How to Overcome Fear – Lessons from Firefighter and Luger, Caroline Paul (#151)


Caroline Paul (@carowriter) is a blast and can also probably kick my ass… seriously.

Caroline is the author of four published books. Her latest is the New York Times best seller The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure.

Once a young scaredy-cat, Caroline decided that fear got in the way of the life she wanted–of excitement, confidence, and self-reliance. She has since flown planes, rafted big rivers, climbed tall mountains, and fought fires as one of the first female firefighters in San Francisco.

In this episode, we discuss various types of fear and how to overcome them, using stories, habits, and tactics.

If you only have a couple of minutes, you might find this section valuable.


#151: How to Overcome Fear - Lessons from Firefighter and Luger, Caroline Paul

Want to hear another podcast featuring a daring woman who challenges perceived limitations? — Listen to my conversation with Amelia Boone. In this episode, we discuss how she beats 99% of men in endurance races like the World’s Toughest Mudder (stream below or right-click here to download):

#127: Amelia Boone on Beating 99% of Men and Suffering for a High-Performance Life

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What creates the most fear in your life, and how might you overcome this fear? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode | Gutsy Girl Club on Instagram | The Gutsy Girl Website

Show Notes

  • On Chris Sacca’s excellent introductions [6:18]
  • Providing context for “pulling a dead body from the bay” [7:51]
  • The story of the milk cartons [12:13]
  • On “free range” parenting [18:13]
  • How Caroline Paul became a firefighter [22:02]
  • How fighting fires works [27:28]
  • What makes a good firefighter [33:13]
  • On being the 15th woman in an organization of 1,500 men [37:36]
  • Life lessons from fighting fires [39:28]
  • Specific memories from medical calls as a firefighter [41:11]
  • Most terrifying moments [46:41]
  • Strategies for prioritizing fear and other emotions [50:58]
  • On coming out in the 1980s [54:33]
  • The thinking behind the op-ed, “Why Do We Teach Girls That It’s Cute to Be Scared [1:01:53]
  • Most gifted books [1:09:55]
  • Caroline Paul’s current workout routine [1:10:43]
  • The path to the Olympics [1:11:55]
  • When you think of the word successful, who is the first person who comes to mind and why? [1:23:31]
  • Three books Caroline Paul would give every college graduate[1:25:50]
  • Most important historical figures [1:27:34]
  • If you could have one billboard anywhere, what would it say and why? [1:32:30]
  • Morning and daily routines [1:32:53]
  • Do you wish people would break more bones as kids? [1:37:05]
  • Caroline Paul’s request to the audience [1:40:21]

People Mentioned


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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47 Replies to “How to Overcome Fear – Lessons from Firefighter and Luger, Caroline Paul (#151)”

  1. QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: Have you ever broken a bone?

    5 broken Ribs, Broken Shoulder in one unfortunate bike ride…

    Was some learning experience for sure.

    Taught me how to work WITH pain.

  2. Great podcast… “Fear is important because it’s there to keep us safe” – wow, what a great way of thinking. What a life she has – so many amazing lessons. Gets me excited to learn to choose which fears to keep and which ones to let go.

    Thanks Tim for giving me this opportunity to listen to a brave person sharing this world with me.

  3. QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: Have you ever broken a bone? Not as of today, however, I do have plenty of scars from the adventures. I am an ultra runner so I enjoy to push the distance, seek the toughest races and enjoy the feat while I am on it. Thank you for having Caroline on the show and Thank you Caroline for writing these books to help girls be fearless.

    “Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.”

    ― Seneca

    “The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests. ”

    ― Epictetus

  4. The second day the podcast is up – an amazing podcast I must say and ONLY 2 comments? And both from women???!!!

    Ha??? :))

    I was really inspired by the message!

    Thank you Tim for Caroline!

    Her message about fear and courage, bravery really touched me.

    I do challenge my own fears a lot but I could do so much more.

    And those fears are so much a part of the family and social “girl” education. So much stuff the girl is supposed and not supposed to do, to be…And it gets you and holds you down. A lot.

    Women are strong. Really strong mentally and emotionally. There is nothing that can stop a woman when she believes in the cause. And so much potential and talent is wasted in women cause we are raised not to stick out too much. Be quiet. Polite. Careful. Thoughtful of everything and anyone.

