Episode 13: How to Manage Fear with Geoff Powter
How can you control your fear? What can you do to help other people to control their fear? These are the questions that psychologist, author, and adventurer Geoff Powter answers in this episode. In addition to psychology, Geoff draws upon his experience as the former editor of the Polar Circus Magazine and the Canadian Alpine Journalist, as well as being a respected mountaineer and adventurer.
Basiks Model of managing fear: The six steps are belief, action, support, intention, knowledge and skills.
Calming down: It is impossible to be mentally calm and physically anxious at the same time or physically calm and mentally anxious at the same time. It is easier to control our physical side than our mental side. This is where the value of breathing comes in to help to relax us in times of high stress.
About them: What we think will be good for someone else, might not be good for them.
You can find more about Geoff Powter’s books Inner Ranges and Strange and Dangerous Dreams: The Fine Line Between Adventure and Madness: Here
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[00:00:00] Geoff Powter: So, I climbed back up, got to the place that I’d hesitated before, and just talked myself out of the fear. So, to do that, one of the things that, that I know from being a psychologist is that it is actually impossible to be mentally calm and physically anxious at the same time, or physically calm and mentally.
[00:00:28] Chris Kaipio: This is Delivering Adventure. Welcome to the podcast that explores what it really takes to share adventure like a pro with your friends, your family, and as a profession. My name is Chris Kaipio, and I’m coming to you from Whistler, British Columbia.
[00:00:49] Jordy Shepherd: And I’m Jordy Shepherd, recording from Canmore, Alberta.
After a lifetime of working extensively in different parts of the adventure guiding industry, Chris and I have teamed up to launch this podcast. In each episode, you’ll hear top adventure guides, managers, marketers, and athletes share their best stories, advice, and trade secrets. The goal of this podcast is to share how you can take yourself and others farther from the mountains to the office and.
In this episode, we talk with Jeff Powder. Jeff is a climber, writer and psychologist who lives in Canmore, Alberta. He’s written about, thought about and lived the climbing life for nearly 50 years, and served as the editor of the Canadian Alpine Journal for 13 years. Jeff’s most recent book, Inner Ranges and Anthology of Mountain Thoughts and Mountain.
Won the climbing literature award at the Banff Mountain and Book Festival in 2019, was shortlisted for the Boardman Tasker Award and won the National Outdoor Book Award in the us. Jeff was a recipient of the 2012 summit of excellent award for lifetime contribution to Canada’s mountain community. Today, Jeff will be sharing with us how we can better manage fear in ourselves and others in the face of adversity.
Let’s bring Jeff into the DA studio.
[00:02:03] Chris Kaipio: Hello, Jeff, welcome to the show.
[00:02:05] Geoff Powter: How are you? I’m doing very well. Thanks. Thanks so much for having me on.
[00:02:09] Chris Kaipio: Ah, it’s, it’s a pleasure. Let me ask you something. What, what does delivering adventure mean to you?
[00:02:15] Geoff Powter: So, it’s, it’s a great question. I, I think two things really jump to my mind.
One of them is, and this is coming from the perspective of, of being a writer who tries to communicate the adventure world to others. The two things are sharing passion. Why we do what we do, how important it is to us, how it fulfills our life. And then another part that I’ve taken on this is particularly, um, some editorial work that I’ve done is sharing reality.
I, I think it’s, it’s really easy to. Overplay the adventure hand to exaggerate it, to talk about it in unrealistic kinds of ways. And I think it’s critically important that we try and communicate the right way of doing adventure, the safe way of doing adventure, the human side of doing adventure, so that it’s not all golden hero stories.
It’s actually, these things are hard to do. It takes a lot of commitment, it takes a lot of training, it takes a lot of effort. And I, I think those two things of, of both sharing the passion, but also sharing the realities, some of which are pretty hard, are critically important for me
[00:03:22] Chris Kaipio: So, when you, I’m going to circle back to what you just said about the communicating, you know, adventure.
You’re a writer, you’re a speaker. How do you think that we can do that? Well, and and what, what does that mean to you when it comes to delivering adventure?
[00:03:39] Geoff Powter: Well, a lot of it comes simply through telling stories, simply just communicating what it is that you’ve done, but also communicating the why. I, I think the why is the more important piece and, and telling these stories, it’s, it’s hard for some people to understand why people take the chances that they.
