Written by former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb, Mastering Fear (2018) breaks down one of the critical aspects of the human condition, fear. In his book, Webb teaches us that instead of wasting energy trying to overcome fear, you make it your ally by taking charge of the conversation in your mind.

“Mastering Fear” Summary

  • “Fear is a signpost, pointing the way to the prize.”

  • Make Fear Your Ally: “Fear is not something to fight. It’s something to embrace.”

  • Shift Your Inner Dialogue: “How can I use this static charge to sharpen myself?”

Brandon Webb “Mastering Fear” Summary


Book Notes.

  • “Mastering fear is not about becoming physically stronger, or tougher, or more macho, or more aggressive, or more stoic, or more pumped up. It is about learning how to identify and change the conversation in your head.”
  • “After returning from Afghanistan, I began teaching advanced sniper programs for Naval Special Warfare. In late 2003 my SEAL teammate Eric Davis and I were tapped to help redesign the core SEAL sniper program, often considered the gold standard of sniper training worldwide.”
  • “But the single biggest advance we made, the one addition to the program that I am most proud of and that I believe made the biggest difference in the course: we taught our students how to change the conversation in their heads.”
  • “Yes, an entire generation of SEAL snipers, among the deadliest warriors on the planet, were trained in the art and science of self-talk.”
  • “Over the past few years I’ve been running a podcast called The Power of Thought. My guest list has included a World War II fighter pilot, a world-record-breaking astronaut, legendary musicians, million-dollar entrepreneurs and billion-dollar hedge fund managers, and of course, Navy SEALs and Green Berets and other Special Operations warriors.”
  • “In every one of those conversations, I’ve noticed this core character trait: the ability to see and flip that mental switch. To me, that ability to self-monitor and change your interior dialogue is one of the most critical faculties that distinguishes a mature, adult human, someone capable of functioning fully in the world.”
  • “It’s what takes you from victim mentality to being proactive; from blaming others to taking ownership of your situation and taking positive steps to change it. It takes you from being at the mercy of circumstance to being the master of circumstance. It is what allows you to master fear.”
  • Here’s the most useful core definition of fear I’ve come across: Fear is a signpost, pointing the way to the prize. Here’s how my friend Kamal puts it. “I have this rule,” he says. “If something scares me, it means there’s magic on the other side.”
  • “Often what we interpret as danger is really the spark of adventure, the electric buzz of sensing what’s over the horizon. A signal saying This is where things get exciting. A signpost pointing the way to the prize.”
  • “You may have heard that bit of psychobabble about how “FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real.” Sorry, but that’s bullshit. Fear means the awareness of danger. The word comes from the Old English fær: “calamity, danger, peril, sudden attack.” “
  • “There’s nothing false or imagined about a group of pissed-off mountain fighters pointing guns at you, or a shark swimming toward you, or a business collapsing into foreclosure. Fear is no illusion. Fear is real. Convince yourself that it isn’t, and you’re already dead.”
  • “But here’s what happens: Far too often, we focus on that awareness of danger, and by focusing on it we magnify it, cause it to expand until it starts filling the space in our heads.”
  • “We start having the wrong conversation about it. We spin this story and then keep telling and retelling it, like that hamster running on its wheel, over and over. Rather than our mastering fear, fear masters us.”
  • “When that happens, here’s what you need to do: (a) become aware of it, and (b) redirect it. Flip the switch in your head.”
  • “Rather than telling yourself, “I am not worried, I am not worried” ask yourself, “Okay: how can I use this static charge to sharpen myself?” “
  • “I don’t believe in overcoming fear, because I don’t see fear as my enemy. In fact, my experience is that if you see fear as the enemy, then you’ve already lost. Fear is not something to fight. It’s something to embrace.”
  • “Fear can be a set of manacles, holding you prisoner. Or it can be a slingshot, catapulting you on to greatness. Read the biographies of great men and women, and you find that people who accomplish great things typically do so not by denying or beating back their fears but by embracing them. Not by seeing fear as the enemy but by making it their ally.”
  • “Fear is a lot like fire. When it’s out of control, fire is destructive. Learn how to use it, and you can do practically anything. Harnessing fire is what made human civilization. Harnessing fear can change the course of your destiny.”


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