Fear and Vision

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (P.S.)

Fear paralyzes; sometimes we allow it to, calling it “caution”. It’s good to be cautious.  Not so good to be paralyzed. Either by over-analysis OR by fear.

(Though, extreme analysis can combat fear; see Freakonomics for the statistics on child restraints…)

A good nugget from Tim Ferriss’s Four-Hour Workweek is this (paraphrased):

The thought of the “worst-case scenario” keeps us from acting, yet the worst-case scenario almost never occurs.

My daughter just turned nine. I hate letting her out of my sight, and that’s only exacerbated by the recent events in Evansdale, Iowa. Yet, this is the first summer that we’ve let her walk the two blocks to the local pool all by herself. It makes me nervous. “What if something happens!?” I think.

Reason says this: no kid, in my memory, has gotten fatally injured or abducted on the way to our local pool, at least not in the last 13 years. The odds of the worst-case scenario are minuscule. Yet I feel a touch of fear.

And feelings matter; research shows that 80% of decisions we make are based on feelings; only 20% on logic/reason. When we feel fear, we can get paralyzed; that’s no way to live, and no way to run an organization.

Looking at the people you lead: Do they feel safe? Safe to err? Safe to go about their work? Safe to over-achieve? It’s good to ask this question from time to time.

Looking in the mirror: What are you hesitating about, due to picturing the “worst-case scenario?” What rules or restrictions do you place on yourself – or your people – because of “what could happen?”

Ever been in a situation where a new rule was enacted, “just in case?” I think of all the schools and workplaces that block social media, for example.

What are you afraid of? Lack of productivity? Sheesh, they’ll just turn to their phones, which takes longer. In this case, spend your efforts on figuring out how to engage people so well that they don’t want to use social media at the wrong times.

The perfect real-life example is having children. No one can ever afford kids before they’re here; but rare is the person who says “Man, shouldn’t have had those kids. Wish I had more money instead.”

Recognize the paralysis of fear for what it is; step outside and above it and trace it to its irrational roots, look at the facts, then act.

Two books to read back-to-back to sort out facts that mislead, and feelings that mislead, are these: Blink (Malcolm Gladwell) and Freakonomics (Steven Levitt).

3 Responses

  1. Michael Albarracin
    | Reply

    Wow! This is the most insightful post yet Alan. This one really speaks to me more than past ones you have written and I have sincerely enjoyed the weekly posts. Maybe it’s because I’m a parent now or approaching a new decade in life that I’m starting to challenge my preconceived notions. Thanks for the post!

  2. Alan Feirer
    | Reply

    Thanks for the feedback, Michael. Being a parent does alter perspective, to be sure. Appreciate the engagement!

  3. Sally Wilke
    | Reply


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