DJ. Vanas: The Fear Factor

By D.J. Vanas © 2009
News From Indian Country 9-09

I was flying home after a visit with the wonderful people of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe in Kansas and settled into my seat next to the window.  Boarding last, and very reluctantly, was a young woman who meekly climbed into the middle seat.

My nose was buried in a book but I noticed the strange hand motions, as if trying to push away bad dreams, from my seatmate and looked up at her in curiosity. Her eyes were squeezed shut and leaking tears, her upper lip was pulled up and trembling as a painful grimace spread across her face. It was the face of abject fear.

We made eye contact and I gave her a reassuring smile. Seconds later she tapped me on the shoulder and I took off my headphones. She could barely get the words out. “I-I-I don’t mean to bother you.  B-b-but can you please talk to me?” I put my book down and found out she was on her way to Colorado to get married up in the mountains in forty-eight hours. Due to a severe fear of flying, her doctor had prescribed Xanax. In her rush to get the flight, she had forgotten to take it until she boarded so it hadn’t kicked in yet. With each bump (and there were many on the flight) she clenched her face and fists in terror. I tried to joke with her, but it’s hard to laugh when you feel like you might die – plus, I wasn’t that funny anyway.

Instead, I started asking her questions about the wedding – the dresses, the flowers, who would be there and where they’d go for the honeymoon. I tried to get her to feel and see the wedding, the joy it would bring and the beautiful beaches and aquamarine waters of their honeymoon destination, Jamaica. It started to work (maybe the Xanax too) and she relaxed a bit. In turn, she started asking me questions about what I was reading.

I explained that I’m a speaker and writer and had just finished the manuscript for my latest book, an inspirational novel. I was reading How to Get a Literary Agent since I’m on the hunt for one now that mine retired. I’ve been fearful and stressed about the process of finding an agent, shopping the manuscript to publishers, and a hundred other details. Some days I wish I had Xanax… She was thrilled to hear I was an author and peppered me with questions and comments on the journey ahead. The tables suddenly turned. She focused on the joy of completing my latest work, sharing it with the world and what doors would be opening. In a matter of moments, she had me feeling and seeing myself hooked up with a superstar agent, a sweet book deal, on the New York Times Bestseller List and on Oprah! I was smiling from ear to ear in that vision just as the plane popped out of a cloud layer. In the distance was a massive thunderhead lit up like it was on fire with wild, brilliant colors from the descending sun. We both looked out the window.  “Ooooooooooh.”    

Fear reminds us we’re alive and that this isn’t a dress rehearsal! It reminds us that this life is an adventure and has what all adventures have – joy, pain, struggles, happiness, excitement and fear. Every hero in every story has had to face his or her fear to get to the joy of victory – as do we – and accomplishing any worthy goal will include this dynamic, this truth. It’s a normal and natural part of the process of accomplishment. After all, if life was easy all the time, it would be boring. Whether it was my seatmate enduring the fear of the flight to get to the joy of the wedding and Jamaica or me facing my fears on the journey to reach higher ground in my career, the lesson is clear: face the fear – and then do it anyway.  

D.J.’s upcoming schedule:


1 National Human
Resources Association (Portland, OR)

2 Oklahoma City Indian Clinic
(Oklahoma City, OK)

15 Department of Veterans Affairs
(Denver, CO)

20-21 Montana Association of Student
Councils (Hardin, MT)

26-30 10th Wedding Anniversary
(Turks & Caicos Islands)


1-2 10th Wedding Anniversary
(Turks & Caicos Islands)

4-5 Klamath Tribe
(Klamath Falls, OR)

8-9 Northern Michigan University
(Marquette, MI)

10 IBM virtual seminar
12-14 Kahnawake Reserve

(Montreal, Quebec)

18-20 Ermineskin Cree Nation

(Wetaskiwin, Alberta)
21-28 Thanksgiving

D.J. Eagle Bear Vanas (Odawa) is a nationally acclaimed motivational storyteller, success coach and the author of the celebrated book, The Tiny Warrior: A Path to Personal Discovery & Achievement and audio CD series The Warrior Within. D.J. uses traditional warrior concepts and wisdom to inspire people to achieve their best in life, school and career and owns Native Discovery Inc., a company dedicated to "building the warriors of tomorrow…today.” He can be reached at (719) 282-7747 or at