    1. Curious what are the fears you most need to work on? I know plenty of men who were raised not to stick out too much, too. Pretty interesting.

  5. Awesome interview and helping women to be fearless , not only fear holds us back and has a “cost tag” to it too.Costing us to final achieve our goals. will be buying your new book.

  6. Incredibly inspiring and I’d love to see her back on the podcast. Caroline is inspiring me to place more emphasis with my daughters on conquering your fears. I’m afraid of heights and I have a life goal to climb all the high mountains in Scotland in winter. No broken bones so far …..

    Divorce and a life changing operation in a foreign country without family or friends taught me a lesson or two about conquering your fears but I had never given much thought to how important conquering your physical fears is.

    Thank you for having such an inspiring woman on the podcast. More!!!

    1. I hear you. The thing is they sleep, eat, drink, poop, laugh and cry just like you and I. Tim talks a lot about how to approach people. I have found with kindness, sincerity, and a graceful, guilt free way out is always helpful. You’ve got this. Approach one this week and face that fear, Chris!

    1. Thanks for sharing that article. Studies like that become popular fast and easy. They should be questioned. In fact, anything that becomes popular fast in today’s society should be questioned. I lost my trust in The New York Times after they shoved Caitlin Jenner down our throats on social media every half an hour when she came out. They don’t write about her anymore, because her endorsing Cruz was a good slap on their face. but it doesn’t matter, she got what she wanted. She easily manipulated her way in a historic, rooted media source like NYT. So to say, take everything with a grain and salt. I still read very good articles in it but I think, the most unbiased news source that doesn’t give in to popular ideas is The Economist.

  7. I was surprised about your question to Caroline about “sensitive people.” First – it was quite loaded, and second – who are you to say who should or shouldn’t reactive negatively to comments or situations? Caroline noted that coming out is easier now than in the 1980s. Perhaps that’s because of our so-called PC culture. I won’t stand for someone disparaging me as a woman…at one time I was told to “take a joke.” I really loved the interview and marvel at Caroline!

  8. Very cool episode. I’ve only fractured my foot in highschool. The nurse didn’t believe me so I had to walk on it the whole day( gym was first period) and walk home after.

    You should see if you can get Carol Dweck on from the book Mindset or Barbara Oakley who wrote a Mind for numbers. Both great books on learning and personal growth.

  9. Wow, awesome podcast. I have to say I agree with Caroline that fear is not the enemy. You can’t be against it, because often times it acts as a roadmap to happiness. Needless to say, some the challenges Caroline faced were “fear-worthy.” However, many of our daily fears are very trivial (talking to the people we find attractive, starting a new business, etc.) We fear them because if we fail, our ego will take a hit. But that’s an illusion. If you begin to practice the things you fear, you will feel alive. Fear often points in the direction of change and happiness. Ask yourself why you aren’t doing the things that you fear.

    If you discover that change is what you really fear, go for it. Do the things you’re afraid of. Be brave.

    Before you know it, your identity will evolve, and you will have accomplished crazy things.

  10. by far one of the best interviews to a woman on your podcast! smart, insightful and tim-ferris type.. love this interview!

  11. Great interview. Different content than I expected, but still germane as I am about to attempt to embark on a potential huge life change. I’m normally not risk averse, but making a leap solo that may have drastic impact to my financial stability (but hopefully uptick happiness).

    P.S. Bonus points for referencing Princess Bride, Tim!

  12. thank you Tim,

    Caroline Paul Rocks,

    Love her energy. “BRAVERY Paradigm” So good!!!

    really great woman. I will do my best to send all the women I know to her books. I agree with the be afraid paradigm. I have seen it in action. I will do my best to encourage women to strike the wonder woman pose. so good.

    thanks again.

  13. There was something really special about this interview that I can’t put my finger on. I really enjoyed the more personal nature of the interview…I really hope there is a part 2. Tim is phenomenal at everything he does…I just love the podcasts especially where you can sense how much Tim is enjoying his interview subject. This is definitely one I sensed that. Thanks always Tim for giving us access to such amazing people you bring on!

