Embracing Fear And Getting Kicked Out of an Airport Lounge


in Make Money

I was just asked to leave the Admirals Lounge at Miami Airport. For ‘soliciting customers’

Ever since I started traveling, I’ve always wondered what is beyond the star studded gates of lounges and priority clubs. But, cough up $50 to enter? Never.

While reading through the rule book, I found a small loop hole—priority club members are allowed to invite a guest. So, I began asking random people as they entered to let me in.

Here is the incident report: I didn’t get in. But the failure is on my end. I didn’t do the proper planning, or enter in the right way. The lounge officials were very friendly.

What I should have done: look for younger travelers, waiting in line. Approach them with the question ‘Hey, where are you traveling from?’ Talk for 30 seconds, before bringing up the challenge.

Instead, I jumped in with confidence, asked the first old man in line (who was in the process of checking in, and was not happy being interrupted) and when I was told to stop, I ran away like a dog with his tail between his legs.

I should have waited outside until more people came, approaching before they entered—but I didn’t. And there is a strong feeling of conflicting emotions right now–I’m happy that I embraced the fear of asking random people and attempted to get in, but I’m embarrassed for giving up at the first setback.

I can make up rationalizations all day about it, but at the end of the day, I didn’t succeed in getting in the lounge. Next time. I’ll get in next time.

The Emotion Behind Failure

What stops people from trying something new?

In a recent email, I asked several thousand readers to tell me their biggest fears. I revealed mine–fears that I won’t make public on this blog, but strong fears nonetheless. (I reveal my deepest secrets only via my email newsletter)

The results were astounding. After reading several hundred responses, the most common two fears were quite…contrary.

#1 – the fear of failure
#2 – the fear of success

The reasoning behind these two fears were extremely interesting. The fear of failure stems from the fear that people will be rejected by their peers, friends, and more. Here are some emails I received where people described their fears of success.

  • “I fear failure and perhaps subconsciously I even fear success”
  • “#1 fear – having too much success…too much responsibility.
  • “Fear #1: success. started a company, completed preliminary market testing, and i truly believe this product will sell. Just the magnitude of diving into unknown territory and the possibility of what this could be frightens me.”
The fear of success surprised me. For some, they were unsure what success would bring. Would it hurt their relationships with their spouse and family? Would it bring too much responsibility?

But what lies between failure and success? Comfort—and mediocrity.

Comfort, Mediocrity, and why I aim to feel embarrassed

These two conflicting fears (often from the same people) in effect, represent a fear of change. People get comfortable with their life and begin to fear anything that pushes them out of their shell.

Living in comfort isn’t really living at all.

So when I approached the man at the admirals counter, and was rejected, and ran away like a puppy dog, I felt adrenaline. I wanted to start doing pushups in the airport terminal. The failure of the act, though, made me feel embarrassed, stupid. Emotions that I rarely feel.

There was a cognitive dissonance between pride and embarrassment.

I understand now that real growth comes from directing yourself TOWARDS the feelings of embarrassment, and accepting the emotion as a hitch on the road to personal growth.

So, when do you feel most uncomfortable?

Everyone feels comfortable at their own, home place. For me, when I’m on a computer, I feel the most comfortable—and as soon as I failed at entering the lounge, I jumped on to my computer to write the words you are reading now.

But, comfort is a feeling that holds us back. Comfort keeps us mediocre.

Think to yourself right now—where were you the last time you felt uncomfortable? Was it at the beach, was it during a social interaction, was it when you desired to talk to someone who you were attracted to—but couldn’t force yourself to?

Fear, discomfort, awkwardness—these are all feelings we should be striving FOR, not fleeing from.

From a personal perspective, I know that I felt awkward trying to sneak into a lounge. So I will continue to do it until I succeed.

We have to fight that odd compulsion that starts from your heart and runs through your legs, making you stand up and run to your refrigerator or computer and not return. Zefrank calls it ‘the Cheese Monster.’

