Almost everyone is interested in overcoming fear – or should be.
Whether you want to speak in public, open a new business, talk to potential dates, do stand-up comedy, climb a mountain — or anything you haven’t done before — you’re bound to feel fear and want help in overcoming fear.
Well, how do you do it?
After recording six albums of songs, my Band of Legends politely nudged me to perform live.
While I’ve spoken on stage numerous times over the decades, I never sang on stage.
Thinking about it brought up serious fears.
A friend remembers me saying I would NEVER sing in public.
I had to overcome panic attacks, anxiety ambushes, and near nervous breakdowns to overcome the fear of public speaking.
But public singing?
I didn’t even sing in the shower.
Childhood memories of being humiliated when I tried to speak or sing stayed with me.
I overcame the speaking one.
But I refused to even touch singing.
It felt too vulnerable.
I managed to do it in the studio for my six albums, by basically managing my adrenaline, but I couldn’t accept ever singing on stage live.
But I did it.
I did it!
And it was a huge success.
I was strong and confident, owned the stage, and led my Band of Legends into a triumphant performance.
It was a historic moment.
It was a personal breakthrough.
And it will live forever in my mind as a moment of greatness for me.
So, how did I go from terrified to terrific?
I’ll share my own process, as it will illustrate the art of overcoming fear. I’m sure you can be inspired by this adventure.
I of course did all the standard things that I teach, from practicing ho’oponopono (as I wrote about in my books, Zero Limits and AT Zero) to rehearsing in the studio and in my mind.
But two months before the show, I also —
A basic rule of self-improvement is this:
You can accomplish more if you have someone who believes in you almost more than you believe in yourself.
I first saw that insight in the home of Jerry and Esther Hicks, of Abraham fame, decades ago. Jerry (who has passed on and I greatly miss) told me he first heard it in an early television western. I don’t recall the name of the show, but I do remember the impact the principle had on me.
I started Miracles Coaching more than a decade ago for that reason – to give people someone who could believe in them.
To help them overcome fear.
To help them attract miracles.
I’ve had a lot of people support me and coach me in performing:
Jen Sincero is a badass author of two NY Times bestselling books, You Are A Badass and the recent You Are A Badass at Making Money. I discovered her first book years ago, knew it would be a hit, and interviewed her. We stayed in touch.
I had lunch with Jen when she came to Austin for a book signing. I knew she had been in a band at one point, so I told her my dilemma. She told me that I had already done the hard part of singing.
“You sang for Melissa Etheridge,” she explained, referring to when I had a private songwriting lesson with the rock icon last November. “Singing one on one is harder than singing on stage, and you sang for an icon you idolize and adore.”
The last time I saw Melissa Etheridge, just for a moment after her show in San Antonio in June, she told me she loves my latest album, The Great Something.
She said to “Keep at it.”
I dedicated that album to her. There’s a song on it I wrote for her.
Her encouragement helped me stay motivated.
She once told me, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
Sarah McSweeney is a singer-songwriter who is on my first album, Blue Healer. She was the first person I sang for.
We met and she told me she always feels nervous before getting on stage. But she thinks of herself as a messenger, not a singer.
That reframe made the idea of singing easier.
“I am a messenger,” she said. “I focus on the song’s message.”
That insight helped me drop the idea of being a singer and adopt the idea of being a messenger. It helped me relax a little.
Meghan Sandau is a new friend. She has promoted big music events. She wanted to see me do a concert. She said she likes my music.
Her belief in me helped make me more secure.
In fact, none of this would happen without her.
She set up the event for my Band of Legends to perform.
She held my hand and encouraged me.
Meghan also suggested I do an energy clearing session with Nicole Pigeault of Los Angeles. I love energy work and do clearings for others so I leaped at the chance to hire Nicole.
Turned out to be one of the most powerful esoteric washes ever.
The hour session helped me release fears and settle into confidence.
But she wasn’t the only person to support me.
Guitar Monk Mathew Dixon has been coaching me for years now. We’ve made numerous instrumental albums together, such as Invoking Divinity.
He stayed in my corner, listening to me rehearse, listening to me confide my fears, and urging me to hang in there.
Then there’s Patrick Stark in Canada. He’s a filmmaker making a movie about overcoming fear.
