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12: Burn the Ships: Interview with Ben Arment

Dec 17, 2015

How comfortable are you being uncomfortable?

Peter McWilliams once said, “Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it’s a small price to pay for living a dream.”

Ben Arment

Ben Arment has made a living within discomfort and coached many others through the same struggle. Ben is the author of Dream Year and the creator of STORY Conference. Ben has been charting his own course for years and he drew my attention several years ago because he stood out! His social media profiles, blog posts and the events he produced were unique and remarkable.

I attribute Ben with my habit of not saying no for other people. When I built the initial list of people I wanted to interview for my Overcoming Fear series, his name was near the top of the list. Initially, he said no and asked me to follow up with him during a later time. I waited patiently and asked again (you’ll learn later how I learned this method from Ben). He graciously accepted my invitation and gave me some of the best responses I’ve had so far.

You will love Ben’s honesty, raw struggles and in-your-face encouragement. This is an interview you’re going to want to bookmark for later and share with others.

Ben Arment on the Sound of Fear

Savage: Ben, thanks so much for accepting my request. I’m incredibly honored for you to share with my readers. This interview series is entitled Overcoming Fear. What does fear most often look or sound like in your life? Were you always able to clearly identify it?

Arment: Fear mostly looks like learning curves. Like anyone, I only fear what I’ve never experienced. These are endeavors that feel bigger than me, foreign to my abilities. I remember flying to Chicago for the first time in January 2009 to visit a theater for the first STORY Conference. I had never been to the city before, worked with theatrical union labor, or started something with my livelihood depending on it. I was frightened to say the least. But it had been a dream of mine for ten years, and I couldn’t bear to spend another day working on someone else’s dream in a cubicle.

“I couldn’t bear to spend another day working on someone else’s dream in a cubicle.”

Ben Arment on the Power of Fear

Scott: You indicated that fear kept you working on someone else’s dream instead of pursuing your own. Specifically, what has fear kept you from doing in the past? Was there a moment that stands out to you?

Arment: I wrote short stories as a teenager and submitted pieces to magazines all over the country. I was rejected by every single one of them. So I ditched fiction writing in college and went the more practical route in advertising copywriting, ministry, and eventually conferences and events. In fact, I stopped reading novels. I put them down for nearly 20 years, but stories kept coming to me. I just didn’t know what to do with them. Finally, after two decades, I wrote my first novel this past year. I recently handed off STORY to someone else, burned the ships, and decided to reclaim my long-lost passion for fiction writing.

Ben Arment on the Source of Courage

Scott: Those are HUGE steps and leaps of faith! I’m curious – what helped you become courageous in the face of fear? Was there an inflection point that helped you become MUCH more courageous?

Arment: Failure. Once you fail at something, you don’t fear it anymore. You realize it’s not that bad. You recover from it and use that experience to go to the next level. I’ve been able to mask my failures with solid branding and vision, but I’ve had my utilities shut off in the pursuit of great ideas. It happened after the first year of STORY. Most people would be horrified to experience something like that. And in fact, failure often sends people reeling back to the security of someone else’s cubicle. But close brushes with financial disaster have helped me keep a steady heart rate through difficult times and find the courage to take bigger risks. I learned from my failure, and STORY went onto become a great success.

“Once you fail at something, you don’t fear it anymore.”

Ben Arment on Staying Hopeful

Scott: Those are some tough defeats and scary moments. I think we can all relate to those feelings and the temptation to give up. How do you stay hopeful?

Arment: If I’m trying to produce conferences, write books, and start businesses in the same way other people are doing it, I have absolutely no hope. The marketplace is far too saturated to be a competitor. I am fixated on finding new paradigms for all of those endeavors, and that’s where the hope comes in. There are too many authors, conferences, and business to do it the same way as everyone else. The hope is found in disruption – figuring out how to write and release a book in a way no one has discovered yet. I love waking up each day to this amazing challenge. It’s an opportunity to make history.

“The hope is found in disruption.”

Ben Arment on Overcoming Fear

Scott: Ben, I believe fear keeps most of us from achieving our dreams and following the sense of calling we feel deep in our guts. What would you say to encourage readers who are battling fear?

Arment: You don’t overcome fear by reading books about it or waiting until the time is right. You just start going after it. You pick up the phone today, write that email now, start chapter one tonight, and so on. They train security forces to handle threats by exposing them to danger over and over again until they can face them at a normal, operating heat rate. The same is true for you. There is only so much you can learn in the classroom, reading books, or waiting until your skills catch up. It’ll never happen. You have to get started now. Breathe into a paper bag if you must. But face your fears with action.

“Breathe into a paper bag if you must, but face your fears with action.”

Ben, you’ve shared incredible gifts with us today! Even as I was re-reading your responses to share, you helped me find clarity! Thank you so much for giving us your time and sharing your story.

If you want to read Ben’s book, Dream Year: Make the Leap From a Job You Hate to a Life You Love, you can buy it here. Ben doesn’t blog much anymore, but his site (benarment.com) is filled with some incredible insights and perspective. You can follow his work and his perspective on work-life balance on Twitter (@benarment).

If you’d like to receive more challenging interviews like this one, along with inspiring content to help you win the fight against fear, then subscribe to my email newsletter. I’ll send you two posts each week, along with a free copy of my ebook, The Greater Than Challenge: A Guide to Reframing Your Life.

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