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What You Can Learn From Fear with Tim Larkin

Tim Larkin is a self-defense coach and former military intelligence officer with over 25 years of professional experience. In 2011 he was named Self Defense Instructor of the Year and inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame.

In his military career as an intelligence officer, Larkin was part of a beta group that redesigned how Special Operations personnel trained for close combat. He has 25 years of experience training people in 52 countries on how to deal with imminent violence using his unique Target Focus Training (TFT) system.

"Fear is a gift and you have to look at it that way."


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  • Fear is a gift and you have to look at it that way. It can be an amazing motivator and an opportunity to learn.
  • A lack of knowledge is what causes freezing in fearful situations. Often we haven’t looked at the subject matter that is causing us to fear e.g. we might fear harm, but have not invested time in learning how to defend ourselves and will likely freeze when confronted with a harmful situation.
  • Listen to your fear and be glad you have it.
  • Fear can help you to be present and optimize your performance if you possess knowledge about the skills you need to use in a situation.
  • Hope is a terrible strategy. Taking action on whatever your fear is is a huge step forward. Remember to take action in baby steps, you don’t have to go from 0 to 100 at once.
  • This also applies to situations in daily life. A person might have always wanted to be a writer, but due to fear will make excuses for not taking the step of sitting down and writing a few things down.
  • Tim takes students through intimidating situations. Prior to the training, they will be extremely fearful with no knowledge, and while they go through it they remain fearful while gaining knowledge. Afterward, they might still be fearful, but they know what to do.
  • If you feel fear and have a lack of knowledge relating to your fear, that is an opportunity to learn.


  • Antisocial aggression is something we can all walk away from e.g. somebody is being belligerent and you have the opportunity to leave the situation.
  • Asocial is devoid of communication. A predator enters your life and they will use your social skills against you, by making you feel guilty for judging them and so on.
  • Example: one of Tim’s friends was studying at night. When it was time to go back to her car, she turned down her friends offer to walk her there, after feeling uneasy and fearful about a person nearby, telling herself not to judge a person for appearing to be homeless. Ignoring her instincts, she took the elevator up and the guy was waiting for her.
  • Embrace your instincts. We need to pay attention to the nonverbal training that human evolution is blessed with. We have thousands of years of nonverbal cues in our bodies, but in this age, we have learned to ignore them in order to avoid judging others socially.
  • Remember it’s okay to be embarrassed. If the worst thing that happens is you overreacting and leaving a situation, this is always better than you ignoring 2 nonverbal cues and getting attacked.
  • Check out Jim’s previous episode with Tim about situational awareness.
  • Paying attention to nonverbal cues is our early warning system.


  • We override our fear or do not take action when we feel it.
  • Fear can be a great learning tool and point out to you what you do not know. Would you know what to do if a situation turned bad?
  • If something is bothering you to the point where you are fearful, engage with your fear and learn about the subject rather than running away from it.
  • The subject might remain scary to you, but you will know how to deal with it and how it works.
  • People who hope for the best have the biggest problem with fear.
  • There are skill sets you can learn to minimize the chance of violence coming into your life, but you have to face the initial fear of learning about violence and self-protection.
  • People fear to learn other new skill sets that might make their lives better and let fear stop them in their tracks rather than taking that course in copywriting or math.
  • Try starting with taking on a fear of yours that isn’t too overwhelming, like studying a subject you have been scared of and finding an online course.
  • While Tim was going through intense military training, he didn’t think about finishing the whole course, just getting through a day or a session e.g. “I will quit at lunch, I will quit at dinner,” until he got through it and became comfortable with the subject matter.
  • Trust your nonverbal cues. The events you experience will tell you what to do, trust your instincts, engage them and let them help you.


  • Take a screenshot of this episode, tag us (@jimkwik and @TFTTimLakrin) and tell us your favorite aha! moment from today’s show. We’ll repost some of our favorites!

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