How Fearlessness Can Become Your Superpower for Good
Polio Survivor and Fighter Ina Pinkney Shares Her Story
Devin: Ina, what is your superpower?
Ina: Oh, I might have that Wonder Woman costume right under my top—I'm not sure. My superpower is that I'm fearless. I am never reckless, but I am fearless.
You can watch the full interview with Ina here: ina.s4g.biz.
Ina Pinkney began learning to be fearless as a childhood survivor of polio. Ina could climb the three flights of stairs to her assigned room but needed extra time, so school administrators allowed her to enter the building early. During fire drills, she was allowed to remain in the classroom. My mind can’t help but wonder now if there had been an actual fire, would she have been allowed to remain in the classroom?
She remembers being bullied by other kids as a six-year-old. “I understood at that point that I could not cower but had to find some power to go up against that.” She recognized that they were not kind, but she knew she would not treat other kids that way. She sees facing those bullies as the beginning of building fearlessness.
Ina had 21 jobs in her career. “I was fired from 19,” she says. The pinnacle of her career was owning and running “Ina’s,” an American food restaurant in the West Loop Market District of Chicago, for 23 years.
Her fearlessness was critical to starting that business. She’d never run a restaurant before. Her only relevant experience was eating. “I knew that I could do it,” she says. “I just knew it because I had seen everything around me, and I knew I could be better than that.” So, she did.
After joining Rotary, primarily because of its global leadership in the fight to end polio, Ina found a new opportunity to use her superpower: public speaking. As a polio survivor, Rotary District Governors invited her to speak at District Conferences facing audiences of hundreds of people. The Governors expected her to motivate Rotarians to continue donating to a cause that was starting to feel endless.
Ina says it takes “fearlessness to stand up there and say, this is who I am. This is not who you think I am. This is who I really am.” Rotary has rewarded her courage with more speaking invitations, including a prominent role in the 2018 World Polio Day, jointly hosted by Rotary and the World Health Organization.
Her work is bearing results. As of July 30, 2021, there have been just two polio cases from wild poliovirus globally this year.
Ina has taken control of her life, overcame her disability, and made a difference in the world of polio eradication because she is fearless.
How to Develop Fearlessness as a Superpower
Many people sometimes allow fear to prevent them from doing things they could do and want to do. Perhaps you have. If you would like to overcome a fear limiting your impact, success or happiness, Ina has a few insights for you. She joined me for a second interview you can see at ina2.s4g.biz.
Learn by Example
You don’t need to go through everything Ina has to overcome your fear. Ina’s solution is simple. Learn from the examples of the courageous people you know, from public icons to your friends and neighbors. Watch those who are doing what you’d like to do and repeat their steps.
“It takes less energy to be courageous than it does to be afraid,” Ina says. Her favorite example of this is Oprah Winfrey, who was famously nervous about having her ears pierced. At age 51, after decades of worry, because she was afraid it would hurt, she got it done.
Think about the energy she wasted being nervous about two quick sticks that barely hurt and enabled her to wear earrings that are less likely to fall off—something that matters if you’ve got diamonds in both ears. Imagine how much less energy she would have used to have done it 20 or 30 years earlier.
Whenever you do something that requires more courage than having your ears pierced, chant the mantra, “I am more courageous than Oprah! I am fearless!”
Ina used her superpower to go skydiving. While most people are reluctant to hurl themselves from a perfectly good aircraft, she says she felt only excitement and not fear as she did so.
Honestly, I was skeptical when she said so. I thought, of course, she was afraid. But she overcame it and did it anyway. Ina says she wasn’t scared because she prepared.
She reminded me that she is “never reckless.” She had talked to her friend, Julian, who helped with the jump. She knew everything to expect. There were no surprises. She even had a watch with an altimeter. She was ready. And she was fearless.
Ina uses that same approach to prepare for everything. When she enters a room, she stops at the doorway, assesses the room and prepares mentally for whatever may come. “I then own the room,” she says. “I own the room because I have prepared myself for anything that could happen. People won't talk to me; people will ignore me, whatever. I walk into that room ready.”
By following the examples of others and preparing for anything, you can overcome fear. Imagine what you could do if you weren’t afraid. Now, do it!