It’s called “One Life: No Regrets.”
He interviewed me for it. He plans to sing on stage with the band U2. But it will be the first time he’ll sing on stage EVER.
The first time you sing in public anywhere is on stage with U2 and thousands watching.
Well, if Patrick can drum up that kind of courage, then so can I.
I found preparing for the event mainly a battle with my mind. Most of my thinking was negative. It was all, What if it goes bad?
But Mindy Audlin came to visit. She teaches what if up thinking.
She wrote the book What If it All Goes Right?
She coached me in other ways to think: what if it is a breeze? What if I love it?
It also helps to see people successful in one field try their hand in a completely different field.
James Altucher tried stand-up-comedy. He’s a writer. He’s doing something out of his comfort zone.
But he’s willing to do it for the experience, and he’s sharing his learning curve to inspire others.
Though I haven’t met him, knowing he was stepping out beyond his fear fortified me to do it, too.
Of course, my beautiful Nerissa (above) believed in me, too.
She and I practiced “The Remembering Process” that Daniel Barrett taught me: we talked about the live show as if it had happened in the past and we were remembering how great it went. (See the book Daniel and I wrote: The Remembering Process.)
So the first thing I did was gather people who could coach and inspire me.
To prepare for my show, I attended an online Masterclass with David Mamet, and another with Usher.
Both were astoundingly good.
Mamet is a Pulitzer prize-winning playwright and screenwriter. I think he is a genius.
He said most people are afraid to be bad to be good.
You have to be bad first to start being good.
You have to start someplace.
I reminded myself of this as I prepared for the live event.
While I wanted to step out on stage and be “perfect,” Mamet reminded me that I will probably step out and be bad.
But bad is where you start. You can’t get to great without starting at bad.
Usher said to prepare, to be confident, but to expect something to go wrong.
Don’t expect perfection.
He told a story of a performance where he injured himself at the beginning of a two-hour show, and had to keep dancing and singing despite the pain.
His insights and pointers were priceless in helping me create a mindset for success.
And I bought a set of audios called The Relaxed Musician. It’s a 14-day course in exploring limiting beliefs.
It helped me realize I had a big belief that if I looked bad as a performer, it would hurt my reputation in other areas, such as an author or speaker.
But like most beliefs, it didn’t hold up.
I could forget all my lyrics and totally wash out on stage and it wouldn’t even dent my image anywhere else. Most people forgive and forget.
In fact, a miss on stage could give me a terrific story about how I bombed and lived.
But I didn’t stop there.
I read a terrific book on how to deliver an unforgettable live performance. I liked the book so much, I read it twice.
It was called, The Musician’s Guide to a Great Live Performance.
It became my bible. I read it on planes, took it with me on my iPad, and shared it with singer-songwriter friends.
And I read a wonderful book on overcoming fear and panic, titled You 1, Anxiety 0.
Author Jodi Aman helped take the mask off of fear so I could see what it really was: an illusion. I soaked up the wisdom in this book. It really helped me.
I also read a 1950 book by Vernon Howard called Word Power.
It was about how you talk to yourself, as well as to others, effects your behavior and your results. It’s not so much affirmations but self-talk.
Pretending you are fearless by saying “I am a fearless performer” is a way to begin being a fearless performer.
And I read a recent book, called Succeed.
It explained that just visualizing success is a plan for failure unless you also visualize planning for setbacks.
In other words, thinking the show will go without a flaw is not realistic, as Usher pointed out. There is no such thing as perfection.
But visualizing success, and understanding there is work to do to get there, can almost guarantee the result you want.
That was a mind-spinning insight.
I did more, too.
With Meghan’s urging, I wrote out a script of how I wanted the show to go.
I focused on my feelings, not anyone else’s, so I could focus on what I could control.
The script was a type of Nevillizing (which I write about in my book, The Attractor Factor): feeling as if the event already happened, and happened the way I envisioned it.
I wrote the script from the point of view of the next day, after I performed on stage.
I read and re-read it every day for a week before the show.
I got massages, I got plenty of rest, I drank lots of water, and I went into a flotation tank at The Zero Gravity Institute for 90 minutes the day before the show.
I was doing whatever I could to be at peak form when I stepped on stage.
