Your efforts to lead, manage, and sell often fail because of people’s fears. The fear may be disguised as resistance, indecision, lack of creativity, poor communication or reluctance to take responsibility. You can work on the symptoms forever, but the big rewards come from dealing with the fundamental fears we all share.
We promise according to our hopes and
perform according to our fears.
— La Rochefoucauld
I painted a lot of houses when I was a teenager. Each season, when school let out, I had to force myself up the ladder again. I didn’t look down, I maintained a white knuckle grip, I kept as much of my body in contact with the ladder as possible. The occasional trips across a plank between ladders were performed sitting down with one hand on the wall. Every sway and breeze was a stomach churning calamity. Some say acrophobia isn’t a fear of heights but a fear of falling and hitting, but that wasn’t true for me. I didn’t think about falling. My body just hated being up there. Over the course of a few days I got more accustomed to being on the ladder and by the end of the summer I even made a few trips across the plank standing up. The fear never went away. I just managed it better. The next season it would be back, full force.
Why would anyone do that to themselves? Why did I tolerate so much discomfort? Why would I place myself in situations which brought up so much fear? The reason, ironically, was (more…)
Dar and I were childhood friends who met at a trampoline school.
One day we climbed a ladder up to a billboard, high above the roof of the school, and dove off, landing on a soft pad below. I climbed to the fifth rung; Dar just kept climbing. Ten years later, he was one of the most daring and successful stuntmen of modern times.
For one of his stunts, Dar had to run full tilt forward, spin around backward, crash through a glass window, fall sixteen stories, and then do a somersault with a half twist, before dropping into an airbag. Any miscalculation or mistake would have cost him his life.
Dar’s stunts included diving off the top of the Capitol Records building in Los Angeles, leaping from a helicopter hovering at three hundred feet to land in an airbag (that looked the size of a postage stamp below), and driving a car off the rim of (more…)
Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments in my life, I’m hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.
Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life. I know most of the right questions and even some of the right answers. But once in a while, as I’m merrily (or not so merrily) swinging along, I look ahead of me into the distance, and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It’s empty, and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has (more…)
A great article in the New York Times, a few highlights:
Paul J. H. Schoemaker, chairman of Decision Strategies International…
“We get fixated on achievement,” he said, but, “everyone is talking about the need to innovate. If you already know the answer, it’s not learning. In most personal and business contexts, if you avoid the error, you avoid the learning process.”
We grow up with a mixed message: making mistakes is a necessary learning tool, but we should avoid them.
Carol S. Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, has studied this and related issues for decades.
“Studies with children and adults show that a large percentage cannot tolerate mistakes or setbacks,” she said.
- We are risk-averse because “our personal and professional pride is tied up in being right. Employees are rewarded for good decisions and penalized for failures, so they spend a great deal of time and energy trying not to make mistakes.”
- We tend to favor data that confirms our beliefs.
- We assume feedback is reliable, although in reality it is often lacking or misleading. We don’t often look outside tested channels.