Azran is no stranger to startups and disruptive businesses, having been at the helm of the expansion of AirAsiaX and brought iflix (Malaysia\u2019s answer to Netflix) to the masses looking for local content. For someone who\u2019s had nearly half a century of lived experience, Azran is spry and nimble. Clad in a simple T-shirt and jeans, he gives off an energy of someone who\u2019s always moving, even when he\u2019s sitting still. But the reason I was sitting down with him wasn\u2019t to talk about his daring escapades in the business world. It was to hone in on something far more personal \u2014 his own phobia of swimming. What inspired you to overcome your fear of swimming? I decided to overcome my fear of swimming after completing 12 marathons from 2009 to 2011, and was challenged to try triathlons \u2014 except I never learned to swim my entire life. I learned that the only thing standing in the way of something that seems impossible, is taking the first step. I remembered how I first started venturing into endurance racing back in 2008, when I signed up for my first ever 10km run at the inaugural 2008 Borneo Marathon. I thought completing a 10km run was something that pushed me to my limits, until I witnessed 60-70 year old grandparents completing a full 42-km marathon that day. Just the day before, I thought only superhuman athletes could complete a 42km marathon. Seeing senior citizens complete it with big smiles in their faces, triggered a sense of curiosity in me. I wanted to achieve what they achieved, and that started my journey into long-distance running. The bigger challenge came after completing a dozen marathons and losing the interest for number 13. A friend suggested I try the sport of triathlon. Intriguing, but there was one big problem \u2014 I did not know how to swim. At all. And I learned that if we keep avoiding what we fear, that fear only grows bigger inside us because avoiding it gives us a false sense of comfort. The only way to deal with it, is to take the first step... What was your process for overcoming your fear of swimming? A lot of times we think of fear as something so big we don\u02bct know where to start. Take swimming for example \u2014 I used to think swimming in the sea was too big a leap, so I wouldn\u02bct even start. So I asked myself: \u201cWhat is the easiest first step you can take to start?\u201d For me, it was swimming lessons. I was in a waist-high pool, surrounded by preschoolers. The teacher knew I was deathly afraid, so on Day 1, we just put our head underwater and blew bubbles \u2014 easy! Day 2, she would throw coins into the water and I would dive down and get them. It was just a 4-foot deep pool, but it was daunting! So we need to think about what\u02bcs the smallest, easiest step. It\u2019s like building a staircase \u2014 you do it one step at a time. After that, it\u02bcs all about momentum, and momentum is about frequency. What do you mean by \u201cMomentum is about Frequency\u201d? For example, let\u02bcs say you are overweight. You want to start exercising but your family & friends laugh at you. But what if you had someone holding you accountable? Imagine if that someone said, \u201cAll we have to do today is put your running shoes at the door.\u201d The next day, you just put it on. The following day, you go out for 10 steps. The third day, you do a brisk walking for 10-15 mins. You\u02bcre building up small victories \u2014 before long, you\u02bcre doing brisk walking for 10-15 minutes, you\u2019re running around the lake, and so on. With frequency, you build momentum \u2014 once you get started, it\u2019s easier to keep going. You love to run in triathlons \u2014 what got you into it? After overcoming my phobia of swimming, I went on to complete multiple ironman triathlons from 2013 to 2018. In a triathlon, you\u02bcre on a bike for 6 hours, then you have to run for another 4 hours. At 48, I\u02bcm not going to be a professional triathlete, but I love to train my ability to be comfortable with my thoughts, to not give up, to keep pushing through pain. You mentioned \u201cThinking Traps\u201d \u2014 what are they? Thinking traps are mental shortcuts you make, like: \u201cAll or Nothing\u201d or \u201cBlack and White\u201d thinking. An example of \u201cAll or Nothing\u201d is this: Let\u2019s say you\u02bcre on a diet. You see your colleague\u02bcs red velvet cupcakes, and then you break your diet to eat one. Instead of resuming your diet, you beat yourself up and say, \u201cI\u02bcll start a new diet tomorrow.