Hard for people to understand how to do that in the best way possible, the right way. And I think that when we have the opportunity to tell these stories, to, to tell the human side of it more than anything else is, is critically important. It’s not just about the objectives, it’s about what happens inside of us when we.
Step into those objectives and that that’s what I’ve always been most interested in, right from the very beginning of reading about adventure and and starting to do it myself. But I think it’s, it’s part that’s harder to communicate so often we tend not to communicate that side of things or not communicate it very well.
[00:04:36] Chris Kaipio: How did you choose to pursue adventure as career?
[00:04:40] Geoff Powter: Well, I think I, I came into both my career and adventure at a really interesting time, um, in that there. Wasn’t a lot of discussion around in the world of psychology, um, about adventure, about risk taking, about why people do these challenging things.
Um, and in fact, when I first started reading because I was interested in adventure because I was doing it myself, um, and I first started reading the literature and psychology around adventure. It was very, very critical. If not even pathologizing adventures saying that people who did these things had something wrong with them as opposed to something right with them.
And my personal experience, um, both from the way that adventure impacted my life, but also what I saw it doing for other people’s lives said that adventure was in fact this enormously positive for us, as was risk taken. So, when I, um, started practicing as a psychologist. Um, I was actually working in, uh, a wilderness program for, um, adolescents who’d been in trouble, and I really saw the power that adventure had for them in terms of transforming their lives.
And then when I started writing about adventure and I, I saw that there was an appetite for. The why of adventure for the psychology adventure. Everything just started to roll for me. It was, uh, you know, in a sense I was kind of a big fish and a little pond at that point because there weren’t a lot of people writing about this.
So, it was easy to do that. Um, and people responded really well. They, everybody seemed to be quite interested in that. Including later in my practice when I started working with corporate groups, I found that there was a real appetite for business leaders to, to hear about adventure as well. And that’s been a, a big part of what I do is to, to go to business groups and talk about risk taking in a very different way.
[00:06:35] Chris Kaipio: What is an adventure that you’ve had that’s really worked to shape the person that you are?
[00:06:41] Geoff Powter: So, there’s a couple that come to mind for me. Both of these were, uh, Himalaya and trips that I was involved in, um, very early in the, the, uh, process of me going onto bigger peaks. Um, and they had very different kinds of influences over me.
The first one was a trip that I made to one of the most beautiful, spectacular mountains in the world called Amma De. Uh, it’s quite interesting now. It’s a, it’s quite commercialized mountain. It’s, um, it’s not that high. It’s just a shade under 23,000 feet. But at that time that, that, uh, we went as a group of Canadians.
It had only been climbed, I think, six or seven times at that point. So, it was a very different era. And one of the unique things about going to, um, any of the mountains over there, this was in 1988. Is that you would essentially have the mountain to yourself. Um, there were commercial guiding happening on peaks like that.
Um, permits were issued simply as, uh, one team per mountain or one team per side of a mountain at that point. So, I went and had this opportunity to go with a small group of people to an amazing mountain. And for the first three quarters of that trip, it, we had the most immaculate, perfect conditions that you could imagine warm enough to climb in, in t-shirts, even above 21,000 feet.
Fantastic condition on the rock. So, you could actually be climbing in rock shoes on a, on a big mountain, um, dry as a bone. So, the, the, uh, conditions were perfect for moving fast, and I felt like I’d been dreaming about going to a peak like this since I was a young kid. And then suddenly I was on this thing and it was this incredibly perfect trip, and then an accident happened and someone was killed, and the trip changed on a dime.
So, I think that the thing that happened on that trip with that accident that, that I was quite closely in involved with was, for me, kind of a loss of innocence. And that’s, that was a pretty important shift for me in terms of adventure to, to not feel like it’s just all beautiful sunshine and, and, um, fantastic relationships on a, on a mountain that there actually is.
Terrible tragedy and terrible consequence for some of the things that we do. So that, that became part of, of the adventurous story for me. And then another part that was, was really interesting. It took me a while to go back to the Himalaya again, because that was a pretty difficult experience to live through the death of a friend.
When I went back four years later, I went back onto one of the 8,000-meter peaks called Manou. What was really interesting then is the Himalaya world had changed quite a bit in those four years, so this was the first time that Manis Lou had ever been guided. So, there was a guided party on the peak.
