Having the Courage to Do What Scares You with Dr. Joe Serio

Vodka, Hookers, and The Russian Mafia

Let’s get real for a moment and really talk about “what are you afraid of?”

Change is not easy. Uncertainty is not easy. Fear is not easy.

We all go through periods of life when we are thrust into something new and scary, where we are afraid of the “unknown” and all that comes with it. We are afraid of what could be, because by nature, humans are addicted to certainty. We experience moments when we are afraid of fear itself because uncertainty is not a pleasant feeling.

But Dr. Joe Serio wants you to know it’s okay to feel fear. It’s normal and he should know. Living amongst Vodka, Hookers, and the Russia Mafia for several years taught Joe quite a few valuable life lessons, which he revealed during a recent Geeks Geezers, and Googlization podcast interview. You too can learn what to do when you feel fear and instead elevate your passions, your goals, your dreams and the quality of your life.

Adapt Not React

It’s not healthy to always just react to what’s going on in the world around us. We have to learn adaptability, develop a growth mindset, master leadership and find personal techniques to to prepare for uncertainty. Become more resilient, which helps build courage, to face what scares you. While working with the Russian Mafia and KGB may not be your cup of tea, imagine your 4 year old gasping and choking and you have to administer life-saving CPR. That is a parent’s worst nightmare but one that co-host Jason Cochran recently lived. To face uncertainty and fear, you must plan to take action in order to change the outcome. It takes work but fortunately we all can do it .

All you need to do is give yourself permission.. Go ahead. Do it. Let’s get started!



“Future Shock”: “sickness that comes from too much change in too short time” and how that relates to our own lives today in 2022


How to overcome that feeling that “nothing is permanent anymore” and the reaction to “changes that happen so fast, that we can’t absorb them” (the “premature arrival of the future”)


How those of us who are unprepared for change, can experience devastating effects


What to do to build the courage to do what scares you


Just because fear is a natural part of life, doesn’t mean we can’t overcome it.


When it comes to dealing with fear and resistance, Dr. Joe Serio is an expert. He visited Geeks Geezers and Googlization to talk about our natural response to uncertainty, the unknown, and fear. These are things we all face so Joe breaks them down and defines them. Most importantly he shares how we can overcome our fears with courage, even when it seems too scary to do.

Dr. Serio is a busy guy. He’s an author, entertaining leadership trainer, and keynote speaker focused on:


Transformational Leadership


Positive Interaction with Difficult People


Understanding Fear and Resistance


Increasing Productivity in a World of Distractions


Overcoming Barriers for Performance Improvement


Fear of Fear


With over 10 years experience in the former Soviet Union, Dr. Serio’s perspective is unique, gleaned from investigations into the Russian Mafia and collaborating with members of the KGB on behalf of the Organized Crime Control Department. This, of course, isn’t your every-day life story, so what he has to say should apply to our daily lives. We can all stare fear squarely in the eye and implement Dr. Serio’s and do what we need to do to persevere!

His story could be further experienced through his critically acclaimed literature such as “Investigating the Russian Mafia” and most recently

Humans are Addicted to Certainty

Let’s face it—the unknown is scary. Most of us feel better knowing what’s going to happen and when, allowing us time to prepare.

According to Dr. Serio, “Living in what is now the never normal world is forcing us to go cold turkey.” So, we have to actively work at the habit we have of expecting certainty in our lives. “Work [however] takes courage and it takes confidence, but fear seems to get in our way.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic and overall continuous sense of disruption happening all over the world, our mental energy is getting depleted. It’s just hard to stay in a positive mindset. Just navigating through day-to-day life tasks can be tough. It’s too easy for us to push our dreams and goals aside when other distractions seem to consume us.

Change is nothing new

“We’ve always struggled with change.” Change is something we can all relate to – for good and bad.

As a child, we may have feared moving from elementary school to middle school. As a teenager, we may have feared getting a license and driving around without our parents for the first time. As a young adult, we may have feared going to college and being out in the real world for the first time on our own. As adults, we confront new fears every single day. Whether it is fear in our professional lives, our familial lives, our romantic lives, our financial lives or even a struggle within our own mind (like the struggle to have self-confidence), we all experience fear in some form or fashion.

The Fear Paradox

When we fear fear, we hold back and avoid doing what we know we’re meant to do.

But if fear has afflicted humans for so long, how can we possibly learn to overcome it? How can we possibly work up the courage to confront what scares us when we seem to be hard-wired to run away from it.

“Complexity and ambiguity terrifies a lot of people” but that’s okay, says Serio. We’re all human; there’s nothing wrong with that. But with awareness, knowledge and helpful tips, we can learn the steps necessary to work up the courage to do what scares us.


How can you remove fear from your life and live the life of your dreams?

Serio grew up in what he describes as a state of constant fear, resulting in what describes as an inability to make “conscious decisions” for himself. We can all relate to a moment when fear hijacked our mindsets in a way that seemed all consuming and uncontrollable. Serio recalls his anxiety in college when he started studying the Soviet Union in a way that eventually led to his longing to be a writer and public speaker. He not only moved to Russia and studied there, but toured the country and learned so much from his work there that he was able to integrate into his educational efforts when earning his Master’s Degree and eventually his Ph.D. His unique experiences and observations of prison life in Russia, China and Texas has one common denominator: fear.

