How to free your inhibitions

Here’s a recent item from the mailbag/comment bag:

How do i free myself, kill my inhibitions and break away from any kind of mental consciousness i keep facing every time i want to do something really badly. I’m simply afraid, man. Afraid, i might hurt somebody or offend someone who i care for, might come across as selfish. Your talks are fun and exciting and an adventure in itself. Now, please help me in figuring out a way to just free myself from my other self. The lamb leads the lion in me so to speak. How do i reverse that relationship? I eagerly await your reply. Thanks so much man. You’re the Man!

I’m not a self help guru, but that might be a good thing here as I don’t have a nice, kind, warm fuzzy fluffy answer for you.


I recently went to a bachelor party at a rented house on a lake in Texas. On top of the boat dock, 20 feet off the ground was a swing: you grabbed the trapeze handle, swung out over the lake, and dropped into the water. Sounds cool, but it looked terrifying. Something about the angle of the water from that vantage point made it look unnatural. The result? A gaggle of 30-something year old men, standing on the edge, trying to build up the guts to jump.

One guy had done it. And when it was my turn to try I knew I had to turn off my brain in order to do it. Switch it right off – and decide before I put my hands on the trapeze that I was going to just jump without thinking. And that’s what happened. I jumped, and it was not nearly as scary doing it as it was thinking about doing it.

Two of my friends however spent the next hour, literally 60 minutes, standing on that ledge, the hot Texas sun beating down, looking down, trying different ways to think through the problem. A strategy set up to fail as this was not about thinking. While they never jumped, it was impressive to watch them fight a battle in their own minds for that long.

For some things in life there is no planning. No way to rationalize. It is either done, or not done. And the trap is the more you think about them, the larger the fear of doing them becomes. The trick is to be able to turn off that voice and operate without it. Create courage by denying the rational mind. And its a kind of self-knowledge to recognize when shutting off your mind is the only way to achieve what you want to achieve.

In your case things are perhaps easier. You can test your fear. Ask your friend if they’d be hurt if you wrote a book. Ask the people you care for if they can support you in trying to live your life differently, or to take a certain risk. GO AND ASK. If you never ask then the fault is yours. If you do ask for support and don’t get it from your closest friends, then you need to find new close friends. Ones who want to help you grow and be happy. Either way, in taking action you win. But in being passive and worrying, complaining, imagining, you make your own mind a trap, like my friends by the ledge.

Got a question you want answered? Ask Berkun or put it in the mailbag.

9 Responses to “How to free your inhibitions”

  1. Trena Roush

    This is the perfect post at the perfect moment – thank you. Would you mind if I referenced you and your bachelor party story in a communication with a group of young leaders in my service organization? I promise to continue bragging on you for all eternity. Keep up the great posts and presentations.

  2. Scott

    Sure thing – if I write about it here it’s fair game. And besides, happy to help with any youth organization where it’s cool to talk about bachelor parties :)

  3. Larry Chiang

    omg, I just clicked to you from @kk twitter stream. Nice!, I met you at Foo08.

    Good to see your blog

    p.s. am jealous that someone other than you is promoting your blog post. I have resorted to buying links to increase my traffic
    pps I really liked your FOO session- public speaking disasters was it??

  4. Jorge

    I found your blog a couple of months ago, and I really loved the way you wrote about BS, I found it so true and funny and real at the same time… I feel I can spot people with their bullcrap now!
    About this post, it is so true that the ghosts of the things you would like to do are worse than the things that actually come out of that thing you did.
    I’ve had an experimental time this year, specially with people in my university. I’ve tried and said things, because I want to act differently, more proactively. All I have to say about that is that I think I need other friends…

    A salute from Chile, Scott! Kudos for the blog!

    Jorge Saldaña.

  5. Sean Crawford

    Someone once told me that my acting on impulsive would never hurt anyone because I had a good core… I relaxed as I realized this was true. I could only hurt someone if I was not centered and (like Scott’s friends, thinking too much) acting against my better judgement as my silent alarms were going off. Which I can’t remember ever happening.

    I suppose being “not centered” relates to being conflicted: as in different force vectors operating inside at the same time, as in the dark side and the force. Perhaps affirmations work because, over time, they drown out the darkside. What worked very well for me, believe it or not, was to write, out loud, positive affirmations. I think I had success because I made a concerted effort as opposed to, say, merely rattling off a single sentence every morning. To answer Arjun: It is as if over time, having less conflict and fear, my lion became more graceful, as did my very body and perhaps even my voice.

    I have seen people get less blocked, blossom and grow in the safety of a weekly toastmasters public speaking club. Note: There is more to it than just speeches, which are about a third of the meeting. There is also such things as having to answer a surprise question. I think about a quarter of the members in my city are engineers.

    I seem to recall Scott taking a comedy class. I could now do that if I wanted too. I am now able to abruptly focus, and therefor be seen by others as being (verbally) loose and spontaneous, partly because I took a class in college for credit called “drama for adults dealing with kids”. Using the text, “The Developing Child” by Brian Way we learned that drama is not acting, but actors take drama. We did NOT do a play. A proper drama classroom has no stage and it is lit so as to have darker corners for shyer people. Nearly all of our exercises for the class were nonverbal, but the zen has carried over into my real life.

  6. Scott

    I did take a community college class in improv comedy (taught by one of these guys) – I didn’t make the connection between that class, and inhibitions, but it makes sense.

    The course was less about performance and more about being open and aware. It did amazing things for me as a teacher and public speaker – compared to the fun, but tough improv games in the class, dealing with hecklers, questions or other unscripted interruptions became easy.

    I always highly recommend improv theater class to people for a variety of reasons. The #1 reason being how low pressure, fun and silly every session is.

  7. Haley

    That is really good advice. People spend way too much time thinking about things that they build up way more anxiety than they need to. Too much impulsiveness can lead to being reckless, but every once in a while you need to just let go of your inhibitions and just do it. Like Nike says.

  8. Pilar

    Ive just discovered your blog and I absolutely love it. x

  9. Sujan

    Thank you. It really is that simple, thanks for making me realise that :D


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