There was, uh, other parties as well. There was a Korean expedition that had, I think, 17 climbers and a whole bunch of, um, high altitude support people. And then we were a, a small group of Canadians. And what that trip taught me, was that I really didn’t want to be part of large-scale trips like that. I, I really found it unpleasant to be around this massive group of people with Congo, lines of climbers going up fixed ropes and, and things like that.
Even though what we experience in 1992 was nothing, um, compared to what can happen on some of the big peaks now, it still wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. What that shaped for me was I never went back there again. And I went back several times, but I never went back there again with a large group of people.
It was always just with one or two other people. And that was, um, that was really foundational for me to realize more what I wanted to be doing. And, and that changed things as well, because if you’re going with smaller people, a smaller group of people, chances are you’re going to be going to smaller peaks.
And that’s what I did for the, the rest of the trips that I made. How has your
[00:10:40] Jordy Shepherd: training as a psychologist helped you in your adventures? Can you give us an example of that?
[00:10:46] Geoff Powter: Well, that, that’s an interesting question, Jordy, I get asked that quite a bit and I, I think the, um, the first answer I’ll give you is that it’s a bit of a chicken in and egg thing.
I think the reason that I became a psychologist was because I have a natural curiosity about people. I have a natural interest in why people think the way that they do and why they do the things that they do, and I think that curiosity has shaped me more than the psychological training that I actually did.
Having said that, I think there are some things about the training that help me understand people. Um, and work with people in perhaps a different way. One of them is the incredible power that conversation has. So, when I think about adventures that I’ve been on, you know, these are often times where, um, people are pushed to the max, where there can be conflicts that happen where it can be easy to, to slip into some of your worst behaviors as opposed to your best behaviors.
And in my experience, conversation is the cure. We can talk these things through. We can just by, by diving into the how and why of things we can understand each other better and we can make some changes. Not everybody is that ready to have conversation. Not everybody’s that capable of having conversations, but I think if you can have somebody, and I, I think I’d put myself in this category, who can facilitate those conversations happening even in an adventure setting.
That’s a really positive, um, thing to bring into those, those situations. The other thing that, um, is definitely, um, part of my understanding of adventure from a psychological perspective is understanding the psychology of fear. I, I think that there are some basic things that, that, uh, we as psychologists have come to understand about the role of fear, about the place of fear that allows us to, to work with that fear in a different way than perhaps some other people have.
And I’ve always been, been fascinated by, How
[00:12:51] Jordy Shepherd: about, uh, how psychology affects group decision making and, and leadership, you know, even in a, in a recreational setting, you know, like a non guided setting, but also in a guided setting. There’s, you know, there’s often there should be a leader of some, some description, but it’s also often, um, group decision making that’s, that’s, uh, happening.
And there’s, there’s a lot of psychology I think behind that. Can you speak to.
[00:13:17] Geoff Powter: Yeah, absolutely. I, I think, um, you know, we’re really evolving our understanding of the way that we think differently as groups of people rather than as individuals. And I think the more that we can, um, as leaders, um, in the outdoors, the more that we can understand how those groups think kind of influences are actually affecting decisions on the ground.
The, the more we’re able to do something, uh, to change, particularly in the direction of greater safety, uh, greater awareness of, of the risk that we’re, we’re undertaking. It’s become a really fascinating area of psychology that that really wasn’t understood at all when I first started practicing. And I, I think again, it’s evolved in, in really, really positive kinds of ways.
And I’ve certainly seen, um, in my own experiences, particularly on bigger trips, the way that leadership, um, either plays well or, or plays poorly. And, and that includes, you know, something as, as basic as understanding whether. The A person best leads from the front or leads from behind. And, and I’ve seen every variety of leadership on the different experiences that, that I’ve been on.
And I’ve also seen how leadership has evolved over the course of time so that, um, you know, I come from a generation of climbers where we were still. Typically seeing a more authoritarian, a more directive, um, kind of leader. And we’ve moved increasingly more to a more democratic style of leadership in the outdoors.
And when it comes to things like, uh, collective decision making and risk taking, I think that democracy is, is one of the most powerful forces we have. As long as we understand how it works.
