Fear is a primal element of the human condition. It is natural, necessary – and not always helpful. Fear has two primary functions. The natural side of fear is intrinsically tied to our sense of survival – it’s a self preservation mechanism. The unnatural (and more problematic) side of fear expresses itself as a fictional playwright, projecting all manner of potentially unpleasant, negative outcomes.
I recall as a small child looking over the edge of the Grand Canyon. Something inside me pulled back. My body knew that one step over that ledge and it would be game over.
This natural fear was being my friend, triggering an instinctive reaction that protected me.
Years later, a swimming instructor showed me the process of diving into the water off the end of the boat dock. This seemed like so much fun until I put my toes on the wooden edge and stared down at the ocean below me. I couldn’t see beneath the surface. There was no way of knowing what was below the surface, so I couldn’t jump. It took a lot of coaching and convincing to get me to do it.
This projected fear was being my foe. There was no real danger – I’d swam out and around that old dock dozens of times.
My first time snow skiing proved to be a fearful (actually terrifying) experience. Atop a black diamond slope, I turned into a human icle, frozen in place. Ski patrol had to take me off the mountain in a rescue sled.
I’m a business consultant, my job is to help business people understand the value of natural fear and the potentially deadly results of unnecessary projected fear. The best place to really get under this concept was to start with me.
I needed to know the why behind my own debilitating fear; so, I became a ski instructor. As a martial arts instructor I learned so much myself from teaching others to deal with their fear of a physical confrontation. I prayed the same thing would play out for me in teaching others to ski. It worked. Being in the company of really amazing ski instructors was, frankly, intimidating – I was so not in their league. It was also a huge blessing – an opportunity to learn from the best.
Now, after 21 seasons as a certified ski instructor, it’s become evident that people who enjoy skiing challenging terrain have befriended the very thing that novice skiers fear, the pull of gravity – the fall line. The rest struggle against an unyielding force.
It’s the same in business. Those who develop the mindset and skill set to enjoy navigating challenging business terrain succeed, happily. The rest allow fear to hold them back, possibly frozen in place.
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