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Fearless at Work: Achieve Your Potential by Transforming Small Moments into Big Outcomes

Fearless at Work: Achieve Your Potential by Transforming Small Moments into Big Outcomes

by Molly Fletcher


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The winning game plan for channeling fear into world-class performance

Fear comes in all forms, but one thing is always true: Fear is an obstacle to success. Every successful person has overcome fear.

Hailed as “the female Jerry Maguire” by CNN, top sports agent-turned-entrepreneur Molly Fletcher knows all about performing under pressure. Talent, skill, and endurance may be necessary ingredients to athletic achievement, but Fletcher zeroes in on the one common trait that drives elite individuals and teams to unparalleled success: a winning, fearless mindset. Success isn’t built in a day, so she guides you to recognize, seize, and shape the small moments that will make the greatest difference.

Filled with play-by-play insights and field-tested strategies―and anchored by inspiring stories from an all-star roster of sports and business leaders―Fearless at Work shows you how to:

• trade your self-defeating attitudes and self-imposed hurdles for a new outlook rooted in a sense of mission and purpose
• defeat toxic thinking, push beyond your comfort zone, embrace new challenges, and achieve your stretch goals
• prepare yourself to seize the moment when opportunity presents itself
• harness the heightened alertness that comes with fear to drive positive outcomes
• shrug off the fear of failure and not worry so much about what other people think, while gaining the confidence that comes from achieving meaningful change

It takes awareness, it takes work, and it takes determination—but in the end, conquering your fear is a choice. It’s your choice to become Fearless at Work.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781259862984
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
Publication date: 04/10/2017
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Molly Fletcher, founder and CEO of The Molly Fletcher Company, pursues a mission to connect, inspire, and lead with creative courage and optimism. Hailed as “the female Jerry Maguire” by CNN, she spent two decades as one of the world’s only female sports agents, working with hundreds of famous athletes, coaches, and media personalities. A sought-after speaker, author, and entrepreneur, she mines her deep experience as a high-stakes negotiator and relationship builder in the sports industry to deliver game-changing messages to companies, trade associations, national nonprofit organizations and teams competing to reach the next level.

Read an Excerpt

Fearless at Work

Achieve Your Potential by Transforming Small Moments Into Big Outcomes

By Molly Fletcher

McGraw-Hill Education

Copyright © 2017 Molly Fletcher
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-259-86299-1



It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.

— Mae Jemison, first African-American woman astronaut

We are all in the middle of something right now. But are we thinking about now? Or are we stuck in the past or future?

The past says: If only I had ...

The future says: Someday I will ...

And that kind of thinking allows fear to take hold. Fearlessness stays present, and that's what these fundamental habits are about. The here and now.

By recognizing the moment that you are in and its potential, you can begin to create profound changes in the way you think and act.

These five trades will give you insights into how to make small changes in your thinking and behavior and achieve more success and fulfillment.

Now is always between past and present. Now is the middle. The middle is where most of us are functioning in our work life, too.

As a speaker, I am the go-between, carrying a message to a specific audience. As an agent, I made my living in the middle — most of us do.

An agent is anyone who acts on behalf of something or someone else. A good agent doesn't wait for something to happen, but rather causes something to happen.

Fearless Fundamentals will help you begin to see yourself as the agent of your life, your goals, and your highest purpose.

There is more out there for you right now. Let's start moving toward it — fearlessly.

Trade Defensiveness for Curiosity

"Be curious and honest, and keep an open heart. Great things will happen." Radio producer Dave Isay wrote these wise words after years of recording and listening to small memories. Taken together, these moments have achieved a massive outcome.

Isay's project — StoryCorps — has created a vast archive of oral histories collected by family members and friends. Today more than 50,000 interviews with 100,000 participants are preserved in the Library of Congress.

This was possible only because Isay overcame a big obstacle. Everyday Americans didn't always realize their life stories were worth documenting and sharing with strangers. They didn't think what they had lived through was that interesting or important to anyone else, even their families.