Now, for your challenge

It’s easy to write a comment, it’s hard to actually do something. But readers of Hack the System aren’t average people—you’re people who really want to experience life in a different way.

So fuck it—let’s do it.

This post’s challenge is two parts.

Part 1: I want you to write below, in the comments. Tell me Two specific situations that make you feel uncomfortable–two situations that bring out the Cheese Monster in you.

Finish Part 1 right now. Go ahead. Write the situations below in the comments. I’ll wait for you to do that.

Now, Part 2 is a little bit harder. I want you to put yourself in that uncomfortable experience. If you’re afraid of talking to beautiful women, I want you to go and try to talk to 3 beautiful women. You’re going to feel uncomfortable. Embrace the discomfort. Accept it. You’re going out for a task, and you KNOW it will feel odd—but try it. And ask yourself ‘why do I feel like this?’

Then, come back and respond to your own comment with the results. How did putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation make you feel? Rationally, does it make sense? What would change in your life if you could get through this situation without that feeling?

I’ll be waiting for your response. Let’s fight those fears.


M.A. January 7, 2015 at 6:13 pm

I’m afraid of other people’s judgement about myself especially about my appearance
I’m afraid of being boring


Anette February 19, 2014 at 3:25 pm

I’m afraid of… feels like taking action. I’m afraid I’m not being legitimately qualified to follow any of my professional dreams. Even thiugh I feel I have a tremendous amount of skills and talent that would lend to success. I’m afraid to choose which path to take to reach professional success.


Vincas September 28, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Okay,two situations that I just remembered right now:
1.The last situation I can remember is my last test in language class.I had to view some slides and deliver a speech.Only two people were there to hear me-my teacher and the director of the school,yet I was freaking nervous.I think I was sweating,at least my palms,maybe hot,unconfident.It’s social anxiety showing it’s ugliness,really.Social anxiety gone means A LOT of my,and I think a lot of other people’s problems-gone.Seriously,If I didn’t think about what others thought of me,I allow myself to do alot of things,I think.
2.Being late to class.I am only late to class like a few times a year,probably because of the fear of being late(which ultimately is the fear of being embarassed,which leads to social anxiety),otherwise I think I would be looser with my timing,since I don’t really care much about my education.When on those rare occassions when I come to class late,I feel a somewhat strong embarassment about being late,with everybody already being there.I feel a STRONG,like at least 8 out of 10 fear to come to class when I’m seriously late,like 15 minutes.There were times like this.My solution?Not come to class at all.Better to not come at all than to feel that strong embarassment.


ramzi August 4, 2013 at 3:56 am

1, i feel like i hate engineering and i fear courses…even though my marks are very high…, i dont feel thay i love what i am.doing. I hate classes and the courses…i feel like i love an.officer


jack June 10, 2013 at 2:41 pm

So many words for “I asked someone to enter the lounge with them, they said no and I left”.

Well done.


Maneesh Sethi June 10, 2013 at 2:50 pm

As if Tolstoy’s War and Peace is a million words too long to say ‘there was war, and then there was peace.’

The story was an intro to a life lesson I learned.


Naomi January 15, 2013 at 7:56 pm

1. Having to entertain people. I run out of ideas, am afraid that my ideas are inadequate, or just don’t have any ideas at all. I know that it shouldn’t matter to me and it most likely isn’t even crossing the minds of the people I’m with.
2. Small talk. The awkward pauses between topics, when you know the other person is thinking the same thing as you; what do I say next?! Again, it’s a fear of being boring.


Anne August 28, 2012 at 9:02 am

I am afraid of boredom. So I have three weedy websites, all with hopeless traffic and no income. I am afraid of boredom so I have signed on for a second degree through distance learning. I am 1/3 of the way through and doing well by cramming at the last moment. I spend a lot of time procrastinating over which task to do next and I spend a lot of time on new ideas for websites.

I am deeply afraid that people will think my websites are rubbish so they are secret – even my husband doesn’t know their URLs….isn’t that funny actually?

I know that I can write well so all these fears are all my own issues, not real.