I was taking care of my body and mind.
I was getting ready for my moment.
Faith doesn’t always mean something religious.
Faith in yourself, faith in other people, faith in my practice and prep, faith in my Band of Legends – all of it gives a level of confidence that allows the best to surface.
As a slogan I coined says, “It is what you accept.”
I accepted that the moment would be perfect, even in any imperfections.
It would be “perfectly imperfect.”
And, after two months of preparing, what happened?
My Band of Legends and myself performed on July 21st at The Townsend in Austin.
I’m the luckiest musician alive to have a band of this caliber: Drummer Joe Vitale (yes, same name as mine), bass man Glenn Fukunaga and lead guitarist Daniel Barrett.
These incredible musicians encouraged me, supported me, and brought my songs to life.
We raised the roof and tore down the walls.
We shook the earth and wowed the crowd.
Talk about overcoming fear!!!
I gave everything I had in me, delivering my messages with energy, enthusiasm, electricity, and a sense of fearlessness and fun.
At the end of our set, we got a standing ovation.
A standing ovation!
I did it.
And I loved it!
Now, what do you fear that is time for you to do?
Isn’t today a good day to begin overcoming fear?
Back on September 1st I wrote about how I used the Law of Attraction and the Law of Right Action to attract legendary singer-songwriter-guitarist Melissa Etheridge.
At that time I hadn’t met her yet or had my songwriting lesson with her.
Well, now I have.
As I write this in Los Angeles, I had my session with her yesterday, at her home.
She met me outside her door, hugged me, gave me that Melissa million dollar smile, and said, “I didn’t know you were a fan.”
A “fan” is an understatement.
I’m a fan-atic.
I’ve been in awe of her performing and her music since around 1995.
To be standing with her was surreal.
As it turns out, Melissa is a fan of my work, as well as the work of the rest of the teachers from the movie The Secret. She’s personal friends with Tony Robbins. (Tony introduced ho’oponopono to her and her sweet spouse.)
She reads all the deep-end metaphysical books. She says she began around 2003 by picking up Ken Wilber’s The Theory of Everything, which is like learning how to swim by being dropped in the Atlantic ocean.
Her spirituality and understanding of manifestation has helped her awaken and achieve even greater levels of success in more recent years.
She told me that laying on her back, with cancer, and watching the movie The Secret, forced her to think about what she wanted in her life.
“If I am this powerful being who gave myself cancer and can create whatever I want, then I want healed, I want to make more music, and I want to win an Oscar.”
Of course, she went on and did all of that.
My time with Melissa was about songwriting, but she began it by asking about my life in music, my books, and then showing me her guitar collection.
Her favorite guitars are in the trailer that goes on the road with her. But she has a guitar room with them lining the walls like playable art.
And she has a studio with old and new and prototype guitars. (Ovation is releasing a ME electric in January). She also has more guitars in storage.
Of course, I related, understood, and told her of my own collection, which she says she wants to see one day.
We went in her home studio to focus on my actual lesson.
We each had a guitar. I had my songbook, where I jot ideas and snippets and songs. She said the songbook is sacred. (Later, I had her sign mine, making it even more priceless to me.)
From there she had me pick a song idea. She wanted to know the why for writing a song.
“What’s important to say in the song? Why do you want to write it? What’s the intention for it?”
She told me how she wrote some of her own songs, first thinking about why she wanted to write them.
She explained that for her song, Pulse, she wanted people to know that the person who went into a nightclub and shot dozens of people did so because he was in pain.
She also explained that for the Al Gore slide show about global warning, she wanted people to know that “I have to change,” not anyone else.
I found her to be a deep thinker, cutting to the core with her messages.
I told her about wanting to tell people how they could be happy now, and manifest their lives using the Law of Attraction, and more.
She nodded, accepting my reasons.
From there, for Melissa, it all begins with what I call a brain dump.
“Just write words,” she said. “Let it be okay whatever comes.”
She also advised to “fall in love with words.”
She uses a paperback thesaurus to look up other words, so she isn’t using too common or too cliche of words.
While I had been using Masterwriter, a popular software for songwriters, I found using a printed thesaurus slower but more enlightening.
The time spent looking up a word gave my mind time to think, and the alternate words were often surprising and triggered other thoughts.
