Why so afraid? Time to “human up” (Part 1)

In recent months, I have encountered many businesspeople who somehow seemed to be afraid: afraid of making a mistake at work; afraid of failing with a project they’ve been assigned to lead; afraid of not having all details the of how an event will unfold; afraid of making decisions; afraid of standing up for their beliefs, values and convictions; afraid of harming their career; afraid of potentially losing their job. Many of the worried faces belonged to smart and seasoned business professionals who had every reason to walk and stand tall.  I started to wonder: Why are they so afraid?

What’s behind the emotional state of being afraid? Doubts, worries and fears. In my creative leadership method Genius Journey, learning to overcome your doubts, worries and fears is the pivotal first stepping stone you need to pass to enter the realm of unlimited creativity.
Fear is a natural response to prevent us from physical harm. But the doubts, worries and fears of modern businesspeople rarely concern physical survival, but are based on emotional and psychological dread that  takes place only in our minds. Common examples of such socially conditioned and learned fears are the fear of losing control, of social rejection (“losing face”), or of having to face the unknown. Often these fears don’t constitute a real threat now, but relate to an event imagined to possibly take place in future.

What’s wrong with being afraid? Doubts, worries and fears stop you from producing results, from growing as a person or as a business, from reaching your full potential. They keep you small, stagnant, and limited. In order to start the journey to rediscover your genius and true potential, you need to stop your doubts, worries and fears, and start being a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer.

Some of you may want to argue: It’s easy to talk down to me from your point of view. Just imagine walking in my shoes: I have a family to feed. I have bills and debts to pay. I have a job to loose. I may not have enough money to retire when I am old. Can’t you see why I am so afraid?

Well, I was once walking in shoes very similar to yours — heavy, bulky and ill-fitting shoes. When I realized who I really am and what I should really do with my life, I courageously walked away from a high-paying job in corporate banking. I’ve continued my journey on the less-trodden path — boldly and barefoot. I have never looked back.

My new journey into the unknown was adventurous and risky, arduous and at times rocky, but also highly rewarding and wondrous. In 2005, I started the innovation company Thinkergy and embarked on a mission to create innovators. In the last decade, I didn’t make as much money as I would have in my old career, but it didn’t really matter (and it was always enough to pay the bills and live simply but comfortably). In the coming decade, I probably am going to make a lot more money in my new career, but it really doesn’t matter either.

What matters is that in primal human style, I have courageously moved forward together with those who chose to join me on our Thinkergy journey, and we creatively deal with all opportunities and challenges that we encounter..

How can you stop being so afraid? Human up! Commit to becoming a true human being again. Have you ever wondered how primal humans rose to the pinnacle of the evolutionary pyramid? Because of our long teeth and sharp claws? Because of our giant size and heavy weight? Because we move faster or outmuscle all others?

Humans have become the dominant species because we think smartly and act courageously. Because we flexibly and creatively deal with dangers and challenges. Because we try things and fail, then try again until we succeed. Because we eagerly and curiously learn and grow. Because we creatively invented tools to hunt, defend ourselves and make our lives easier. Because we care and feel for others. Because we cooperate and jointly develop effective tactics and strategies to hunt prey and overcome predators and competitors.

Humanities journey started in the African savannah with a small group of primal humans who had the curiosity and tremendous courage to explore and venture out into the unknown. They wandered lands and continents. They crossed mountain ranges and oceans. They flexibly and creatively dealt with new challenges of life in a foreign, often hostile environment. In his theory of evolution, Charles Darwin observed, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” That’s us! That’s you!

We’re all descendants of these brave, action-oriented, curious, flexible creative primal humans who, against all odds, conquered the world. So why are you so afraid of not being able to live up to the future? How did we allow society and our institutions to condition us and turn so many of us into fearful, docile sheep — to neglect our essential nature of being bold, confident and creative?

What can you do to bounce back? Human up! Stop down all those doubts, worries and fears in your mind. Shape up and stand up confident and tall. Go primal and reconnect to your essential core as a courageous, flexible, creative, and caring human.

We need to “human up” quickly to ensure our species stays on top of the pyramid in view of the onset of robots and artificial intelligence. What will keep us on top is not our ability to carefully deliberate, calculate, analyze and scrutinize. It’s our courageous human core, our ability to flexibly adapt, create, cooperate, care and love.

So how exactly can you “human up”? Come back to this column on February 16, when I will share ten tips on how to fight your doubts, worries and fears and reconnect to your essential creative core.

© Dr. Detlef Reis 2017.