[00:14:58] Jordy Shepherd: Again, I do find, uh, we’re embracing that more in the association of Canadian Mountain Guides. And really finding, uh, the importance of, of guest client, client input, uh, on trips, um, because we’re all in that together, whatever we’re doing that, that activity and everybody has eyes and ears and experiences.
And, and then there’s also the, we might not get too, too far into it, uh, down the rabbit hole of intuition, but there’s al also that piece that sort of comes into play as well to, to do with, uh, risk and fear.
[00:15:28] Geoff Powter: Mm. Again, I think that democratization of the experience has been a, a really, really positive thing.
And, and again, as, as to your point about intuition, as long as we understand. How intuition works and where it’s coming from, and we embrace it when it serves a purpose and we help people through it. If it doesn’t serve a purpose or if it isn’t serving a purpose, I think that can be enormously constructive.
And at the very least, it’s incredibly interesting to watch how people make decisions like this under these kinds of conditions. Absolutely.
[00:16:03] Jordy Shepherd: So, with risk, uh, taking, being a large component of any adventure and, and, uh, risk mitigation and, um, awareness of risk, uh, why do you think people still need to take risks in our current society?
[00:16:18] Geoff Powter: Well, I truly think it is the way that we grow. Um, it’s the way that we understand our boundaries. It’s the way that we understand what we’re capable of and not capable. But but I also think it’s important to understand that from a psychological and an evolutionary perspective, that not everybody does take risks or is interested in taking risks and not everybody profits from it in the same kind of way.
And I think that, um, those of us who have done more kinds of things in the outdoors, it’s, it’s pretty easy to believe that, um, a, it’s, it’s fundamentally important for people to take. Risks. Um, but not everybody actually agrees with that. Um, that it actually is a, a pleasant and rewarding experience to step through risk into success.
Not everybody experiences the world that way, and I think particularly as professionals working with others in the outdoors, um, we have to wrap our heads around that idea in. The thing that we think might be good for somebody else isn’t necessarily what’s going to be good for somebody else. And I think we have to be willing to, to pull back our expectation or, or even more so our tendency to push others, um, into risk taking situations.
[00:17:36] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah, it’s quite a perception driven perspective,
[00:17:41] Geoff Powter: So. When we think about supporting people in taking risks in the outdoors, providing that we have their explicit permission to, to take those risks, I think it’s important to think about some critically important, um, elements of, of what it takes for risk taking to actually work.
So, I’ve got a bit of a model I can share with you. Um, I call it the, the basics model. It’s, um, it’s just an acronym for six components that are, are critically important here. The first one is belief. belief that I can actually do this. And it’s, it’s surprising how underestimated that is sometimes that when you’re asking somebody to do something, if they truly don’t think that they can do it, you’re going to be pushing them over an edge.
Sometimes, even literally that is, is only going to be unpleasant for them. So, the first step you often have to take is just encourage them to actually have some kind of faith that they can do this. Um, the second component, the A, is action. We can’t underestimate how critically important it is for people to actually step into an experience before we ask them to evaluate it.
I think it’s really easy to spend too much time, particularly as a, a less experienced guide or facilitator of experiences to, um, to overtalk it to rather than getting people. Off the ground on the ledge on a pair of skis that we try and talk it through. And, and oftentimes with people who are risk averse, that’s one of the, the less good things that you can do.
Actually, the third part is, uh, support. What do you need to be doing to address the person at their level to help them see that this is, um, really something that they can do that they want to do, that they’re engaged in doing. But you have to talk to them from their point of view. And as experienced outdoor professionals, it’s really easy to, um, forget what it was like when we started.
To forget what it was like to actually feel fear, because oftentimes when we go into these situations now, we can be incredibly casual in a very, very challenging, very difficult situation. And it, it doesn’t translate very well to the experience of our clients or our of our guests. Um, a fourth one is critically important in this and it’s really easy to, to misunderstand this, um, as professionals going in to help others.
And that’s the idea of. It’s really important to understand that in order for people to bother taking risks, they have to see the point in taking that. It’s not just a belief part that they believe they can, but they actually want to do this, that it matters to them to do this. And we grossly underestimate sometimes that when we ask people to do things that they may not have any kind of interest or understanding how it’s going to be valuable for them or understand how it may even be transformative for them.