So I am going to –

work on each assignment in turn, in order of submission date and do one until it is finished.
work on one website until I have 50 pages on it.



maneesh September 2, 2012 at 10:41 am

Maybe you should decide on one and focus on it?


Aalok Parikh August 17, 2012 at 12:07 am

1)Talk to my boss, specially I have to start the convocation for some requirement or some problems or suggestions.

2)Start the talking with any stranger women even I have to do some work with her I can’t start talking to her.


Andrew July 11, 2012 at 9:06 pm

A little late on the comments, but I just finally rediscovered your blog. I knew about you through the video on Tim Ferriss’s blog and the description of you in Cal Newport’s book, but last time I checked you out you didn’t really have much of a blog going. Great stuff.

1)I’m afraid to reach out and build my network, because I feel like I would do it all wrong right now. I’m 18, I don’t have a business or blog, and honestly I’m just not really looking for help from my heroes. I don’t know if I have that much to offer as far as services. All I really want is to be friends with them, get to know what makes them tick. It feels silly to type this out, but for some twisted reason I feel like wanting to be friends with my heroes is the “wrong” mindset with which to reach out to them. Like I should be doing it for career reasons or some stupid shit like that.

2)I’m afraid to write about my personal life because even though I’m proud of who I am and the things I have done, and even though I’ve had a very interesting life, and even though I love to write, I’m afraid that the adults in my life now will look down on me if they find out about my rule-breaking, and I’m afraid that I will hurt the people I’m close to by revealing things they might prefer be kept secret.


BigBags May 3, 2012 at 3:01 pm

1) My greatest situational fear is putting a price on my time/talents. I’m always eager to “help” but rarely get compensated for my work.

2) I also fear settling for a job that isn’t fulfilling or rewarding just to make ends meet.

Working on overcoming both of these now.


Anette February 19, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Not sure how blogging works! But if I may comment Big Bags… People tend to generally accept your value by the price you assign it. Don’t be shy, just try placing a competitive value on your work while holding your head high. You’ll lose the odd customer but you’ll gain business from people with money and respect for your work and you. That help?


edwin April 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm

This is an awesome article. Time and time again i find many successful people from all kinds of avenues in the world stressing exactly what maneesh is writing here. It only reinforces it more into my brain. Two of my most uncomfortable fears?
1.) cold approaching beautiful women
2.) beginning a start up and getting laughed at about my ideas

And now….


Timmy April 18, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Fear of failure, I guess. I don’t wanna disappoint my friends my family, myself. I don’t want to fail socially and be a social outcast. I can’t fail academically or risk being able to attend my school. I can’t fail period, because this failure brings horrible consequences. I guess, putting myself into a situation in which I know I will fail truly scares me, like your example, talking to beautiful girls or in my case speaking in a conversation due to fear that I’m boring or not funny or “cool” (for lack of a better term) enough to be in the conversation actively.

Secondly, I guess its fear of rejection by my family, my friends, and everyone. That’s most likely where my fear of failure stems from because I don’t want to fail and to end up disappointing everyone. I guess, in order to conquer these fears I gotta enter a lot of conversations and talk to plenty of people I’ve never met before so that I can cope with the rejection……I’ll let you know how it goes Maneesh.


Manny April 18, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Just two? I have more than that but let’s go with the ones that are most relevant to my business.

1. Fear of being in front of the camera and also taking my shirt off to reveal my physique. (or lack of lol) I’m a fitness trainer dedicated to changing peoples lives. I notice that other trainers make videos revealing a lot, and well I just don’t if I’m comfortable with that. I have to decide to be different or just grow a pair and go shirtless.

2. I fear being stuck in a cube for the next 20 years… but then again I also fear going broke and being homeless if I’m not…


maneesh April 18, 2012 at 3:39 pm

To readers, I’ve seen Manny’s body and have a mancrush on him. Manny, show that mofo off.

And about your cube fear, lets fucking fix that ok?