We began with me wanting to write a song about Miracles, since my new book is titled The Miracle.
But within minutes the song became about The Great Something, a concept I write about in my book The Secret Prayer.
Instead of saying God, or Divine, or Universe, I refer to the super power behind all of life as “The Great Something.”
Melissa loved “The Great Something”‘ because it made you want to know more.
In a song, it would make you want to listen.
I got excited watching the song unfold with Melissa’s help.
Melissa often writes pages of words and phrases, knowing that later she will edit them.
“Editing is the fun part,” she told me.
She pointed to the back cover of my album, One More Day, to the line, “Self-help messages in 3 minutes or so.”
“That’s the challenge,” she said, smiling bright. “To condense pages of ideas into a three minute song.”
“That’s why I’m here,” I said. 🙂
Her songwriting template, more often than not, is to write a verse, then go right to the chorus, then to a versus, chorus, bridge, and chorus again.
“It’s stating the problem in the verse, and often a solution in the chorus,” she explained. “The next verse might spell out the problem more, and the chorus will again offer the upbeat solution.”
One of the biggest insights for me was the idea of writing in the first person.
Melissa says that first person songs are more personal and hit home with people.
Second person, or ‘you’ oriented songs, are one step removed from the listener and have less impact.
More often than not, she writes in the first person.
I started to play with the idea of writing The Great Something song in the first person. I instantly felt more connected to the song, and felt more power in the message.
I also saw myself get more excited and inspired.
“Always write from inspiration,” she had told me earlier.
“Get to that place where you have tingles of excitement for whatever you are about to write,”she added. “Never write without the tingles.”
She doesn’t meditate but often walks in nature, looks at trees and flowers, reads some poetry, reviews songs from people she admires, from Bruce Springsteen to Neil Diamond, all to ignite her inspiration.
I told her I smoke cigars.
She didn’t seem to relate to that.
Of course, she lives in a state where cannabis is legal.
Later she asked me to sing for her.
Now try to imagine that.
I’m a star-struck beginner at singing, sitting in the home studio of a rock and roll legend who has the most soaring voice of all time, and she says, “Sing for me.”
That’s like having Elvis ask you to sing.
Well, I did.
I also played a little instrumental, to give her a sense of what Guitar Monk Mathew Dixon and I create.
I was off key, out of step, and out of tune, but I did it anyway.
Melissa smiled big and said she bets the recorded versions with the band are stellar.
I then asked about singing advice.
Melissa took a breath and gave me a long, wise, hypnotic answer about watching the Ed Sullivan Show on TV and being influenced by Tom Jones, Janis Joplin, Robert Plant and others.
She noticed their joy in singing was what was so captivating.
She went on to say she wanted her music to be ballsy, not girlie.
She didn’t want to sing head voice, though she could.
She wanted something deeper and harder.
I related and told her I often felt more comfortable singing with a baritone guitar, which lowered my voice into my chest.
“That’s a good place for your voice,” she said. “It’s at home there.”
She also gave advice on performing.
“Never perform sitting down,” she said. “It cuts off your breathing.”
“And always eat, be hydrated, and get plenty of rest, so you can deliver your performance with full power.”
I’ll be processing my time with Melissa Etheridge for the rest of my life.
I found her open, loving, generous, spiritual, fearless, talented, present, friendly and wise.
She even invited me to speak on her next cruise ship concert. (!)
I was a fan (fanatic) before meeting her in person.
Today I’m in love.
Hey Melissa, I want to come over – again!
PS – Please note that whenever you have an expert coach you, your experience and expertise leap in incalculable measures. Melissa Etheridge heard a limiting belief come out of my mouth that I didn’t hear and I was the one who said it. We all need a coach. Consider Miracles Coaching.
I’m in the recording studio with Grammy nominated legend Ruthie Foster and award-winning singer and producer Daniel Barrett. We have joined forces to create an album together.
I’m flattered beyond belief that these two superstars want me on an album. After all, I’m relatively new to being a musician. And I’ve been a long time fan of both of them. To be in the studio with them is mind boggling.
I was so excited to record with them that I showed up for our first session thirty days early. (!)
But what’s really interesting is how we are all stretching ourselves.
