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Bruce Lee Podcast

Jan 10, 2018

Shannon met former Kristen Ulmer at the Spartan Race in Lake Tahoe. Kristen is the author of The Art of Fear: Why Conquering Fear Won’t Work and What to Do Instead. In this episode she shares her journey with fear and discusses how we deal with fear.

Kristen Ulmer started out as a professional athlete, she was the best female big mountain extreme skier in the world, a status she kept for 12 years. She risked her life on a pair of skis, jumping off cliffs and skiing “you fall you die” descents. Kristen was voted “Most Fearless Woman in America” by the outdoor industry beating women in all sports and disciplines, not just skiing. 

While Kristen felt fearless, she realized after looking under her everyday reality that fear was with her in every single moment of every day and in every decision she made. She came to this realization after retiring her ski career in 2003 and studying with a Zen master for 15 years. Kristen started off as a mindset sports coach and currently is a fear specialist. Now Kristen’s whole world is talking about and thinking about fear.

When Kristen retired, it wasn’t because her career was over; it was because she got to the point where she hated skiing. Every time winter would roll around she would cringe. Kristen started getting injured more and she had PTSD from seeing a lot of her friends die in the mountains and having many near death experiences herself. She was exhausted all the time and felt that there was something really wrong. So Kristen quit her ski career and set out to find out what was wrong. This is when she met the Zen master with whom she studied with for 15 years.

Within the first ten minutes of working with her Zen master, Kristen discovered that she had been repressing her fear for years in order to ski the way that she wanted. Repressing your fear only works for about ten years then things begin to go south. Kristen started working with other athletes, and found they were underperforming due to their repressed fear. She also worked with people dealing with depression, panic attacks, anxiety disorders, and insomnia, discovering that repressing fear caused these problems too. Kristen realized that she needed to declare herself a fear specialist and write a book. 

In a fear exercise, Kristen asked Shannon to talk to her like Kristen is Shannon’s fear. Kristen points out that fear is a huge part of our lives and with us everyday, in everything that we do, and how we treat our fear is ultimately how we treat our self. It’s important to have the best relationship with fear and it’s important how we talk to our fear.

How do you talk to your fear? Do you tell it to go away? Do you tell it you hate it? Do you ignore it?

If you hate your fear, how does that make fear feel?

Darkness is not the opposite of light, it is just the absence of light.

“Those who are unaware they are walking in darkness will never see the light.” –Bruce Lee

If we see fear as a dark voice, then that is how it will appear. If we try to crush fear, push it away, conquer it, lock it away in the basement and throw away the key, then fear will come out in a very dark way. How would you feel if you were locked in the basement?

Fear will not be denied. If you repress it, fear will come out as anger, sadness, or depression. It is a bad idea to repress fear, but it is something many of us do, and our fear comes out in a dark way.

Fighting your fear creates a war in your subconscious. It is an exhausting war that you cannot win because fear is a part of life.

Take Action:

First, change your language surrounding fear. Instead of saying “Fear and anxiety is a problem in my life,” you should say, “Because I’m unwilling to deal with my fear and anxiety in an honest way that has become a problem in my life.”

Second, have a fear practice:

  1. Identify where the discomfort is in your body.
  2. Recognize that it’s normal and natural to feel fear.
  3. Notice if you have any resistance to your fear. Can you lower your resistance?
  4. For 30 seconds feel your fear. Feel that discomfort without trying to get rid of it.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the ability to act in the presence of fear.” – Bruce Lee


(Awesome Asians and Hapas)

Kristen nominated her friend Bill Tai who is her kiteboarding buddy. Bill Tai is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a fantastic kiteboarder. Tai is the Founding Chairman of Treasure Data, board director of BitFury and Voxer, seed investor in Canva, Color Genomics, Tweetdeck/Twitter,, and Zoom Video, and Adjunct Professor of Innovation & Economic Development at Curtin University. He just started ACTAI, which is a group that brings together entrepreneurs, innovators, athletes, artists, tech heads, and thought leaders supporting causes around the world. Bill Tai, officially from the Bruce Lee Podcast, you’re awesome!


 Kristen shares her #BruceLeeMoment:

“Of course everyone knows who Bruce Lee is, I’m no exception. I am really drawn to his quotes, the second I hear a quote of his it just goes into my soul. I think of “Be water my friend. Water can flow.” Which your dad said. When I think of flow, I think of water, I think of myself as a hose. And I have these droplets of water coming into, through, and out of my life. These droplets of water are fear, anger, joy, love, a thought, a belief, they all come into, through, and out of my life just influencing me.

I remember one time I was invited to compete in this very prestigious competition to see who the best female/male skier in the world was. And I didn’t want to do it, I just wanted to make movies. I felt obligated to go though because they were paying me to be there, but I felt even more obligated to win the thing, if I didn’t win this thing it would be humiliating. It was the best of two runs and after the first run I was not winning. I just rode the chairlift, I had two hours before my next run and I was feeling frustrated. That was a droplet of water. I was embarrassed, that was a droplet of water. I was afraid, of looking like a fool, I felt like a fraud. That I was pulling the wool over these guys’ eyes, maybe I’m not the best. I had all these really unpleasant, uncomfortable [feelings], fear of failure, coming into, through [me].

But because I was in flow with them because they were like water droplets, they were coming into my eyes and motivating me and helping me come alive and be more sharp. By the time two hours passed, and I got in the gate again, I went and skied this run that I jumped off a 70ft cliff. I took 4th overall for the men out of 120 men, and of course won for the women. It was this incredible moment where I was completely in flow with all these unpleasant experiences not resisting any of them and they all helped me be amazing for my second run."

Thank you Kristen for doing your teaching and for sharing your insights with our community! Everyone should go out and get Kristen’s book “The Art of Fear.” Thank you so much for joining us!

Read our full show notes at

Share your #AAHAs, #BruceLeeMoments, and #TakeAction progress with us at