Georgia April 18, 2012 at 7:55 am

Fear no. 1: Being honest to someone whose feelings it will hurt. I feel like a coward for not being able to tell him the truth, but I know that the real reason for my feelings is not one he will accept, and will instead think that an issue he has is the reason behind my departure. Every time I think about it I get the fear in my stomach… I just don’t want to see his self-esteem deflate back to how it once was and know that I’ve caused it.

Fear no. 2: Debt, and never being able to get out of it. I have a lot of debts, both to banks and personal ones, but I don’t get paid much and I don’t feel like I’ll ever be able to pay back those people who were so kind to lend me money. I avoid the issue because I don’t want to be seen as a failure in their eyes, and I feel terrible that I can’t pay back the money they lent me.

P.S. Well done for asking the guy, even if it was only one! Fingers crossed for next time 🙂


maneesh April 18, 2012 at 3:36 pm

What would happen if you told him the truth? Is there a way to communicate it without appearing rude? Maybe via socratic method, or by complimenting first before mentioning the problematic issue?


Lisa April 18, 2012 at 6:08 am

Fear of taking action – I like window shopping all my options, but I have a fear of commitment when it comes to picking one (or a few) and going with them. I’m trying to move forward in all directions at once, which is really exhausting… but it keeps me from having to choose which direction to go. This fear unfortunately includes little things and really big things. I could address this today on a small scale (that has some bigger implications) by typing up next year’s customer’s contracts and sending them out… something I’ve been procrastinating for months. I’ll report back if I do it!

Fear of intimacy, connection, partnership with my husband. Since we started a family, our life has become so busy – we don’t make time for each other any more. We’ve both had hurt feelings and haven’t really had time to resolve and reconnect because there is so much to do. Strangely, the situation perpetuates itself because we don’t feel strong enough in our partnership to make major changes to our lifestyle to free up more time to be close with each other. I could address this by making time to be together this evening, even if there are a million other things we should be doing.


maneesh April 18, 2012 at 3:37 pm

You can’t do everythin at once. What if you committed to one single idea for 3 months, and then reconsidered moving onto another idea? Often, we get bogged down in so many choices, we don’t do anything,

Don’t report back ‘if you do it’—report back WHEN you do it…this week.

How can you make time for your husband? How can you rekindle that relationship? Will you?


Lisa April 19, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Okay, reporting back. I did make time for band I to spend some time together yesterday evening nice. Of course, we got far too little sleep as a result, but it was worth it. Gotta do that more often.

I started the contracts, but didn’t finish them. I’ll report back again to update on progress.

Thanks for the suggestion about committing to one thing for a few months. I’ll see what I can do along those lines.


Lisa April 24, 2012 at 6:22 am

I haven’t completed the contracts yet. managing to find lots of things to do “instead” but I have been working on them.


ASK April 17, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Fear of giving my all and falling far short of the mark. I’ve always had a problem with self-handicapping.

More specifically on feelings of discomfort and embarrassment:
Assuming a team leader role because that means I’m supposed to know everything even though I do not have the experience to back it up

Action: take the team leader role and phone a mentor for a second opinion when a problem arises.

Sharing good products and information with people for fear of them accusing me of trying to sell them something even though I truly think that it could help them.
Action: speak to 3 friends boldly about the upcoming nutrition lecture or one product that could help them within the next 2 days


maneesh April 18, 2012 at 3:38 pm

I love the action plan. Will you do it?


ed April 17, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Having meaningful heartfelt conversations with new people, the ones that build rapport. I can crack dirty jokes all day but find it difficult to truly bond with some people because it makes me very uncomfortable

I feel awkward when I feel like imposing on peoples time, it makes me jump out of conversations early and think of an exist strategy in advance.


gypsi April 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Fear #1: going into the physics dept and actually having conversations….I always feel I don’t belong and that they will find out how little of physics I actually know.

Fear #2: Asking for help…..I’ve always been taught that questions are bad, that you will look foolish and stupid if you ask questions and that people will look down on you.


maneesh April 17, 2012 at 6:16 pm

How could you face this fear? How would it make you feel? What if you start asking questions, start learning more, and suddenly others start coming to you?