If you don't see the worth of doing something that forces you out of your comfort zone, it's easy to stay in your shell. To keep your story to yourself. To not venture out of your own perspective. This defensiveness had kept many people from communicating their important life lessons.

Isay broke this ice by starting with two simple words of fearlessness: What if?

What if strangers could find common ground by telling their stories?

His curiosity ultimately inspired people to overcome their reluctance to talk. Families confronted their secrets. Estranged friends reconciled. StoryCorps audiences learned to care about strangers and the groups they represented. Isay's vision earned a MacArthur Genius Fellowship.

Curiosity can help you achieve what has never been done. It's a remarkable tool for weeding out a major obstacle to growth: defensiveness.

Defensiveness is the flip side of wanting approval. And approval can keep us under the control of others' opinions and feedback.

Curiosity is so important for leaders. Without curiosity, Home Depot's existence, and success, could not have happened.

Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus had every reason to be defensive. When the hardware chain they worked for was bought out, they thought they were too valuable to be fired. They were wrong.

But instead of getting defensive, they got busy testing an idea. They had been curious about whether a discount warehouse for do-it-yourselfers would take off. So they put together a proposal, and an investment firm liked the idea and bankrolled it. The Home Depot would thrive, the men thought, by providing solutions for homeowners with all their home improvement projects.

On opening weekend, Blank and Marcus were eager to see how their marketing gimmick would work. Kids would hand out dollar bills as thank-yous to people coming into their new stores. That idea, and the opening of their first two stores, bombed. "We just sat there in stunned silence," Marcus remembered. "It looked like curtains for us. My wife wouldn't let me shave for days. She didn't want me to have a razor in my hands."

But their idea soon was validated by word of mouth, and the cofounders stayed curious. They would regularly pop into Home Depot stores unannounced, to see from the sales floor what the merchandising issues were and what the customers were seeking. "A learning experience and an opportunity to change," Blank called it in his autobiography, Built from Scratch.

A multi-billion-dollar business was born because Blank and Marcus refused to get stuck in defensiveness after getting fired. By becoming curious, they took their focus off past misfortunes and committed themselves to possibilities.

Defensiveness doesn't help anyone move to a better place in life. It communicates that you don't want or need support. You're telling people you'd rather go on without them.

When I made my career transition, I couldn't afford to be defensive, although there were many times I could have drawn those shades, believe me.

My public speaking work began slowly. I accepted opportunities to speak for free to college groups and other small gatherings. When a friend agreed to help me get started in corporate speaking, I knew that my lack of name recognition could keep me from reaching my goal of being among the top tier of speakers. I realized that I needed to execute a great speech every time, to go well above the bar of expectations. And I wanted to measure this.

I began to distribute surveys to my audiences, asking for ratings and feedback. My goal was to get ratings in the 9s and 10s. Anything less than that attracted my curiosity.

In the small but critical moments, I studied my less stellar report cards for clues to what I could do better: What value could I add to make each keynote a home run? How could I connect and make an impact on each and every person in the room?

As I incorporated these responses into my work little by little, several big things happened. I got better at speaking and delivering more than what my clients expected, from the stage and providing support after events. This led me to higher tiers in this new world, which translated into making a bigger impact both at home and at work.

Most important, trading defensiveness for curiosity made me feel bulletproof. Criticism didn't make me feel victimized. In fact, accepting it with an open mind was part of a strategy to be the best I could be. Letting go of defensiveness gave me more room for positive energy and growth.

Curiosity reframes the conversation. It takes feedback and criticism and embraces it as fuel for growth. No matter what work you are in, your success depends on your being bigger than the problems you seek to address.

Be aware the next time you feel your hackles going up. Experiment with a new response. Instead of getting defensive, can you ask a question to elicit more information? Can you ask, "What if"?

Because defensiveness is so natural, trading it for curiosity — as hard as that is — immediately creates results. If you don't believe me, just ask Dave Isay, Bernie Marcus, and Arthur Blank!

Trade the Old Story for a New Story

Fear is a story we tell ourselves.

