Vail Daily column: Make peace with your fear

As the valley comes down from the two-week adrenaline rush engendered by the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships and the attendant crush of concerts and other events, we are left with many lasting impressions. For me, the most poignant images are the downhillers rocketing down the treacherously icy Birds of Prey/Raptor courses. Presumably human, these athletes must experience fear, but to see them pitch themselves headlong down a steep slope, it is hard to reconcile their apprehension with their action. Rather than crippling a racer, fear fuels. In their feats we see our own possibilities and an example emerges: Never let your fear prevent you from chasing what is in your heart.


Fearmongering is a pervasive part of modern existence, used by the powerful to subjugate the meek or as a pretense for pursuing unnecessary ends. One of the earliest tools of governance, manipulation of the populace’s fear continues because it works. Ensconced in relative security, we hesitate to push back for fear of losing what we have even though we may dream of much more. Only the truly brave among our citizenry have transcended their dread to challenge the system, becoming heroes or, too often, martyrs.

In a legal system replete with inequities, fear is often wielded as a weapon to chase away those who are pursuing their rights. This method capitalizes on two related but distinct flavors of fear: of the known and of the unknown.

If a ski racer concentrated only on the consequences of a massive crash, then they would never leave the starting gate or, if they did, would be so distracted that a fall would be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Support Local Journalism


We know what we can see and hear. Among the first things that a litigant perceives once a dispute arises are demand letters or formal complaints and answers. These are documents calculated to bully, to cajole, to obfuscate, to deny, to accuse, to give rise to doubt and its cousin, fear. When used improperly, the missives have no more relation to reality than Freddy Krueger; are as close to ultimate truth as Pinocchio. While never prudent to ignore the other side’s perspective, it is equally problematic to be cowed by it. Own your fear and do not let the other side use it against you.


As a lawsuit progresses, the next scary image may be of a fleet of attorneys present at a hearing or deposition. It is no coincidence that lawyers are often referred to as sharks. It is a facade adopted by many attorneys to instill fear in others and cover feelings of insecurity. Dressed immaculately, sporting a power tie, freshly manicured and coiffed, they attempt to exude an air of invincibility. It is a charade: One shrewd attorney can defeat a cabal. Being an underdog can be terrifying, but if you can transform that horror into confidence, then being underestimated can be a significant advantage. Because the attempted oppressor’s toughness was illusory, a show of strength by their opponent will reverse the power dynamic: the hunter will become the hunted.


The law, an ever-changing concept and one couched in subjectivity, can never be fully known. Its very inscrutability is in and of itself intimidating. The uncertain nature of legal outcomes is one of the reasons that engaging in litigation may not be in a client’s best interests. However, if the decision is made to press forward, then the black hole of the law should be viewed not as something to be feared but as an opportunity for creativity. Because there are so many gray areas in the law, an adept attorney can use his/her skills to persuade the court or jury without being constrained by certainties that are inconvenient to the outcome sought. Rather than being dissuaded by qualms, be encouraged and empowered by them.


Fears to be overcome are not all externally imposed; the most important may come from within. Never be afraid to admit mistakes or to back down from an untenable position. Do not hesitate to seek compromise, even if you are right. There is a huge difference between being chased away by fear and walking away on your own terms. It takes real strength of character to choose not to fight when you clearly have the upper hand.

In an adversarial process, it is not productive to fear failure: One side is inherently going to lose. If a ski racer concentrated only on the consequences of a massive crash, then they would never leave the starting gate or, if they did, would be so distracted that a fall would be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Victory is achieved by acknowledging the massive risks and then putting them aside to concentrate on the actions that are in your control. Be bold but not reckless and it is you that the world will fear.

T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner-mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, or visit

Support Local Journalism