  14. Very good episode. I can relate to the views here in so many ways.

    We also had Nat Geo magazines at home. The Economist, Der Spiegel, Stern, Newsweek so on. My father spoke 5 languages fluently. To say that he was an avid reader would be an understatement. If he could he would read even in his sleep. We had a room full of books. All the classics, books about religions, history, sociology, art and science. He used to show up with a different interesting person every night. I used to say goodnight to a German and say good morning to a French. Naturally I am the same way now.

    About ‘getting over yourself’, I think it is a lot to do with your upbringing and then how much hardship you go through in your adult life. Can you really teach an adult to grow tick skin or not to take things personal? I think, one learns it subconsciously through life experience. Not from books. Books only improve the potential if you already have the humility in you.

    I’ve always been an impulsive person. I’ve done a lot of dangerous things. I had fun but I also had very dark times as a result of taking impulsive decisions. You go through so much bs, you start asking yourself “maybe I should think about it hard and long this time instead of just going for it.” You know if you keep making the same mistakes, you are a fool. But at the same time, not being spontaneous makes a boring a*s life. I guess I am fearful of my ever changing mind. And that connects to bigger fears.

    Thanks for this delightful episode. xx (Fifty shades of fire. lol)

  15. This is one of my favorite episodes yet! Really inspired by Caroline, will send her book to all of the young women and girls I know. It really sounds like she had so much more to say…bring her back, soon, Tim!

  16. There is a powerful energy behind a wave of fear. Get your surfboard ready! Thank you Tim for having Caroline on the podcast. I’m an avid listener of your podcasts. From an empowerment perspective this was the best. Please bring Caroline back!

  17. Huge fan, although been struggling to get through entire podcasts. Perhaps I’ve outgrown Tim’s style, but my patience is challenged. I’m not obsessed with his stream of consciousness, I’d like a faster exchange (and I appreciate the unpacking of ideas of course). So many asides and interruptions. Star Talk has it down great; concise and to the point w/ some fun tangents as well. I’d love to get back into Tim, but am struggling 🙁

  18. great episode, loved it.

    you know who you should interview? michael stevens from Vsauce, the guy made a youtube empire with more than 15 million subscribers just by talking about science.

  19. ‘The Things They Carried’ by Tim O’Brien is one of the great books. The audio version narrated by Bryan Cranston will break you.

  20. I loved this episode! Tim – awesome questions on this one. Caroline is phenomenal; looking up her books right now. I’d love to hear a future podcast about how/why she started flying. Tim, you should interview Jia Jiang, author of Rejection Proof (aka the YouTube sensation that asked if he could get donuts in the shape of Olympic rings at Krispy Kreme). He can delve into similar subjects that you were talking about with Caroline, like doing something that scares you every day. Keep up the great work with your podcasts!

  21. A badass is a badass. Gender is irrelevant.

    The caveat to your male listeners came across as sexist. It was completely unnecessary.

    You only need to state a persons accomplishments regarding the topic.

    Bringing up gender & asking men to stay & listen “even though she’s a gurl”. Dude. Really?!

    It’s good to assume your male listeners are evolved enough to recognize badassery & won’t care about gender. Because I suspect that is very very true.

    I believe you meant no harm. Honestly I do.

    I believe it’s good to learn how things come across. Because I believe you are a person who strives to improve their craft.

  22. Very good listen, thanks Tim and Caroline! Talking about having trouble getting to sleep…maybe skip the strong coffee in the morning?? Taking out the caffeine really helps me fall asleep straight away 🙂

  23. I have found my Bill Board answer: “Do not hesitate to get therapy.” A similar thing happened to me in 6th grade. We were playing smear the ****. A big girl had the ball and I was trying to pull it out of her hand. She kicked me with her best shot right in the nads. I was on the ground for the rest of the game.

  24. Tim – when you thanked David Pocock for his feedback, did you know who he is? (

    His family fled from Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, he’s now an environmental activist, LGBT campaigner, charity advocate – oh, and probably the best rugby player on the planet (

    He’d make an amazing podcast guest – would love to hear you interview him!

  25. Great podcast as usual Tim, as a father of boys and uncle of nieces I have always encouraged both with risk taking, and so glad to hear Caroline’s research backs my action, our future can not have brave women and men without brave girls and boys.

