Maximize Professional Growth By Doing Scary Things

By Steven Hicks

Elevator Pitch

Fear has lost its value. What once saved us from being eaten by saber-toothed tigers now prevents us from realizing our goals.

In this session, we’ll ask questions about the nature of fear. We’ll stare fear in the eyes, and look in unusual places to find strategies for overcoming it.


If it wasn’t for fear, we’d all have been eaten by saber-toothed tigers when we wandered too far from our caves.

But fear has lost its value. Fear now spends less time saving our lives, and more time preventing us from realizing our goals. This session will answer some questions about the nature of fear. What do we fear? Why do we fear it? Are there benefits to fear?

We’ll then look in unusual places - the forest floor, the gym, a chain restaurant - in search of strategies for overcoming fear. We’ll talk about how doing things that scare you leads to incredible personal growth.

You’ll leave this session ready to stare fear in the eyes, and take control of your career.


Aside from coding, I have many hobbies. Most of them happen outdoors. I have noticed that many lessons I learn in the outdoors also apply to my professional life. In looking for a pattern to these lessons, I’ve realized that many of them have to do with overcoming fear.

Much of the inspiration for this talk comes from the scariest thing I’ve done in my career - becoming a speaker at dev conferences. I have gotten so much from speaking, and I want to inspire others to overcome their fears.

The talk is divided into three sections. First, with help from the audience we talk about things that we fear. Next we talk about the science and emotions behind fear. The third section provides the audience with 10-15 strategies, some small and some large, to overcome fear. Strategies covered include risk matrices, fear-setting, and rejection therapy.


I’ve presented this talk at Dev Up in St. Louis, in October, 2017, and at the Central Wisconsin IT Conference in October, 2019. Some reactions from Twitter: