Warren Park.

He was already fathering his siblings. In a few months he came by showing me his new Mazda 323. From there he was a bullet and today works for one of the leading IT organisations in the US as a senior vice-president.

Fuelled by fear, he is unstoppable and he does not want to go back to rags again.

You, too, may have seen yesterday and it’s scary. Now fall in love with your dreams of tomorrow and use today with all the power and energy that you have. If you do not run, and run fast, your fears will catch up with you and your complacency will trip you.

Powerful beyond measure

In 1992 Marianne Williamson published a book entitled “A Return to Love” in which she addressed the issue of fear thus: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?

“You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

“It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

What inspired words worth re-reading.

Your playing small and pursuing little dreams does not serve the world. Let your light shine. Let your fears be behind you like Cosmas and let a bright vision be ahead of you.

Put a fearful flame on your seat and jump into action. Fear realising on your deathbed that you never lived because you were too scared to take action and go for something that was big, bold and challenging. Never waste your adrenalin on small daily routines.

If you ever faced a lion, you know how that fearful encounter easily turns you into a world class athlete and you forget all your excuses. The lion of poverty is at the door. It’s time to run and run hard.

Take speedy action

Every day do at least one thing that really scares you. Fear does not shut you down, it just awakens you to act and act with speed if you choose to process it positively.

Fear infuses speed and a sense of dispatch. You are not getting any younger. Fear getting old and useless without having done what you knew you could. Fear dying without having written those books you keep mumbling about. Fear living in the grey zone when there is a rainbow of possibilities to enjoy.

Be so afraid that you take resolute and speedy action. Someone said that when skating over thin ice your safety is speed. You will never increase your speed if you are not afraid enough.

Never let little things that do not take you anywhere terrorise you. Face that bully and fear losing your pride and having to explain to your grandchildren that all you did was to give birth to their parents.

You gain mileage, strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop and look at fear squarely in the face.

Your fears should not shrink you into cowardice but spur you into action. Do the thing which you think you cannot do. Do something that really, really scares you. Take massive and resolute action.

Fear can help you grow if you use it as a catalyst. Fear is not conquered by sitting in a corner and feeling pity for yourself, behaving like a victim and coward. Let fear scare you out of your corner where it is more comfortable to hide than to come on to the stage and face life.

Let what you do not know and cannot do scare you out of folding your hands and waiting for the whole world to come knocking at your doorstep asking for you to show up.

Try something that you have not done before. Face your fears at least three times. Whatever you have not done before, face up to it for the first time, try it out and challenge it in the first instance to build your confidence. Then try it the second time to learn and master it.

Then go for it the third time to figure out if you like it or not. Refuse to park where your past left you as though you cannot walk, run or leap forward. Do the thing that you think you cannot do.

Fear is a growth stimulant and action catalyst if you channel it right. A child can be forgiven for being afraid of the dark. What is not excusable is when you and me are so afraid of the light that we run away from the opportunity to dance with life.

Milton Kamwendo is a cutting-edge international transformational and inspirational speaker, author and coach. He is a strategy and innovation consultant and leadership coach. His life purpose is to inspire people to release the greatness trapped in them. He can be reached at: [email protected] and his Twitter handle is: @MiltonKamwendo.

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