  26. I just listened to the podcast with Charles Poliquin – was about to get stuck into your recommended kettle bell swing routine for perfect posterior but Charles said the kbs were contra-indicated. Do you still recommend the kettle bell swing in light of Charles’s comments?

  27. Thanks Tim,

    I enjoyed listening to this episode.

    I don´t fully agree to the broken bone thing. I (39) never had any broken bones although I like climbing, swimming, cycling, horse riding, soccer, basketball, pingpong, skiing and so on. Two reasons come to mind why I never had this problem:

    1) I think I´m good in controlling my body and not putting myself at risky situations that are not or not mainly created by other people, or risks I don´t fully understand. Example: If you start paragliding, I guess you need to understand the technology and the materials (created by other people) the physics (understood before by other people) , the movements and so on.

    2) I´m not after/ don´t believe in the adrenalin kick. In this sence, overcoming fear has nothing to do with being outside of the comfort zone. If you want to challenge yourself, you have to think of the longterm effect which can only be: It must add to your admiration of the world, the nature, the universe, and it must make your mind stronger in the long run.

    : )

    Climb on!


  28. Seems appropriate that next female guest should be the “Queen of Pain”(aka:Rebecca Rusch). Similar but @ same time vastly different story from Caroline!

  29. This was a great episode and addressed many levels of living through fear. In my experience fear is often a contrast to our true nature- Lila, or Divine Play, as the yogi’s say- a way to experience limitation and transform it… or not as so many get stuck in the ruts of limited thoughts and beliefs. Through willingness and some structure it’s pretty easy to transform the fear into something useful.

  30. Does anyone remember the name of the Bozeman ski mobile place? I have sifted through the audio but cannot find it.

    thanks in advance.

  31. Dear Tim

    Some thoughts on courage after reading Tools of Titans (well 3/4ths through – it’s amazing and really changing how I see myself as an educator) and hearing it on the podcast – this is just from my own experience…n=1, not statistically significant.

    All of the most courageous people I admire has had a failure of courage at some point in their lives: Mandela & Caroline Paul are two great examples. And all of them responded with some version of “I will not let this happen again”.

    We tend to think of courage as a fixed attribute. I have x% courage and y% chicken shit. It’s not a fixed attribute. It’s somewhere between a choice and a skill (and there is a habit dimension to it too). It’s always a decision.

    It comes in different flavours. Some of us are courageous in the face of physical danger. Others are brave in those harder to define arenas. The guy who can tell his friend “don’t be that guy” instead of just being a bystander – doesn’t that take courage? It takes courage to speak up for another when there are negative consequences for yourself. Or what about the courage it takes to listen, really listen (instead of getting defensive) to your partner when they are telling you how your actions have hurt them?

    We have a freeze, flight or fight response. The fight response is often seen as more courageous (or right) by many western cultures. All three of those responses should be part of our “courage arsenal”. Held up at gun point with more than one attacker and you don’t have SEAL training? Freezing is the correct response. The idea is to calibrate your response to the environment and the moment.

    We see fear as an emotion that needs to be fought and conquered but perhaps it is more like anger. When you try to suppress it, it gets harder and harder to manage. But when we learn to get comfortable with the discomfort (as Josh Waitzkin describes in his book about facing cheater in the ring) anger becomes a great support. He describes he could feel a shift in his body chemistry when he started mastering anger that way. Fear can do the same for us but first we need to “make friends with it” (Both Josh’s approach and Caroline Paul’s approach are really practical and powerful).

    “How do you become a man in a world that does not require courage?” There is room for debating here but I really think the whole basis for this question is wrong. A life worth living will always require courage. Always. Our perception about what is courageous is skewed in favour of the “visible” bravery that we see in action movies. But courage is so much more than that.

    But thank you again for Tools of Titans. It’s really an incredible tome of practical wisdom.

  32. LOVED this! My friend and I took a month long road trip back west in our 20’s. We slept out of her car, tents in national parks, hostels, and an occasional hotel. It was a trip of a lifetime. Now that we are busy suburban moms, we plan to meet when we are 50 to do the Pacific Northwest. We were thinking of doing this in a more “mature” way in hotels etc. But after listening to this podcast, we are rethinking this! Let the adventure begin! Thank you Caroline for bringing that adventurous spirit back!