Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual

Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual

by Luvvie Ajayi Jones

A humorous and transformational guide for all those who want to tackle fear and boldly step into the life, career, and legacy of their dreams. The book walks you through how to be, speak and act audaciously despite all the compelling reasons you may have to cower in fear.  

Summary Notes

Know yourself

“We are afraid of who we are, in all our glory (and grit). We’re constantly searching for that person. Or forgetting that person. Or repressing that person. Instead of standing strong in who that person is”

Why do we fear our true selves? In a world where fear reigns, most people are easily swayed to be, say or do things that go against who they truly are. Yet, being fully yourself is the very anchor that grounds you when life pushes you around. It’s having a strong sense of identity and knowing that you have a right to be here on this planet—no matter what others may think or say. It’s being willing to get in trouble for standing up for your values. 

Part of this process is rooted in something outside of yourself. This can be a community, tribe, or culture that you belong to that holds you accountable. It is important to feel deeply connected to other people and to know that no matter where you go, you always have a safe space to go home to. 

Unfortunately, in this age of individualism, we have lost our innate sense of community. 

Furthermore, knowing yourself means knowing what’s most important to you. Too often, we diminish our needs and impulses just to fit into other people’s perceptions. As a result, you lose the map that would have guided you to your true values. 

You don’t have to go looking for yourself to discover who you are. All you need is to be honest with yourself - you already hold all the answers. 

Actions to take

Don’t be afraid of being too much

“Your job is not to chameleon your way through life to the point where you forget what your true colors are”

People fear judgment from others. Think of the many times you’ve chosen to be ordinary and unremarkable because others were not comfortable with your full splendor. At the same time, you’ve also judged others for who they are. 

The result is that we become afraid of being labeled as “too much.” For example, too loud, too quiet, too aggressive, too passive, too fat, too skinny, and so on. 

When you’re accused of being too much, you’re being asked to change who you are at your core. You’re being told to occupy less space just to please people who are fickle and insecure about themselves. 

But it’s not your job to shapeshift to make others feel better. Even if you comply, nobody wins. Not only will you suffocate your spirit but you’ll also appear inauthentic to others, thus turning them off anyway.  

Don’t let others squelch your “too muchness.” Go ahead and be exactly what you’re accused of being as long as you’re being true to yourself. Do your best to gauge whether the criticism is valid, but ultimately understand that being yourself is useful even if others think it’s too much. 

Actions to take

Show up as the best version of yourself

“Imposter syndrome is the cousin of fear. Both are boundless bastards”

When we talk about our biggest fears, the fear of failure usually gets a lot of attention. However, the fear of success is probably a bigger challenge that we often overlook. 

In most cases, you’re afraid of going full throttle to achieve your dreams even though you know how gifted you are. Maybe it’s because you’re afraid of living up to your excellence or you’re unsure of sustaining success once you achieve it. You’re worried that you may be unable to handle success in your life.

This fear of success is often the result of imposter syndrome. This is where you question whether you deserve opportunities in your life, thus causing you to talk yourself out of winning even before you enter the race. You fail to give yourself enough credit when you achieve something great and instead think that it’s a fluke. You feel inadequate, unqualified, and unworthy even when others are telling you that you deserve your success.

The imposter syndrome comes from a need for perfection. However, perfection is the enemy of progress, and if you get stuck on wanting to be perfect, you’ll never move forward in your life. Take the pressure off yourself by internalizing the positive things in your life instead of focusing on the negative voice in your head. 

Imposter syndrome is a liar, and if you cannot get rid of it, at least turn its volume down.   

Actions to take

Speak your truth fearlessly

“We have a moral obligation to tell the truth. Tell the truth, even when our voices shake. Tell the truth even when it might rock the boat. Tell the truth, even when there might be consequences. That in itself makes us more courageous than most people in the world”

Although honesty plays a big role in a well-functioning society, we often fear speaking the truth. Raw honesty exposes our flaws and holds us accountable to change and do better. Since this is a scary process, we’d rather tell lies to ourselves and each other. We go along to get along, fearful of disrupting the harmony that exists around us. 

When we fail to tell the truth in minor instances, it becomes more difficult to be truthful in the important things. For example, let’s say someone proposes a terrible solution at a company meeting and everyone stays silent instead of challenging it. Being honest could prevent a damaging decision from being made, no matter how awkward it is to speak up. 

Challenging people or systems is not an easy thing to do. You have to make an intentional decision that carries risks. But if your intention is to bring the best out of everybody involved and get them to see their blind spots, then it’s worth it. 

The important thing is to be tactful and ask a lot of questions so that you don’t come across as accusatory.      