Stanley Lee July 11, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Re: fear #2: As long as you’ve shown you’ve done your homework before asking for help, the likelihood of your questions appearing stupid goes down. I’m guessing you fear about having your questions to be perceived as stupid.

Also, if you ask tutors, they should not appear stupid to them (the good ones anyway). Their job is to answer questions and help unkink your problems with the subject.


Sebastian April 17, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Hi again Maneesh,

I am the guy with the “Avoidance-Attack” list and you know i also had and still have great fears from speaking to unknown women, breaking the ice of a first contact. As i said i tried to confront myself with that and come over it by going into the city and simply ask unknown girls for a coffee, right in that moment – and i utterly failed.

I wanted to try it again yesterday but didn´t even try it, because i felt no growth at all. The first attempt brought me nothing but even more fear.

To be honest, in the last 2 years i worked on much much bigger fears that i already did overcome. So even if i still may look like the “fearful” guy for many people, the last year was a true success story for me and for me this is just the next step. But that process of overcoming my fears, even though i succeeded in the end, was often not really enjoyable and it took a lot of time.

I totally agree to not flee from your fears or any embarrassing situations, they will hunt you down anyway.

But i think it´s not very healthy nor effective to permanently strive for feelings of fear or embarrassement. If you do that your entire life, you may have come very far but never felt anything more than fear and embarrassement. Because there will always be something you still have fear of.

I think for real growth and overcome of fear the right mix of these tools is needed:
1. Confrontation
2. Positive Thinking
3. Meditation, Zen, ability to observe yourself and your failures without judging yourself



Gl April 17, 2012 at 4:51 pm

The first thing you do is take inventory of your personal assets.

Do they include sincerity, honesty, cleanliness, good posture, humorous demeanor, humility, physical talents, artistic abilities, music appreciation, academic inclinations, advanced subject interest, modesty, self-esteem, etc… or some conbination of a few?

Everyone has specific traits, talents and special personalities. Build your own list and self-confidence by acknowledging and appreciating yourself.

Be up front and be yourself. That’s being original and is usually appreciated by girls or women who are constantly hit on and probably is a mark in your favor.

You could open your conversation with a realistic statement. “Hi, my name is ________. I need your help with something.” (Directions, referrals, opinions, something real, like girl troubles or trying to meet someone to hang out with at times.)

Compliment her on her hair, clothes, smile, wonderful aura of friendliness or personality.

Then shut up and let her lead the discussion. If she’s real, she’ll treat you in a friendly manner. If you creep her out, she’ll let you know that also. Quickly.

However, as the avid fisherman says and what you must realize and accept beforehand, you can’t catch ’em all.

Good Luck


Gl April 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I have been “Launchng” a website for 10 years. I have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on numerous seminars, unfinished coaching programs and too many guru secrets, marketing systems and silver bullets to count.

My product/service was before its time as far as available software to run my program. It would have cost $100,000-$200,000 to have it developed at the time. Totally cost prohibitive.

I also had a few IM burn me to the point I have feared my ‘Idea” would be stolen and developed without my help or without proper compensation.

Well, now the software is available and very affordable, but I have this fear of the unknown. You know, the “What will happen if this, or what will happen if that” syndrome. What if I grow to fast and can’t handle all the everything that needs to be done.

Everyday I say, “Today is the day I build my site.” It hasn’t happened. But I’m ready!


Mary April 17, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Two fears?
The first, tell my family I have blogs for different topics to my career. Fortunately, it is a fear that overcame a couple of days and to my surprise, they have offered to help me!
The second is not having the economic success that I hope with these websites and finally realize that I wasted my time.


Jamie April 17, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Fear 1: I will not be able to hack it physically and mentally at Basic Warfare school this summer.

Fear 2: Being totally incompetent at my job (i.e. failure).


maneesh April 17, 2012 at 6:14 pm

so how could you address these? What would be a way to face these fears—and improve them?


