No-one knows fear quite like Jason Fox. He joined the Royal Marines at 16, and spent over a decade in the Special Forces, acting as a counter terrorism and demolition expert, not to mention a combat swimmer.
He is also the latest guest on the Gentleman’s Journal podcast. In an interview where the 41-year-old tells us about his upbringing, the arduous Marines training process and how he has made the transition into a television presenter in later life, we asked the former military man how he deals with fear, and overcomes adversity. Here are the key 8 tips and techniques you can apply in everyday life…
Perseverance is key
When Fox decided to join the military, he was initially turned away from the careers office because he couldn’t complete the first physical test. Did this stop him?
“I decided what I was going to do, and there was a careers office not far from where we lived. I walked in, and there was this older guy who told me to get on a pull-up bar and try to do some pull-ups,” says Fox. “I did a few, but not enough. He told me to come back in a few weeks’ time. I came back, did enough and then went on to the next phase of training.”
Don’t focus on your fear or pain
The training for the Royal Marines is famously difficult. But it wasn’t the Endurance Course, or 30 mile speed march that Fox found the most difficult to complete.
“I found the Tarzan assault course the worst,” he reveals. “It’s only 13 minutes, but it’s pretty much 13 minutes of sheer hell. I don’t know if I ever found that happy place, I think I just switched off. It’s easy for me to switch off. Just plod on, take in the scenery.”
Focus on making a difference
If you’re worried about failing to make a difference, or have an effect on proceedings, take a chance, says Fox. It’s worse to take a back seat and fail than it is to take a chance.
“There’re a lot of awesome, awesome soldiers in the Marines, and only some make it to Special Forces,” says the military man. “In Special Forces, you’re given a lot more autonomy — a lot more rope to hang yourself with, basically. You’re left alone, to get on with it. You’ve all got a voice and an element of say in the plans. So you know that you’re a strategic asset. You know you’re having a big impact.”
If you train, you’re more likely to succeed
As a combat swimmer, Fox spent more time than most underwater, swimming around three feet under the surface in pitch black with apparatus. But was he scared? According to Fox, the extensive training quelled his fears.
“I don’t know whether anyone really enjoys that,” he laughs. “But, when you knew you had a week’s worth of diving coming up — and most of the stuff you do is of night, as well — it takes a while to get used to. They ease you into it, but you can’t see, and every time you have a nightmare and get something tangled up. There’s always a drama. But the training prepares you. When something happens, you know what to do.”
Don’t ever panic in a bad situation
As a combat diver, Fox quickly learned that panic is your enemy. Fear is healthy, but the moment you let it take hold of you, you’ll be overwhelmed.
“Be calm and collected,” advises the former diver. “You know that you need to be calm. If you start panicking, it’ll all go pear-shaped pretty quickly. Throughout your military career, they put you in difficult situations until you start to relax. Until you’re used to that pressure, and you know you can handle that situation. And that allows you to remain quite calm.”
Take a breath and slow things down
Whatever the situation, Fox advises that when confronted by fear your first move should be to take a breath, take a beat and slow things down.
“You have the ability to take a deep breath and slow things down,” he says. “Take a moment, compose yourself — don’t start flapping — and then deal with what you have to deal with. Don’t squirm around like a headless chicken, because then everything will go wrong. You can usually slow a situation down. Breath. Take whatever you need, be that six seconds or six minutes. And then swing into action.”
Be confident in yourself
It can be difficult, when shaken, to believe that you have the skills and resolve to overcome a bad situation. But Fox, who admits most of his strength came from those around him, says that confidence is a key part of succeeding against fear.
“Take confidence in yourself,” he says. “Know that you’re capable of something. And, if there’s a team around you, then look around and take confidence from them.”
Let yourself feel the fear
After living and fighting through combat and warzones, Fox has learned that while you can overcome fear, you can’t escape it. As such, you can’t ignore it, and must embrace it — as he did when he felt the most scared of his entire career…
“I was in the middle of a gunfight, laying in a ditch, taking cover,” says Fox. “And it was later on in my career as well, so it wasn’t something I wasn’t used to. But I had a feeling coming over me, just for a few seconds, that I wanted to be back at home as a 10-year-old with my mum.
“And I think that was the emotion of fear setting in, and I wanted to go to a happy place. But I gave myself a slap around the face — metaphorically — and took confidence in myself.”
Jason Fox: How to conquer fear
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