Dan Jansen, the Olympic speed skater, famously overcame repeated Olympic heartbreak to capture gold in his final race. Jansen worked with Dr. Jim Loehr, a friend of mine and a prominent sports psychologist and bestselling author who has helped elite athletes overcome the mental barriers inhibiting their performance. Jansen set a goal while working with Loehr to break the 36-second barrier in the 500 meters. At the time, it was thought to be physically impossible, and when people buy into a story like that, it becomes a self-limiting belief.

But Jansen rescripted the truth. He wrote, as Loehr told him to, the number "35.99" in his training log every single day. This ritual led him to expect to break 36 seconds. Jansen wrote his own story and became the first person to break the barrier. After he broke the mark, the barrier crumbled, and multiple others did within the next year.

These moments helped set up Jansen for rewriting a much bigger story. Beginning with the 1988 Calgary Games, when he was unnerved by the death of his sister, Jansen had failed to win an Olympic medal in 1992 and in his 500-meter specialty in 1994. He was known for slipping in big races. In the 1,000 meters, his final Olympic race, he skated with no expectations — and set a world record. The gold medal became the punch line for his new story.

An old story can be so subtle. It is an insistent monologue that no one else but us hears, and, too often, it defines the small moments that are so critical.

Our fear story is all about the but.

"I would love to travel internationally, but ..."

"I always thought that I would achieve partner, but ..."

"I would have spent more time doing what I love, but ..."

What if we traded all the buts for a new story of who, what, where, when, why, and how we most want to be?

Trading your old story for a better one is a fundamental act of fearlessness. It involves letting go of deep feelings in light of new facts, moment by moment.

In your story, you are a hero — a main character who believes in something bigger than yourself. If that bigger something is fear, it's time to get a new story.

Embracing your new story is like acting, the way Academy Award-winning actress Jodie Foster describes it: "You get to live out things that you're afraid of, and you get to say, 'Well, maybe I can get to the end of it and survive it intact, and I can be the hero of my own story.' It's kind of a way of exorcising fear."

Our families often inspire our self-stories, and that's not always a good thing. Here's a time when I had to trade my old story for a new story to resolve my guilt about how we were raising our daughters.

My parents are close to us, and in their value system, being a good parent means being with your kids. Not long ago, when my daughters were on the cusp of adolescence, I took a business trip to Florida, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and New York. Normally, I don't go more than three days without seeing my family, so no touchdown in Atlanta was unique. I called my mom to check in en route to one of the cities.

I shared with her my excitement about the previous event and upcoming engagements, and I could hear Mom's ears perk up.

"Oh," she replied, "so you won't be home until Thursday?" What I heard was, "Molly, are you sure you're with your girls enough?"

Since she is my greatest female role model, this question gave me serious pause. Guilt was the old story pulling me where I didn't belong. I was not reliving my mother's life, and my girls weren't retracing my steps at the same age. My new story was just that: mine. We all have our own stories, old and new. My way of going through life is guided by my purpose: to connect, inspire, and lead with creative courage and optimism.

You can see how the old story/new story ties in with the previous trade (defensiveness to curiosity). I felt defensive when my mom questioned my work schedule. But in that moment, I also questioned what my feeling of guilt was telling me. And this led me to being more curious about my mom's concerns and talking about them more openly together, which led to greater closeness between us.

Your story unfolds moment by moment, and it can be framed by limiting beliefs. This is an open invitation for fear to move in rent free. There's little room for that to happen in your new story.

Along with speaking and writing, I often consult with highly competitive teams that are struggling to move forward. Often the roots of their dysfunction are deeply engrained self-limiting beliefs.