We just believe that implicitly ourselves and don’t necessarily share. All that well. And then the last two components, um, go together, hand in hand, knowledge and skills. I think it’s the thing that as mountain guides, we can help people with more than anything else. Um, tell them how things work. Explain the gear, explain the systems, explain the physics of things, and give them the tools so that they can actually engage directly, personally, themselves and see progress in how they grow.
And that’s one of the things that I think has been a, a very big change in the guiding community is we’re far more likely these days to actually give people a whole lot of skills that they can develop themselves rather than take them out and have them be simply passive recipients of the, of the experience.
So, all of those things, the belief, action, support, intention, knowledge, and skills, I think are are critical elements to getting people to understand how they can, um, profit from a risk experience cause. Not everybody knows that they’re going to profit from this. What role do
[00:21:45] Jordy Shepherd: you think fear has when it comes to taking risks?
[00:21:50] Geoff Powter: Well, I think it’s, it’s a foundational role. It, um, it can serve a very, very useful purpose. I, I think, um, we are very foolish if we don’t pay attention to the, um, the fear that, that we experience. But I think what we learn how to do, um, as good adventurers, good leaders, um, good people who deliver these stories to others is to develop a more nuanced understanding or nuanced experience of fear than we might have the first time that we enter into something.
Fear has a, an evolutionary value. It’s, it’s there to keep us alive. But the thing is, we we’re in a very different place than, uh, we were when we first came onto the planet. We, we have developed all kinds of things around us that keep us safe in a way that the, the people who, um, preceded us in the world just simply didn’t have.
In the past, it made a whole lot of sense that you would have a very, very strong reaction to fearful stimuli, so that if you hear a snap of a twig in the dark woods behind you, you either turn around and fight or you run away. And you really didn’t need to have a much more nuanced kind of distinction between, um, the, the things that you feared.
Now we fear things like talking on a podcast or we fear things like asking somebody out on a date or we fear things, um, like eating the wrong kind of food. And, and those, that’s very, very different from what we’re hardwired still. Um, to experience. So, there’s really, from a psychological perspective, there’s really only four states of being that are critically important to understand and are actually wired into our chemistry.
You are either calm or you are slightly stimulated, or you are agitated then fully fearful. Each of those different states has different, uh, neurochemicals, neuro hormones attached to it. And the problem lies in if you cannot distinguish accurately or adequately those four states. So, if you experience slight stimulation as fear, you’re going to stop doing something that you actually should be able to.
If you cannot distinguish a difference between stimulation and agitation, you’re going to stop yourself from doing something that would actually really serve you to be able to do. The people that have the hardest time can barely distinguish the difference between calm and stimulation, let alone stimulation and fear and full-on fear so they don’t enter into to doing anything at all in, in the most pathological clinical cases.
But I, I think that, um, one of the things that as, as leaders who are delivering adventure can do is to help people learn how to make those distinctions. So, but when that person gets off the ground and, and starts going up a climb and they start experiencing something to help them learn through practice, through conversation, through engagement with the activity, developing some skills that what they’re experiencing is actually just a.
A slight elevation of their heart rate, a slight change in the way that they’re breathing. And then they can actually use that as, um, a sign a signal for them to be able to do something a little bit different. Not stop doing the activity but do something a bit different. Regain your balance. Get your foot position different.
Turn differently on the ski slope so that you don’t fall down. But if you believe that as soon as you experience those feelings, you have to come down, you have to be off the rope, you have to, you have to stop doing the activity. It’s going to be really different A, to progress and B, to actually bother going back and trying it again.
So, we learn how to do that, making those distinctions, and that’s, that’s hugely important in life because it allows us to, eventually be able to talk on a podcast or ask somebody out on a date or all of those things that I mentioned before. But that’s, that’s not always an easy route for, for people to get through.
And I think it’s, it’s critically important as. We lead people in the outdoors that we can make the distinction between those states and help the person see that they’re, they’re actually not in peril right now because there isn’t a saber tooth tiger behind them. In fact, there never is. But rather, what they’re experiencing is just a positive, um, a positive trigger to, to make a change.
Yeah, I think a lot of that
[00:26:39] Jordy Shepherd: can be worked through with, uh, a good progression, uh, as guides and instructor. And rather than just parachuting people into the, being on the, the high ledge mm-hmm. uh, kind of thing that we are quite comfortable with and, and work with within that environment all the time, we’ve got to remember that we have progressed to that point and they have not.