Manny April 18, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Jamie, I’d be more than happy to give you a hand in preparing for BWS. I’m pretty good at the physical training part.


Eddy Azar April 17, 2012 at 11:55 am


The biggest fear I’m destroying right now is that of flirting and getting sexual with gorgeous women.

I’ve been concentrating on it’s destruction for about a week now, and it’s a process I don’t ever expect to stop.

So far, I’ve:
1) Had a dancefloor makeout with an cover-girl worthy blondie (
2) spent the last two nights getting blown out of every set without a single success
3) Approached about every single woman I’ve fancied (and many I haven’t) with mostly dead-pan results, and the occasional huge success (like with the blondie)

The only time I feel like shit is, not when I get heavily rejected, not when she seems uninterested or even totally creeped out….it’s when I don’t approach her. Getting blown out is easy to view as a learning process, because literally every approach (successful or not) can be quickly reviewed to find out what went wrong and has to be fixed.

It’s scary as hell to talk to the first few, but after a success or two (and seeing a girl light up because I made her day), it’s easy.


NUMBER 2: Dolla

This one’s a hell of a lot more subtle. Every time it’s time to do awesome entrepreneurial shit, I hit a barrier and often get distracted.

So, by this time next week, I’ll
1) Have found an SEO partner for
2) Moved all my site details from MBS to
3) Written 7 visualizations, converted them to porn stories and submitted them to the companies I wanna work with (lol, that’s right, I wanna be a porn writer xD)
4) Generate a shit tone of viable biz ideas using Gary Halbert’s idea gen method


Carpe Diem guys, see you in a week.
– Eddy


maneesh April 17, 2012 at 6:17 pm

I want to see your results!


Amit Amin April 17, 2012 at 11:47 am

I’ve been following Wim Hof’s training protocol to conquering cold, and for the past few weeks had been stuck at the ice-bath stage. I was just too afraid to fully get in and stay in. I just did it (yes, as soon as I finished reading this) and got in and stayed in for five minutes. However; in all honesty social rejection is a much greater fear for me than fear of pain. Hm… I need to pick something else….


maneesh April 17, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Pick the big one. And then face it. What could you do?


sid April 17, 2012 at 11:42 am

1. asking for help in almost any situation. I get this feeling of fear of someone saying no..obligation..helplessness..even overly thanking someone for their help (kind of suck up) and regret doing that afterwords.
2. I am overweight and I am not comfortable with moving around because I feel like my shirt will fly up and show off my fat stomach.. so I hold on to to the bottom of my shirt or keep my arms to my side like a little girl..just overly aware of my stomach showing.


maneesh April 17, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Which is most important to you? And how could you face these fears—and fix them?


Lisbeth April 17, 2012 at 11:07 am

Definitely showing people my writing. If I’m publishing anonymously it’s better, but if I have show it to somebody I actually know offline then it’s a lot harder.

Same goes for artwork.


maneesh April 17, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Why are you afraid of this?


Dave April 17, 2012 at 11:00 am

Fear of being completely, radically honest with people about what I think/feel if I’m scared of hurting them, breaking hearts, offending or causing conflict. Need to start living more authentically.

Scared of the void that income automation and lifestyle design actually brings. Never thought things would actually get so good that I would be having this quality problem. I’m too eager to distract myself and not just be in the moment. Need to start making solid plans for world relocation next year as confirmation with myself that I am committed to doing this and I am committed to achieving my TMI within a specific time-frame.


Sterling Huntington April 17, 2012 at 11:28 am

As always, astounding post Maneesh. My strongest uncomfortablility as of late has been that pause right before doing something I should do. It’s the one I usually run from, that moment when you have the choice to just fucking do it, or close and slack off on another tab. My fear is that of always choosing the latter, in a constant state of almost potential.

The other uncomfortable situation is my fear of Alzheimer’s disease, and forgetting the people and morals that make me. So I’m going to talk to an old person (maybe two or three.)


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