The Fairmont, Calgary, midnight, September 9 2008
I just spent the weekend in a cold Shangri la, otherwise known as Saskatoon. It was chilly and crisp and you can smell the money in the air. I was there to facilitate a two day program with one of Canada’s leading construction companies. I loved it. Two days in a room with 80 owner-leaders who rose through the ranks panel by panel, sheet by sheet, brick by brick. It was a no-holds barred dialogue between people who were willing to confront the brutal facts head on.
This is an organization that is one of Canada’s top 50 managed companies. It’s generating close to half a billion dollars in annual revenue. It rules its industry. And yet it believes it’s driven by fear. What’s more, they’re proud of it. It’s a central message in their recruitment campaign. But it’s not just any fear. It’s the fear of becoming complacent, second-rate, comfortable, or soft. It’s the fear that drives their extra effort and fuels their alertness. Every person has to prove himself every day or he has to answer to his partners. And that’s the mother of all their fears: letting each other down.
That’s the kind of fear I like. It’s the fear that keeps you hot, hungry, and humble. It’s the adrenaliser, not the paralyser. It’s a call to action, not a place to hide. It’s what keeps you alive and helps you thrive. Without it, you lose your urgency; you lose your intensity; and you will lose your way.
One of the leading social trends tracked by the Environics Research Group is called Apocalyptic Anxiety. It’s the sense that the world is heading towards major upheavals and anticipating these changes with anxiety. Many people are succumbing to anxiety, the bad fear. It’s the fear that white-ants them from within. It’s the fear that leads to do-nothing, take-no-chances, wait-for-the-storm-to-pass, let-the-other-person-take-the-risk. It’s a one way ticket to mediocrity and loserdom.
And here’s my big confession: I oscillate between the two fears constantly. I’m attracted to the good fear but I’m sucked in by the bad fear. I swim with the sharks but I often desperately want to get out of the water. Here’s what I’ve learnt as a result of talking to over 100 000 people every year: we all ask ourselves these questions daily: Am I enough? Do I have what it takes? Can I keep raising my game? How the hell do I handle the avalanche of change coming at me? So I’m not alone and neither are you. Deal with the bad fear. Acknowledge its presence like your shadow. Then dive back into the good fear. Help the people around you do the same. Admit your feelings. Let them see you sweat. Then go make it happen. One action at a time.
One final comment: Condition yourself to fight the Good Fight with the Good Fear. Prepare mentally, physically, socially to stay the course. That’s why I’m writing this blog – to help me define my own fears, then to help you define yours. I work out every day to enhance my stamina and I hang with the best to synergise my talents. Find your own way to do the same.