And so, you kind of got to start with, uh, with those baby steps and, uh, and work up to it. And before you, before people. They’re, they’re where they never thought they could possibly be and, and are generally, you know, maybe aware of things like heights and, and crevasses below them and all that kind of stuff, but not fearful
[00:27:19] Geoff Powter: of it.
Yeah, I, you know, I always think that I don’t know, you’d actually be able to test this theory, but I, I always think it’d be interesting to take any of us who have actually had years of experience in the outdoors even, and if we could, some. Take that person with them being unaware, maybe they’re asleep or maybe we’ve knocked them out with some kind of drug and we, um, we stick them on a ledge, 3000 feet off the ground, up on hell cap.
And then that’s where they wake up. They’re going to have a response no matter how much experience they have, they’re going to be pretty surprised by that. And they’re going to experience something deep down in the pit of their stomach around that. And that doesn’t matter how much experience you have; it really is about.
You know, the immediate response that people have in those kinds of situations?
[00:28:04] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah. I’d say, uh, when I, when I climb the shield route on El Cap over five days, there, I, I woke up on the port ledge pretty much every morning with a bit of a, where am I and what is going on. Heightened awareness. Yep. For sure.
Despite, despite having experience,
And I think you’ve, you’ve kind of explained it fairly well, um, how we can use fear to our advantage, but do you have anything, uh, anything else to add on that?
[00:28:34] Geoff Powter: Well, you know, one of the things that, um, that I think maybe distinguishes some people from others in the population is, um, Whether people enjoy fear, and I, I, I’m often curious about that because I, I think there’s certainly a lot of people I know in the outdoors that will, will take all kinds of, um, chances, put themselves in situations that are, um, you know, transparently, um, fear inducing, like, you know, jumping out of an airplane or.
Going down a, a serious white-water river, and they actually really enjoy that. So, I, I’ve often wondered whether, you know, we can actually contradict a bit of what I said a minute ago. Um, we can teach people to enjoy fear a little bit more than, than they actually, um, maybe innately do. And I, I think that’s something that we’ve all come.
To at, at some point that, you know, something that really frightened us at the beginning, that first really bid big bit of exposure that you have, or the first pendulum swing that you did or something like that, or even the first fall that you had, that we learn how that’s something that doesn’t have catastrophic consequences.
And in fact, um, we can actually enjoy the, the rush of, but this brings up the point that there’s a real big difference between risk taking and thrill. Most of the people that I know that, um, have, have grown and have become exceptional practitioners have really shown that what they’re about is mitigating risk and taking charge of it, and, and making sure that they do the right kinds of things rather than diving into, um, any uncontrollable risk.
In fact, a number of the people that I know that are leaders in the outdoor world, they’re. Um, uncontrolled risk averse. They, they really don’t want to have that, that kind of situation because it feels almost stupid to them. Whereas there are definitely some people who just, they, they love the experience of the, the rush and the buzz of things.
But again, I don’t think that, um, those are the people who typically go on and, and become high level practitioners because that will go away. That, that thrill in the buzz does go away after. Can you think
[00:30:49] Chris Kaipio: of a situation where you had a hard time controlling your fear?
[00:30:52] Geoff Powter: Yeah, I can, I can tell you one story about that and it, I, I often use this when I’m, um, talking to, um, clients of mine about, about risk taking.
So, one of the things that, um, I have done over the years, um, just because I think it’s, it’s probably the most clarifying, the most purposeful, the, um, the purest version of the climbing game is the. Climbing without a rope, um, without a partner. And, um, I had this experience where typically when I do this, I, I really want to make sure that, um, I don’t leave the ground unless I know that I’m fully prepared.
I’m, I, I’m feeling completely in control myself. I’m going for all the right reasons. It’s, uh, you know, a positive thing to be doing it rather than, um, some kind of negative thing. And I, I had this experience where I went to go and do a route on my own, um, up on a, a peak right above my home in Canmore called Mount Rundle.
And there was a, uh, a long, um, climb of several rope lengths called Raptor. And on that climb, the, um, the hardest part of the route. The crux is on the second pitch, and it’s a notoriously slippery and thin move. And, um, I, I left the ground knowing that that’s, that’s always the challenge of the route. It’s always something that, that, um, can catch you off guard a little bit, uh, very much dependent on how warm or cold the rock is and so on as to how slippery it’s going to be.