I use a set of open-ended questions that I learned at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute (HPI) to help team members identify their old stories and begin to envision powerful new ones. Using these same questions will anchor you in the present and help you see yourself at a crossroads of old and new:

1. Set a target: I want to be more engaged with ...


2. Set an intention: This is important to me because ...


3. Understand your choice: If I continue on my present path, I expect ...


4. Introduce a new story: From now on, I will ...


The power of revising your story is evident in novelist Karen Thompson Walker's TED Talk about reading fear. Through the true story of a shipwreck, she demonstrates how we tell our stories through two main viewpoints: that of a scientist with cool judgment and facts, and that of an artist willing to get caught up in vivid details and emotions. The best story weaves together facts and emotions to bring people to a new understanding of the world. That's the new story I'm talking about, and Walker suggests reading our fears to help absorb and transcend them and pursue our purpose.

"Read in the right way, our fears are an amazing gift of the imagination, a kind of everyday clairvoyance, a way of glimpsing what might be the future when there's still time to influence how that future will play out," she says. "Properly read, our fears can offer us something as precious as our favorite works of literature: a little wisdom, a bit of insight, and a version of that most elusive thing — the truth."

In telling your new story, you erase limiting beliefs and make room for greater fearlessness.

Trade Bad Stress for Good Stress

Don't you love it when you get a second wind? Scientists are fascinated with this phenomenon too. They are trying to dissect why and how, as we become increasingly tired and stressed, we cross a tipping point into an exhilarating energy that makes us feel even stronger than when we started. Scientists continue to study whether we may be capable of an infinite number of "winds" that we can access — if we just keep pushing. A second wind can be the product of trading bad stress for good stress. I experienced this through reinventing my career.

Bad stress happens when you are going through the motions following a purpose outside your beliefs. Good stress happens when you are pushing through to your personal mission.

I made a strategic change from the stress of sports representation (serving individual performers) to the stress of running my own business (serving thousands of people). I traded the stress of being absent at home and a consistent paycheck for the stress of spending more time at home and uncertain compensation.

Here's what made the difference for me and gave me my second wind: I was leaving bad stress that was draining me and claiming good stress that energized me.

Making this trade helped build my fearlessness. I had pushed past that tipping point and tapped major energy on the other side. The major outcome for me was greater personal balance.

But how do you pass from the familiar bad stress to the second wind?

One of the fundamental skills of fearlessness is intentionality. It means getting very clear and focused on what you need to be doing in the moment.

Intentionality helps you laser in on the small steps that fulfill your purpose. Sometimes those steps are not clear. It's easy to get caught up in someone else's agenda or get distracted.

Here's a simple way to visualize bad stress versus good stress related to your intentions. This works especially well if you are a person who says yes too quickly, if you take on tasks and projects because you want to be liked, or if you are addicted to doing too much.

Make a list of 10 things in your life that currently stress you out. These can be your work, various people, family obligations, or other things.

Reflect on your list. Mark the stressors you have control over — that is, those that you can do something about.

Now draw a big circle. Inside it, draw a small circle.

In the small circle, put the stressors that you have control over.

In the outer ring, put the rest of your list.

Your energy is represented by one of the circles, and it's up to you to pick a target.

Do you want to spread your energy wide to include all the stressors, regardless of whether or not you can make a difference? The outer ring is full of bad stress — the uncontrollables in life — and energy is wasted there.

Wouldn't it make more sense to focus your energy on the small circle at the center, the stressors you can influence? Those have the potential to be good stressors because they present challenges that you can possibly solve. Your attitude and effort can influence the outcome of those stressors. The center target is the portal to your second wind.

A circle also symbolizes how stress and fear follow each other without end. Stress will lead to fear, and fear will lead to stress if we keep focusing on the stress that we can't do anything about.


Excerpted from Fearless at Work by Molly Fletcher. Copyright © 2017 Molly Fletcher. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill Education.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1 Fearless Fundamentals 15

2 Anchoring Your Values 35

3 Maximizing Your Focus 51

4 Stretching Critical Moments 67

5 Redirecting Persistent Behaviors 79

6 Reframing Bad News 95

7 Shifting Toxic Thinking 113

8 Preprogramming Your Default Settings 129

9 Reinventing Your Perspective 143

10 Unifying Your Tribe 161

Conclusion 173

Notes 177

Index 183

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