Fear, Courage and Leadership

fear-courageThis morning in a one-to-one with a client, I was once again reminded how much and how easily even the seemingly most successful people can be derailed from handling the roadblocks and potholes they encounter in life. From my perspective, what stops each of us is fear. It is unconsciously and instantaneously triggered when our Survival Brain connects something in the present with an experience stored in our mental File Cabinet from early childhood. I've heard those incidents described in various ways. John Eldredge in his "Wild At Heart" talks about our "original wound."  I usually think of the very bottom of the barrel as that first negative declaration I made about myself, "I'm no damn good!"  Scratch that one and I'm on my knees.  No way am I going forward, I'm out of here.

As early as 1937 Napoleon Hill, in writing his book "Think and Grow Rich," thought taking on fear was so important that he devoted 48 pages of a 374-page book to it.

Chapter 56 of Yann Martel's wonderful book, "The Life of Pi," is the most effective short piece about fear that I have ever read.  After arguing the importance of expressing your fear by "shine[ing] the light of words upon it" he delivers the coup de grace: "Because If you don't, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you."

In his new book "Five Questions That Change Everything," John Scherer's first question is "What Confronts Me?"  His very first chapter, Facing Your Tiger, starts digging right in where Yann Martel is pointing us.  You can get a samplefive_questions_cover1 of the discussion in John's blog post, Survival Principle #7: Face Your Tigers

As he says, "the bottom line: if you run away from a tiger, your chances of survival are essentially zero.  But, they say, if you turn and face the tiger, you may stand a chance."  He concludes with "Because, let's face it, (so to speak), if you are not facing one of your 'tigers', it's already eating you." 

For me there is a recipe for approaching is creating your fear and for finding your courage.  It's not easy, but it's worth a try.

1) Ask yourself "what are the attributes of the relationship or situation I am confronting (avoiding) if it all turned out beyond my wildest dreams,"  i.e., invent your Yonder Star for the relationship or situation.

2) Pick a modest goal on the path to that Yonder Star.

3) Write a brief Purpose and Intended Outcomes for the conversation(s) you are going to have. Ask what space am I trying to create and what specific results will be achieved?

4) Commit yourself to your goal - face your tiger!

5) Summon your courage. For this purpose I define courage as the willingness to enter into a seemingly dangerous conversation with no idea how you will get back out of it, let alone fulfill your Purpose and Intended Outcomes.

6) Engage. Share your Yonder Star and your commitment. Be vulnerable.

7) Listen and ask questions.

8) Never give up. If you fail, schedule the next round, as many times as necessary.

What have you found powerful to access breakthroughs in courage and your desired outcomes?