And I got up there and even though I’ve done this, you know, a dozen times before that I got up there and I started making the move and I couldn’t do it. And then I backed down a little bit and then I went back and tried it again and I couldn’t do it and backed down, went and tried it again, and then finally decided this just wasn’t going to be my day.
So, I down climbed back down to the ground again, and as I sat there, I, I really took a look. What was happening with me and the, the risk in that moment. And it was, it was interesting to puzzle through because I knew that I could do this. I’d done it before and I’d done it before on my own. It, it hadn’t been a big deal to do it before.
I didn’t know what I was supposed to learn from the moment of the day. Was my hesitation real? Was it telling me something? Was it something that I should absolutely pay attention to? And I think most of the time I would feel something like that and say, you know what, I’m not going to go back up there again.
But that day I decided, no, I, I can do this. And I think for some reason it was important to, um, to have that awareness. So, I climbed back. Got to the place that I’d hesitated before and just talked myself out of the fear. So, to do that, one of the things that, that I know from being a psychologist is that it is actually impossible to be mentally calm and physically anxious at the same time, or physically calm and mentally anxious at the same time, it’s easier for us to control.
Our physical side than it is to control our mental side. So, I do what I would normally do in a situation like that, breathe deeply, pay more attention to my heart rate, try and calm it down a little bit. Um, and the breathing is the, the crucial element of that. So, I just got up to the crux, breathe through it, and then within an instant, I’m in the other side of this one move crux.
Then the game in my head becomes, well, obviously I could do it. There’s no reason why I should have paid attention to that fear. And I talk myself through the, the rest of the climb thinking in that way. And that’s a, it’s a really interesting game. We play with ourselves sometimes around that. I, I think, I think I did the right thing.
By not paying attention, by not giving into it, by not saying, I, I shouldn’t be doing this. Um, I was, I was thinking about the consequences of, oh, if you, if you don’t do this this time, then what are you not going to do next time? Most importantly, I, I truly knew that I was fully capable of, of doing this thing and just needed to kind of, um, talk myself through the, the fear that I was experiencing at that point, and perhaps thinking about, you know, is this true fear or is it just, A bit of an agitation of feeling or is it just a bit of a warning to be more cautious, Do it more methodically, Slow down a little bit, but you’re fine through this.
And I, I’d like to convince myself that I made the right choice in that moment. So
[00:35:23] Jordy Shepherd: you, you had a bit of a discussion with your personal therapist, as you were, as you were moving through
[00:35:29] Geoff Powter: it there. Yeah. Yeah. He’s very expensive.
[00:35:34] Jordy Shepherd: Well, that was well told because I got sweaty palms just listening to you there.
[00:35:40] Chris Kaipio: Jeff, can you think of a time when you used your fear to your advantage?
[00:35:46] Geoff Powter: Um, so I think that I hope you can cut this in, but I, I, I think that the experience that I just told you about, I, I think that’s very much using fear to an advantage just to, to recognize that it’s nothing more than, uh, a symbol. And it actually in that moment activated me to.
Chase down the demon in a sense that it, I think the, the real advantage comes from walking into the fire and then successfully walking back out of it again. And, and I have loved those moments in my life where I face those fears and do it anyways and succeed because of it, despite of it. Um, and come out the other side knowing that, okay, I can do this.
And one of the things that I’ve, I’ve often wondered about and had lots of conversations with other folks, um, who do the same kinds of outdoor things as I do, is how contagious is that for the rest of your life? So, if you can. Do a harder climb than you thought you could do or ski a line that you didn’t think that you could do.
Um, you know, does that translate into the next business meeting I have and I’m going to do a stronger, you know, less fearful kind of, um, job of doing that. And I, I know in my life I’ve been able to translate those outdoor risk-based experiences into other parts of my life where I just think, Yeah, yeah, I, I, I can do this.
And it’s not, I developed any other new skill other than understanding fear better. And it’s basically just realizing that that thing that I’m feeling right now isn’t real in and of itself. It’s just a, a sign of something. So, make sense of that something and you can do things differently.
[00:37:39] Jordy Shepherd: Uh, what advice do you have for someone who is leading a person who’s, uh, become quite para paralyzed by them.
