After years of working as a successful sports agent, Molly Fletcher has learned a thing or two from the elite athletes she represented — how to be fearless. Now, she is transferring that knowledge to the workplace, helping business leaders like you learn how to be fearless in your field.
In her book, Fearless at Work, Molly teaches us that all leaders can develop fearlessness by recognizing small opportunities and transforming them into big outcomes.
She says that in the sports world, talent is never enough. Athletes must have talent + discipline, purpose, and perseverance.
The ones that really make it are the ones that have talent + fearlessness.
Being fearless isn’t something that is an inborn trait so much as a muscle that can be trained and strengthened. Guys that are pitching Game 7 in a World Series or standing over a putt to win the Masters feel fear just like business people do, but they lean into it, not away from it. This strengthens their ability and prepares them to win in the big moments.
In this interview, Molly shows us how to bring a fearless mindset to your own work life.
TO BECOME FEARLESS AT WORK, YOU NEED TO…
Have a Clear Purpose
Being fearless starts with finding your purpose.
“When we have a purpose behind something that we’re going to do in our lives, we’ll do it,” says Molly.
You’ve got to get to the point, the reason, the why of it all. You’ve got to go to the end.
I’ve made a lot of health and fitness goals in my life, most of which I’ve never met.
But, one time, I sat down and did more than just set a goal. I incorporated meaning into it. I spelled out why I wanted to lose weight. I determined what was my purpose in losing weight.
If you’re working your business and haven’t determined the purpose behind it, you’re probably not going to achieve much. You’re going to have a lot of competing interests for your time and money and you won’t always be able to prioritize the way you’d like.
Clarifying your purpose filters all the decisions you make, the work you do, and the relationships you build.
Finding your purpose will take some time and effort. It’s a big deal. Molly suggests to go to your funeral and ask, “What do I want people to say about me? What legacy do I want to leave? What’s most important to me when I look back?”
She says, “When you can align your purpose with your work, you can do pretty amazing things.”
The reason for this is because it brings clarity to all that relates to your personal and business life. Whether it’s a job promotion or opportunity, or whether to start or scale up your own business, you can ask, “Is it aligned with my purpose?” Clarifying your purpose filters all the decisions you make, the work you do, and the relationships you build.
Fearless people get curious when the stakes are raised.
Most of the athletes that Molly dealt with already believed they could execute. But the ones that were continually curious about learning how to do what they did even better, usually rose to the top.
These are the athletes that were the best at what they did in their region. Then, they get dropped into a fishbowl at the national level with a bunch of other elites that are as good as them or better. When you move up a tier, scale up your business, or expand into a new market, the tool you’ll need to handle this next horizon is curiosity. You’ve got to make sure that you’re listening to the people around you that can make you better.
Bring humility to your next transition, an appropriate amount of vulnerability, and start asking the right questions to people around you. Be open to feedback.
When you’re fearless, you’re going to fail.
Failure is just a regular part of the process. Don’t worry about avoiding it. Instead, create a strong tolerance for it.
In your brand, the story you tell yourself is important. The role you play needs to believe that you will win… eventually.
You’ve got to recover, and recover quickly.
But how do you recover quickly when you screw up?
“By telling yourself the right things,” Molly says.
If a golfer bogeys a hole, he doesn’t step onto the next hole and say, “Jeez man, I hope I don’t bogey this one.”
The fearless golfer steps onto the next hole and says to herself, “You’ve got this. I’m going to birdie this and I’m going to get back in the lead.”
If a baseball player walks a guy, he doesn’t step back out there and go, “If I walk two guys, I’m going to get pulled.” He says, “I’m going to sit the next guy down.”
It’s a mindset.
If you lose a deal or a piece of business, you can’t tell yourself, “Oh my gosh, maybe this whole thing’s unraveling. Maybe this is over. Maybe I really can’t sell.”
You’ve got to tell yourself, “I can, I belong here and I’ll execute.”
Stay In The Present
I interviewed Ben Crane for the podcast last year, a golfer who’s had a really successful career. There was a big putt he had to make to win a tournament, and I asked him what he was thinking in that moment just before he hit it.
He said, “Don, I was thinking nothing. That’s the goal. That’s when I knew I could sink the putt. Nothing was in my head.”
Fearlessness is in the moment. It’s right now. To get into a zone like that takes practice. But it’s where you need to be.
Molly says being in the present in the small moments helps us to be ready to make the right decisions in the big moments. It’s a practiced art.
When you see an athlete make a great decision in a moment with two seconds left, you might wonder, “How did she do that? Where did that come from?”
It came from staying in the moment during hours and hours of practice.
The past is “Man, I wished I would’ve…”
The future is, “One day, I’ll spend more time with my family. One day, I’ll make enough money so I can retire. One day, I’ll…”
When you’re fearless, you’re right here, right now. Making it happen.
Molly says you’ve got to be accountable from the inside out. In other words, you need to accept you’re going to make mistakes in your life, recognize you’re human and lean into those moments, saying, “What can I learn from this?”
You’ve got to own those moments.
We all know people who simply cannot process their mistakes. They can’t do it. A lot of times, it will cost them something, but it always costs everybody around them.
You’re going to make mistakes in your life, recognize you’re human and lean into those moments, saying, “What can I learn from this?”
Taking ownership is this ability to say, “Okay, this seems to be a trend here. I keep making the same mistake. I need to sit and process why I’m doing this.”
Molly says taking ownership is more than asking yourself tough questions. You’ve got to have the courage to ask tough questions to others, too.
She says, “I messed up a ton as an agent. I made mistakes. There were questions sometimes I wouldn’t ask people because I don’t know that I wanted the answers. I look back and I go, wow, I wish I would’ve asked those tough questions because maybe…”
She’ll never know. Neither will you.
What’s the difference between being fearless and being bold?
Molly says they’re pretty similar. She gives an analogy from her experience playing tennis at Michigan State.
Her coach had her imagine that sharks were patrolling behind the baseline and they would eat her up if she stepped behind it. After standing her on the baseline, he said, “What I need you to do is make sure you’re stepping into every ball and taking it on the rise and taking it early. Let’s give your opponent less time to react.”
Molly says that analogy stuck with her.
“There I was at 17 and that analogy played out in my life from the perspective that you have to step into the things you want. You have to go for it.” That translated into her moving down to Atlanta to try to find a job in sports. It informed her when she left a comfort salary as a sports agent to become an entrepreneur and author.
“I think that’s what being bold is,” she adds. “It’s stepping in and going for what you want instead of waiting for it to come to you.”