Primary Blog/Mindset/Embracing fear and discomfort

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Embracing fear and discomfort

Phillip Liebel

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear”

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear”.

I’ve gotten some mixed information on the origin of this quote, but the first time I heard it was in a wonderful, motivational video by Will Smith. Regardless of its origin, the truth behind it is as old as time.

To live your life to the fullest, it is essential that you embrace discomfort and learn to use it to your advantage. I truly believe that the fear of failure and of discomfort is one of the main obstacles that stand between most people and their goals and dreams.

Let’s dig a little deeper into this and explore my own personal experiences…

Growing up, I had a paralyzing fear of public speaking. I could do research papers all day long but the second I had to get in front of people and discuss my work, I would become unable to function.

When I decided I wanted to start sharing my wilderness survival skills with others, this was undoubtedly the largest hurdle that stood in my way. I had this idea in my head that every little thing was supposed to be perfect and that I could make no mistakes or I would automatically be a fraud!

I had a huge learning experience in my first class that will stay with me forever and has helped me grow as a person and as an instructor.

My first class was a friction fire class, something I felt very comfortable in and felt that I could teach easily. I was halfway through my discussion and was going for an ember to demonstrate it for the students… all of a sudden I drilled straight into a large bug hole and all of the “bug poop” was forced out into my notch, subsequently killing the ember that was just beginning to form. My initial feeling was being traumatized that I had just failed at hand drill in front of my students! The first time I had failed in a LONG time and it was with a live audience!! How could I overlook this?! Why hadn’t I inspected my fire board better!?… wait a second… this is a learning moment.


In that moment I realized that this was a perfect way to emphasize the importance of the little things with friction fire. Rather than being embarrassed, I proudly showcased the issue and had the students pass the board around inspecting my oversight and discussing what precautions should have been taken. I then grabbed another board and quickly cranked out an ember to build our fire with. I can promise you that each of those students learned more from my failure that day than they did from my success.

Discomfort can come in real, physical forms as well. Physical discomfort and the ability to push through those boundaries can be just as important and overcoming mental anxieties.

When you push your body to the point of discomfort and you can push through that and overcome it, that’s when we really begin to learn about ourselves and experience real growth. Growth is seldom painless.

Several of the pictures on this blog are from my time in Canada while filming for History Channels “Alone: The Beast”. During that time was the most uncomfortable I had been, both physically and psychologically. Although it was often unpleasant, there are no experiences where I learned and grew as much as I did in Canada.


I learned what I was capable of. I learned that difficult does not mean impossible. I learned that to experience the highest of highs, you MUST go through the lowest of lows. I learned that through hard work and perseverance that I could accomplish things that seemed impossible.

These lessons came home with me and they have continued to effect me and change me as time has gone on.

I still have MUCH to accomplish but I now understand that it is all possible. If you can overcome the fear and push past the discomfort to put in the work…. you can do anything!

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