Fear and the Opportunities it Present

Everyone is afraid of something!

Well almost, but I’m yet to meet a man who fears nothing. Fear has been described as an (unpleasant) emotion induced by the threat of danger, pain or harm (Google results). Wikipedia defines it as, and I quote “an emotion induced by a threat perceived by living entities, which causes a change in brain and organ function and ultimately a change in behavior, such as running away, hiding or freezing from traumatic events” The article goes ahead to mention various kinds of fear but for the purpose of this blog, we will be concerned with fears that affect our jobs and careers and sometimes filter into our personal lives. Truth is, whether we are talking about the fear of death or that of heights, our reactions are almost the same and they tend to have similar effects on us. The list below is my personal collection:

  • Fear of Public Speaking: Public speaking is an art which certain professionals can’t seem to avoid during the course of their everyday activities. Since, a huge part of business and branding in general relates to selling, the act of public speaking seems inevitable sometimes. If you have ever listened to people like Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu speak, or even debaters from Harvard, one might be tempted to think that certain people are born orators. In fact, you might actually argue that and let’s just say that for the sake of argument, it is true that great orators are actually born; I promise you that for every orator who is born, there are two who are made. The fear of public speaking is something that has plagued a lot of individuals from time immemorial especially because it produces instant results: if you’re terrible at it and you make a poor presentation, it tells from the behavior of your audience and renders instant judgment on your brand.

The fear of public speaking doesn’t have to rule you for ever. Here are a few tips to tackle this problem:

  1. Face It: you have got to do what you have got to do! If there is no other option for you, then reconcile with the fact that it is something you have to do, in your head.
  2. Prepare: draft your presentation/speech, make proper research, study, check your facts. Make out time long before the presentation to do all of these, even on short notice, you cannot afford to walk onto the podium trusting nothing but your instincts to guide you. Your lack of preparation will be glaring.
  3. Practice: the mirror has always been a great practice companion. Read to your reflection in the mirror and practice as if you are right in front of your audience.
  4. Read relevant materials: sometimes part of your preparation includes studying relevant material on the subject of public speaking. There are a lot of great books and CDs out there. Grab them and immerse yourself in them long before you ever have to make any presentation.
  5. Work on your self esteem: one major cause of this kind of fear is lack of confidence. Read books that help you build your self esteem and get to work on yourself!
  6. Understand your audience and work with them: know the kind of people that make up your audience. Introduce interactive sessions in your presentations (if appropriate) and break the ice. Say light jokes; it helps both you and the audience relax.

Opportunity: tackling this fear gives you the chance to brand yourself in ways that would benefit both your career and your personal life. It increases your confidence level and open doors to greater networks.

  • Fear resulting from incompetence: if you have ever worked on a project of which you know little or nothing about and are expected to deliver on high standards, you’ll understand the true meaning of incompetence. Incompetence on your job will always put you at a disadvantage and at the mercy of those you report to. Your realization of this fact can snatch your confidence and fill you with fear.

There is one major thing you can do to erase this fear and that is training! Whether it is sponsored by the organization you work for or by your very own self, the important thing is to get into the totality of your job and be good at it!

Opportunity: handling this fear puts you in charge of your job and increases your chance and speed up the ladder of your career.

  • Fear of (new) beginnings: this happens every time we get that realization that we really need to do something or when we get that ‘light bulb’ idea about a new project. It could even be some major part of your work you really need to take care of or even a business idea you need to execute. What ever it is, new beginnings can be scary at times. The effect of this is procrastination.

Despite what new beginnings mostly signify, baby steps can be very difficult to take. Here are a few tips on how to just get to it:

  1. Ascertain the necessity: evaluate the relevance of what you have to do, is it really necessary? Will it make your life easier in the nearest future? What are the worse things that can happen if you delay some more or even skip the project entirely? Take your time to determine if there are other options. Some things are of utmost importance; if you are planning to start a business for instance but dread the idea of having to draw up a business plan, well determine what that business means to you and make a choice.
  2. Take action: while you might be tempted to spend ample time determining the relevance of the project, don’t dwell there for ever. This decision should not take longer than necessary and once you have decided, brace up and take action!
  3. Get a game plan: new beginnings are scarier if you don’t have a plan. Evaluate the situation, determine how much time you really have and come up with a plan to execute that project. A lack of proper strategy can leave you procrastinating for a long long time.

Opportunity: have you every noticed how good you feel when you make a plan and accomplish it no matter how small? That’s what overcoming the fear of new beginnings will do to you. Besides, you’ll walk through life taking most little projects and turning them into success stories… or lessons learnt from their failures. The important thing is that you were never afraid to try.

  • Fear of acceptance: most times we worry about whether other people would accept us for who we are, in this context, we probably worry about the acceptance of our ideas. I remember thinking up what I thought was a great idea for a new product in my company some five years ago but didn’t have the boldness to show it to the right people because I was afraid it would not be accepted. Today, half a decade after, someone else has presented the same idea and it is now a fully adopted product of the company. I have to live with myself for failing to posses the required courage to take action when I needed to.
Photo: crazyinsuburbia.blogspot.com

Photo: crazyinsuburbia.blogspot.com

You can handle the fear of acceptance by:

  1. Realizing your true worth: they won’t realize who you are until you show it to them! You need not worry about about acceptance when you know what you truely worth.
  2. People need what you’ve got: sometimes people need what you carry without realizing it. It’s your place to make them realize this. But you will never accomplish this if you never try.
  3. Rejection doesn’t kill: rejection actually makes you stronger if handled appropriately. It points out certain potentials you don’t realize you carry until you are rejected. So if it turns out that you are actually not accepted, pick your self up and have a great life!
  • Fear of failing: I find the story of Felix Baumgartner, the Austrian skydiver who became the first man to break the sound barrier from a space jump of approximately 39km, amazing.
Photo: technobuffalo.com

Photo: technobuffalo.com

The striking thing about his story is how he almost quit this jump several times and even his struggle with claustrophobia during his training for the jump. An important lesson to learn here is that failing to even attempt anything is failure already.

Opportunity: you actually stand a chance of success by overcoming your fear of failure! This blog is a product overcoming that fear!


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