Whence “fear”?

So what’s with all this talk about fear anyhow?

A lot of friends contacted me directly about my last two posts, asking one of two things:

1. Were you writing about me?

2. What are you so afraid of, anyhow?

I shouldn’t have been surprised by the reaction.  First, because it’s a little taboo to admit that you have real fears.  And second, because all of us – but especially us over-schooled folks who have been rewarded throughout our lives for understanding the rules and playing by them – were taught to internalize fear.  Fear can drive you to get good grades.  Fear can get you into the right schools.  Fear can make you a good employee – for a while, at least.

(And I’m not saying that being terrified gets you success.  I’m saying that staying within the lines – first at school, and then at work – works pretty well in most places for at least a while.  And staying within the lines and following all the rules can teach you to be afraid of breaking out, afraid of putting yourself in a situation where there are no lines or rules.)

So why is fear on my mind right now?  It’s because a friend and great supporter of mine has been asking me to look myself in the mirror and figure out what’s keeping me from that next professional breakthrough.

So what’s my answer?  Since I’m pretty good at explaining things (to myself as much as to others) my first reaction is full of explanations: “Well, it’s because…” I begin.

And there are, to be sure, good reasons.  But if I think there’s a kernel of truth in the question I’m being asked, if I think it’s possible that being more fearless would help, isn’t it appropriate to explore:  How much do I believe these explanations?   Do I believe them completely?  Do I believe I’m acting like I really want to break through (which is different from thinking and saying I want to break through)?  And by acting, I mean structuring all my time and all my days around getting there – and being willing to sacrifice the urgent for the important?

Am I doing a good job?  Yes.  Is what I want to accomplish hard? Yes. Important? Yes.  Worth putting myself on the line for? Yes.

So am I doing everything I could?  No, probably not.

I bet you’re in the same situation: you’re doing a good enough job too.   You want to accomplish hard, important things that are worth putting yourself on the line for.  And you too could do more than you are right now, you could commit and re-commit yourself, and doing so would help you get there.

And if I can pass along the nudge that I’m getting to all of you…    Well then I’ve done my part to give a gift as valuable as the one I’ve received.

So that’s what all the talk about fear is about.  It’s a gift.

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One thought on “Whence “fear”?

  1. Great post! Fear can be constraining and stimulating. The periods of constraint yield learning. The periods of stimulation yield learning.
    Fear can be shared. Sharing yields learning.
    Whence fear? My response has been to join The Glory of Failure – a new-born campaign to lift the taboo of failure in society, reduce the constraints of fear and share the learning.

    It’s not the only answer to fear, but it’s a good start.

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