[00:37:46] Geoff Powter: Um, so again, I, I think, I think the distinction between those various states of arousal, um, that I mentioned earlier is, is actually quite important that, um, as a leader of people, you need to understand a, how that person is different from you and to accept that difference. So, if that person, um, is very afraid in a situation where you simply are nothing but comfortable, um, honor.
That person’s feelings and understand that they’re coming from a place that feels pretty darn genuine to them, and that you’re the alien, that experience, not them. So, learn how to talk about fear, learn how to help other people make the distinction between what it is that they’re feeling and the real danger that they may or may not be facing.
So, learn how to talk them through that. And then, um, equally importantly, is. , learn a language of the body really well as a, as a practitioner out there so that you can help people with very specific tools, particularly around helping them breathe differently, that allow them to physically calm down so that they will mentally calm down as a consequence and demonstrating calmness in that moment.
Um, you know, a rationality, a, a capacity to keep your voice grounded in the way you’re talking to somebody else while still honoring the experience that they have is absolutely critical. We’re going to let you go
[00:39:12] Chris Kaipio: here. Jeff, this has been amazing. Thank you so much for coming today. Okay, Jordy, when it comes to controlling our fear and the fear of others, what were your key takeaways from what Jeff had to.
[00:39:25] Jordy Shepherd: Chris, uh, a, a really nice model that, uh, Jeff outlined for us. He, he calls it the basics model that’s B A S I K S and for managing fear. So, the B is belief that we can actually do this. This requires us to encourage our, are participants, our clients, to have some kind of faith that they can do. So that’s where we, you know, kind of all become sort of coaches and a cheering squad for, for our people that we’re out there with the A is action.
If people are risk averse, it can be better for them to start experiencing things maybe instead of just spending time to talk them through it, right? So, get them in into some sort, sort of form of action, um, fairly soon, and that gives them the opportunity to evaluate situations for themselves and actually kind of feel their way.
The s for support. So, what do you need to do to support them from their point of view? And this requires us to be able to see the situation from their perspective, which can sometimes really be hard for us. Uh, if it’s something, a skill or an activity that we’re very, very familiar with, it’s really hard to, to rewind back to when you were just first starting to learn that skill or, or, uh, getting your first experiences.
Um, so support them as, as they. The eye in basics is intention. So, people want to, if they want to bother to take risks, they have to see the point in taking that risk. It has to be valuable to them. And, uh, you know, they have to have some sort of, um, you know, intention, uh, to actually do this. And reasoning for doing that.
K and S is knowledge and skills in basics, and this is giving people the knowledge and giving them the tools, the skills, so they have control and understanding of what they’re doing in that activity, which at the very beginning is going to be pretty new to them.
[00:41:21] Chris Kaipio: I thought it was an excellent summation, uh, of what needs to happen.
There was two other points that I’m going to add to this, uh, that also stuck out to me. One was the idea of calming down and I, I really liked what Jeff had to say. When it came to the idea that it’s impossible to be mentally calm and physically anxious at the same time, or physically calm and mentally anxious at the same time, he noted that it’s easier to control our physical side than our mental side.
And you know, when he said that, it really brought home to me the value. Breathing to calm ourselves down. And this is something that then you see really good coaches, uh, do when they’re, when they’re in a situation where the people that they’re working with are really stressed, is to say, Okay, I want you to take a deep breath.
And in fact, to, to help my guests often, or students, I’ll actually get them to look at me and do it with. The second part that really jumped out with me was that idea that what we think will be good for someone else might not be good for them. And so often when we’re, uh, dealing with situations where the other person is less skilled and less knowledgeable and maybe less confident, we can come to think that Wow, this experience, you’re going to love this when in fact, They might not.
And so, um, as we’ve often pointed out now in the podcast, everything has to be about them. And we do have to realize that different people have different levels of risk tolerance. And so, controlling their fear, they may not be able to do it in the way. We want them to do it, and they may not be able to appreciate the experience the way we want them to.
Appreciate it. Now let’s turn it over to you, the listener. What were your takeaways? What stood out to you? You can share your thoughts, stories, or insights with us via our social media feeds or by emailing us. You can find all of our contact information at deliveringadventure.com. Also, before. Also, before you go, we need your help to keep this podcast going.
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