For example —
Ruthie is famous for her singing but not her lead guitar.
On our album, she is playing lead electric guitar.
Daniel does everything, from engineering to singing and more, but he doesn’t play the drums. Or at least didn’t.
On this album, he does.
I’m a newbie to music and don’t have all that much experience doing anything (even though I’ve released eight albums in over three years). I certainly am brand new and uncomfortable on the saxophone.
On this album, I am playing a baritone saxophone.
What’s going on here?
Each of us is stretching out of our comfort zones.
When you stretch your comfort zone, you reach a new level of comfort and confidence.
When Daniel, Ruthie and I go into the studio, we talk, share, joke, and play. Out of our openness, we come up with songs. Out of our willingness to take risks, and exceed our comfort zones by pursing our desires, we create new possibilities.
The result is magic.
And some pretty cool music.
This is an important lesson for each of us.
You have “comfort zone limits,” too.
When you find them and nudge them a bit, you extend your power and attract new results.
We aren’t doing daredevil stuff in the studio.
We are taking what we haven’t done before but want to do, and focusing on making something happen by doing it.
We are simply following our inspiration and taking action to create something new.
Yes, there is often fear involved, but we feel the fear and do it, anyway.
We turn the fear into fuel.
Here’s an example —
One day, while Ruthie was playing lead electric guitar (and truly wowing me at it), I received an idea for a song.
I jotted it down.
As she kept playing, I started singing the song in my head.
The lyrics and her melody seemed to work together.
When she was done playing, I did something daring.
I said, “I want to sing!”
This was a huge move on my part.
Singing at all, any time, any place, has been a challenge for me.
I’m new at it.
I’ve been insecure about it.
And to sing for Ruthie Foster — one of the best singers I’ve ever heard in my entire life — was a courageous even outrageous thing to suggest.
Even though Ruthie had mentioned just the day before, “I like your singing, Joe. You can sing with me if you want,” I didn’t feel ready to leave my comfy mindset and step into her arena.
But I wanted to push out of my comfort zone.
My heart was racing but I knew I had to do this.
Daniel and Ruthie are loving and supportive, and urged me on.
After all, each of us was doing something new.
We were all stretching.
So I took a deep breath, got in front of the mike, and belted out my tune.
After I sang, Daniel said, “That was some of the best singing I’ve ever heard out of you.”
I looked over at Ruthie and she was beaming a sunny smile and nodding her head in agreement.
It was amazing.
Daniel’s drumming, Ruthie’s lead guitar, my vocals — it was a stretch for each of us but it all came together into a powerful new song that will be on our forthcoming first album.
And that song will probably be titled, “Stretch Yourself!”
All I’m reminding you here is do what you fear.
If you have a dream but feel nervous about it, that’s good.
It means you care.
The next step is to get up and do something about it.
Your comfort zones are invisible lines in your mind.
You can melt them with a little stepping forth.
I’m packing up my baritone saxophone and heading back to the studio right now.
It’s time for Saxman Joe to do his thing.
What are you going to do today to stretch yourself?
PS — Ruthie Foster told me she got an “Aha!” from listening to my song, ‘Reflection,’ off my latest singer-songwriter album of the same name. You can hear samples of all the tracks on that album and grab the CD (which comes with a collectible, limited edition booklet, and with a surprise gift) over at http://www.ReflectionCD.com
BONUS: If you’ve never heard Ruthie Foster sing, watch this…
Guy Monroe is my singing coach. I love working with him. He’s plugged in, tapped in, turned on, and a wizard at teaching vocal mastery.
Recently we were enjoying his magic coffee before my singing lesson began when he asked about my activities. I rattled off a few things I was doing that week —
– released my 51st book 1,800 Conversion Secrets
– appeared in my 15th movie The Meta-Secret
– did back to back radio shows
– negotiated deals for new audio products
– set up a radio campaign for Attract Money Now
– did a two hour photo shoot with my new car
– prepared for Unseminar 8.
– prepped for overseas travel to speak in Poland
– continued guitar lessons with Mathew Dixon
– found time to read new books
– found time to write new blog posts
– did Miracles Coaching call
– dealt with my mom going in the hospital, an elderly kitty slowly dying, etc.
That’s just some of the things I was doing that week.