Actions to take

Boldly ask for the money you deserve

“Being known as a low-cost hire should not be our value proposition. You are not the Dollar Store and you shouldn’t be. I will never be the least expensive option or use that as a rallying cry for someone to want to work with me”

Money tends to be a taboo topic because nobody wants to be seen as greedy. But in a world where money determines the quality of your life, it’s necessary to discuss whether you’re earning enough to meet your all needs. When it comes to getting hired, it’s especially important to negotiate your salary so that you get paid enough for your skills. 

One of the reasons for the gender pay gap is that women are expected to be service-minded. They are made to feel guilty for asking for more money and are expected to sacrifice themselves for other people. Men, on the other hand, can get away with aggressively negotiating higher pay. In many instances, people are afraid of negotiating for more money because they assume that the company will withdraw their job offer. Yet, this rarely happens. 

The truth is that you should always negotiate every job offer. You’re being hired because you have the skills, so nobody is doing you a favor. Furthermore, the first offer is usually a much lower number than the company has to offer. The company expects you to negotiate, and when you don’t, you’re shortchanging yourself. It’s your responsibility to learn how to ask for more money so that you end up earning what you deserve.  

Actions to take

Draw clear boundaries around you

“We think we can’t afford to tell people our boundaries for fear of ostracizing them. But really, we cannot afford NOT to tell people our boundaries, because when we are silent, we betray ourselves. And we must betray ourselves less”

In life, you’ll encounter people who enter your personal space and get in your face without any hesitation. This can leave you feeling disrespected and annoyed. For this reason, you have to teach people how you want to be treated. This has nothing to do with being snobbish or prudish. It’s about setting standards and expectations of how you want to be treated. 

We often struggle to set clear boundaries because we fear hurting people’s feelings or appearing difficult. We’d rather roll our eyes or sigh when someone talks or acts disrespectfully toward us instead of telling them to stop doing it. If you don’t draw personal, professional emotional, and physical boundaries, then you’re betraying yourself just to make others feel comfortable. 

This also plays out electronically via social media. Some people will cross your virtual boundaries by sending you inappropriate friend requests, tagging you in random photos, or direct messaging you for favors without introducing themselves. Though it’s a great tool for building connections, social media also makes it easy for strangers to violate your boundaries. Therefore, it’s important to establish some rules on how to control who you allow into your physical and virtual spaces. 

Actions to take

Allow yourself to lose some control

“When we fire ourselves, it means we’ve pulled over to the parking lot of someone who is a really good and safe driver. They drive and we catch up on sleep for a bit. We wake up, all is well, and our job is to keep the snacks coming and the music bopping”

One common fear that we share is the fear of losing control. This fear is worse in individuals who are headstrong and would rather do things for themselves rather than ask for help. When you’re obsessed with being in control of every situation around you, it’s easy to end up stressed and anxious. But you can never truly control everything. You have to fight this fear and learn to delegate some tasks.

If you’re struggling to delegate things, then it may be due to a lack of trust in people. You may be afraid of being let down or losing something because you trusted it to someone else. But being self-reliant can be detrimental if taken too far because you simply cannot accomplish as much as you’d like on your own. If you’re a solopreneur, it won’t be easy to scale the business unless you hire people to handle some of the more mundane tasks. 

You have to allow yourself to lose some control of your life or business and delegate specific responsibilities. This doesn’t mean you have to let go of everything and allow anyone to run your life. But your life can be much easier and more successful if you fire yourself and find reliable people who can help you achieve your intended goals.  

Actions to take

Build a community

“In order to be the friend you would want, you also need to be willing to be vulnerable. That fear we have of betrayal is legitimate, but we cannot let it keep everyone around us at arm’s length. If we do, they won’t know who we are, what we need, and how dope we can be”

We all have an innate need for the approval of others. We need people who can encourage, challenge, love, and even scold us. And yet we also have a fear of needing people because we don’t want to be betrayed by others. We’re afraid of allowing people to get close enough to hurt us. This prevents us from “squadding up” or creating communities of individuals who aren’t our blood relatives.  

This fear of betrayal is a valid one because humans can be selfish and deceitful. It’s understandable why some people choose to be alone. However, you cannot allow this fear to control your life. Having a squad of reliable and trustworthy people can be beneficial in many ways. Your friends help you define your core identity. They challenge you to improve and gas you up when you need a dose of confidence. Having a squad of friends who support you on your life journey is a gift, and the risk of betrayal and abandonment is worth it. 

One of the reasons why many friendships fail is that we expect one squad to fulfill all our needs and expectations. We expect our friends to mentor us, play with us, give us business advice, challenge us and keep all our secrets. This is too much responsibility to place on a few people. Therefore, it’s a great idea to have multiple squads of friends so that each squad plays a specific role in your life.     

Actions to take

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