\u201d Are there any Thinking Traps you find yourself making? For myself, I sometimes still think I\u2019m an impostor. People think I\u02bcm supposed to be this entrepreneur, and business-builder, but we\u02bcre still struggling with Naluri \u2014 60 investors rejected us while we were trying to raise money. It\u02bcs hard, even with all my experience, to not have those self-defeating feelings. The way of overcoming the inevitable thinking traps is to carefully figure out who you spend time with \u2014 people who help you self-reflect and make you think. Our friends and family, while well-intentioned, tend to be very keen on giving their own perspective: \u201cAiya, just do this, just take my advice.\u201d But it\u02bcs not helpful if you only tell someone what to do. There\u02bcs no emotional buy-in. They\u02bcre doing it because someone told them to do it \u2014 and that\u02bcs why things don\u02bct last. What I\u02bcve learned is to develop a support network of positive people to focus on what actions I can take. What is your selection criteria for such a support network? I have a small group of peers \u2014 Seven other CEOs who are closer to me than my childhood friends. We've been together for 10 years, and we meet 8 times a year. Every meeting is very structured. There\u02bcs an agenda, time keeping, and we share experience and take turns listening without judgement. For most of us, there are far and few places we can open up about our deepest fears and anxieties, because we are afraid people will judge us. Shareholders don\u02bct want to see you being vulnerable \u2014\u00a0 with my boss, my employees, my business partners, I need to project strength, macho-ness. So even for us entrepreneurs, we need that safe space where we are trained to listen and ask questions that make us reflect. Then we are able to make explicit the oft-times hidden fears and anxieties that are holding us back. How do we vocalise the fears holding us back? It\u02bcs not a simple formula; let me broaden this to \u2018How do you win arguments?\u02bc Logic rarely wins arguments. Look at a recent example of people panic buying toilet paper \u2014\u00a0 it\u02bcs the emotion of fear that is driving them. The first step is to affirm and validate people\u02bcs fears: \u201cI can understand where you\u02bcre coming from.\u201d If you come across as an adversary, as someone trying to change their minds, they are going to box you in and disregard everything you say. So how do you validate someone\u02bcs point of view? Figure out why they are feeling that way. Ask them: \u201cDo you think this way because of that belief?\u201d \u201cAre you concerned about this?\u201d Then you figure out what ELSE they believe, that is in CONFLICT with that initial belief. For example, let\u2019s say a friend of yours says, \u201cI want to buy all the hand sanitisers at the pharmacy.\u201d Then you say, \u201cBut that means the sanitisers are going to run out of stock.\u201d \u201cYeah.\u201d \u201cSo, other people\u02bcs hands will be dirty.\u201d \u201cYeah.\u201d \u201cDo you want to have more sick people?\u201d \u201cNo.\u201d The technical term is cognitive dissonance \u2014 you sometimes need to have 2-3 months of conversations to figure out the contrasting belief that cannot logically coexist with the first belief. What piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to overcome their fears? Once you are clear on your purpose, you have a very specific direction you\u02bcre heading to. Here\u2019s a test for identifying your purpose: If you read a lot about it, if you talk to a lot of people about it, that\u2019s your purpose. To sum up, here are the lessons learnt from my illuminating talk with Azran: \t Be Willing to Start\u00a0 The first step is finding your purpose \u2014 what drives you to make a change? \t Identify Your Thinking Traps\u00a0 Have you been stuck in a thinking trap like \u201cAll or nothing\u201d, \u201cBlack and White\u201d thinking?\u00a0 Find them and change them. \t Who Will be Your Mirrors?\u00a0 Who are the objective people that you trust, have your best interests at heart, and who will give you feedback and observations that make you go \u201chuh!\u201d? \t Frequency Builds Momentum The more you do something, the more momentum you build, and the less fear you feel doing it. For more stories like this, read: Real People: How To Spot A Leader, A Follower, and A Rebel and Malaysians, what are some of the fears you\u2019ve conquered so far?