Of course, I added that I made time for meditation, reflection, cigar smoking, hot tubbing, masterminding, and more.
Guy’s eyes looked HUGE as he took in my inventory of activities.
“What’s the secret to getting all these results?” he asked.
“I don’t do all of this at the same time,” I explained.
“Right now I’m talking to you and having coffee,” I added. “That’s what this moment calls for. In the next moment I’ll be in your sound booth and singing. After that I’ll drive my space-ship Spyker home. When I get home, there will be something in that moment to do. By living in each moment, things get done.”
Guy nodded. He’s a brilliant teacher and a high-energy dynamo, so I knew he understood.
I added, “It’s when you think about all the stuff you want to do that it gets overwhelming. When you stop and breathe and relax and just do what’s in this moment to do, all is well.”
What’s in this moment for you to do?
PS – If you really want to know my Secret of Productivity click right here.
What’s a key to self-help, self-improvement or self-development?
Meet Ace Pepper.
Ace is the most upbeat, revved up and amped up guy I know. He absolutely loves making amplifiers for musicians.
I’ve seen people in love with their work before – from plumbers to postal workers to electrical repair people — but Ace Pepper takes the passion award.
The man is plugged in. He lives to make amps and does for famous musicians. I met him at a guitar show I attended with Pat O’Bryan. I liked Ace’s energy and was curious to what made him so contagiously happy.
I didn’t see Ace for almost a year, though. When one of my amps started to whistle when it was supposed to hum, I thought of Ace. Pat and I went to see him, my old amp in tow.
Ace gave me an hour lesson in how amps are built.
It was exciting.
It was in-depth.
It was intense.
I didn’t understand any of it.
But the guy’s boyish enthusiasm for his work was riveting.
I ended up hiring Ace to make me the amp of all amps.
I told Ace I wanted something so astonishing that Bruce Springsteen would hear the legend of it and contact me, wanting to buy it.
Now here’s where this gets interesting.
I don’t know how to use a professional amp. Oh, I know how to plug a guitar cable into it and turn it on. But Ace’s amps have a dozen dials, multiple plug-in holes, and wires coming out of the back of it. He makes amps that would challenge Tesla. Having him build me a professional custom-made amp was asking him to build me a car I couldn’t drive.
And that’s a secret to self improvement.
I told Ace I wanted him to build me an amp that I would “grow into.”
What I meant is this: I’ll learn how to use the amp once I have it. I’ll experiment, ask questions, make mistakes and grow. I’ll stretch myself into a comfortable fit.
This is true of virtually anything you want to learn.
Set an intention and then start working/playing/learning to grow into it.
Same with singing.
I don’t sing. Never used to, anyway. But I decided to do something huge and daring – not knowing exactly how I would accomplish it – and announced one day I would put on a one-man theatrical show called “Mr. Fire’s Wonder Show: An Evening of Magic, Music and Miracles.”
Talk about establishing a goal I’d need to grow into!
Well, the Law of Attraction kicked in and I started to attract the people and coaches I need to make that goal come true.
I stumbled into a vocal coach by the name of Guy Monroe. The guy is a-maz-ing. He’s also amped up about his work.
He took me under his wing, coached me with his vocal and verbal methods, and terrific upbeat energy, and I’m now singing Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Harry Chapin and more.
Recently I startled myself by singing Glen Hansard’s wonderful song, Falling Slowly, from the movie Once. I didn’t think I had a shot at getting close to the song, as it has such vocal extremes in it, from soft to shrill.
But Guy coached me, encouraged me, and I went for it.
I not only sang it, but I sang it pretty darn good.
Of course, I’m no Glen Hansard, but I’m an excellent Joe Vitale.
I’m proud of myself for daring something worthy and learning how to sing, accelerating my guitar playing, and getting an amp I have no idea how to use — yet.
Again, if you want to know a secret to self-help and self-improvement, re-read this post.
And then set a big, bold, daring goal for yourself, based on your passion.
It will help you “amp it up”.
PS – You’ll notice that a key to growing fast and achieving your dreams with the Law of Attraction and more, is to have a coach. Listen to my interview with the Miracles Coach of 2009 by clicking right here. It’s another secret to self-improvement and self-help. Go for it!