Stress vs Fear

People talk about stress a lot but are reticent about saying “I’m afraid.” Serio believes “stress is the outward manifestation of people’s fear.” We are afraid of being afraid and we try to avoid it at all costs. Instead, Serio recommends we must educate ourselves and share ways we can develop new motivation within our lives, to build our individual sense of purpose.


Sometimes we avoid doing things when we have an “irrationalization” about it. We make excuses for not doing what we think we should or what we know we want to do. These originate from our inner thoughts and perspectives. If we think we are not good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, or capable enough, we will literally fear change and subsequently avoid a task, goal or dream. We are often so afraid of fear itself, that it is almost more debilitating than failure.

The Power of Adaptability

Adaptability is a key to overcoming our addiction to certainty. While learning about effective communication with others, it’s important to remember how to successfully communicate with yourself:

How do you see yourself?

What pre-conceived notions or expectations do you have of yourself?

Are those thoughts positive or negative?

How do you deal with fear?

Does fear hold you back in your own life?

How do you think you can overcome fear?

Do you think you’re good enough for your goal or dream?

Do you let your stress prevent you from having courage to face your fears?

Do you take advantage of opportunities presented to you or let them pass you by?

Walking in the Dark

We like to stay in our comfort zone. We are fearful of what lies around the corner. Our routines become our safe space. When we step out into the unknown, we walk in the dark which introduces fear. Why take the chance when things are going well. Why fix what aint’ broke, right?

Focus on What You CAN Control

Unfortunately in today’s world, it’s the status quo that may be more dangerous than the unknown. Complacency is the enemy and it keeps fear locked up in our heads. We may not know what tomorrow brings, but we must work on building the courage to be able to explore it. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, as long as we don’t obsess over what we can’t control. Focus on what you can control.
Therein lies Serio’s magic sauce: “My life is way too short to spend in a cubicle that someone else built for me.” If that sounds like you,“Maybe it’s time to take life by the horns and [finally] live life the way [you] want to live!”


To build courage and overcome fear, you must first feel good about living? Are you pursuing the things that matter to you? Ask yourself, “What are our value systems?”

On an individual level, as well as a corporate or organizational level, you have to decide who you want to be so that you understand your values, based on guiding principals for how you want to face what life throws at you.

Serio relates much of success to the General in the Soviet Police, who was a former supervisor of his. He details a few interactions they shared, along with the General’s communication methods with others around him (personal and professional. He was “the outward example of all the philosophical things” we talk about:


Commitment in Action


Leadership in Action


Dedication in Action

Do What Scares You!

The pandemic brought our lives to a standstill, but what did we learn? What are we continuing to learn about it today?

Serio draws parallels between what he and his team went through in Moscow in the 1990’s. He explains that the Soviets went through this, but on a much larger scale and it was “uncertainty” felt for years. His examples of “regular rhythm of life” during that time and how he recognized the role of fear has scary similarities and lessons for living today. He shares how we can learn to process what life throws our way, by recognizing fear then acting on it.

Ask yourself:


Who do you surround yourself with?


What tools do you have in your toolkit?


Does feeling nervous always lead to fear or can you work around?


How do you overcome the paralysis of being afraid?

He does emphasize however that the goal is not getting to the point of an absence of fear. That is simply unrealistic. Instead, it’s learning about new tools and integrating new perspectives to when fear does indeed arise. Putting in the work to get to this point takes courage, but it’s what will ultimately lead you to living a life of doing the things that scare you!


“Our fear [focuses us] on that thing that we hate so much, that we’ve stretched it into this huge monster that only exists inside our head. We’re not talking about danger, we’re talking about fear that we’ve created in our minds and that we’ve gone over and over. So we’ve gotten into the habit of being afraid of that thing.”

For example, maybe we’re not afraid of public speaking. But as the number fear of most people, we think we should fear it too. Maybe we’re not afraid of flying on airplanes, but a lot of people are. So now we think we should be nervous too.

Dr. Serio shares the power between thinking about everything that could go “right” compared to everything that could go “wrong” in any given scenario.” Host Ira Wolfe also reminds us that, often, the surprises in life are the best parts of our journey!

You know yourself better than anybody else, so learn to take control of your fear so that it doesn’t take control of you!


Sometimes, we think we are in a good head space but our bodies tell a different story. Serio talks about the need to equip ourselves with the right equipment:

Relaxation Techniques (Autogenic Phrases, Calming Moments, etc)


Control the Controllables (Know what you can do and what you can’t)

  • Do I wake up when I know I need to wake up?
  • Do I go to bed when I know I should be going to bed?
  • Am I watching my weight?
  • Am I eating healthy?
  • Am I having crucial conversations (resolving things instead of running away)?

Having the right mental equipment is making sure you are knowledgeable about what fear really is and how we can approach it when it comes our way.

Dr. Serios shares some of the scariest encounters he had during his time in Russia and his answer might surprise you. Besides having the right equipment:

  • Prepare like crazy
  • Emotional Intelligence is critical
  • Put fear in perspective and use tools to walk into and past it


12:11— Lessons learned from the Soviet Police

17:15—Define your fear and compare it to something else

20:19—Fear is not danger and we can’t be afraid to act

21:24 – Dr. Serio’s scariest experiences in Russia

24:59—Fear in our heads vs. in real life

26:30 - “Vodka, Hookers and the Russian Mafia: My Life in Moscow” (what the book is about and where to purchase it)