Kick your fears to the curb; not your ambitions #usguys #usblogs

Posted March 6, 2011 in Latest News & Insights

In 2000, I decided to “up” my leadership by enrolling in a coaching program through the Coaches Training Institute.  It was probably one of the best leadership decisions I ever made.  Not only did it help me be a better “manager/coach”, I found it to be a strangely effective form of personal therapy.  All of a sudden I was given a name for my nasty inner critic…the “gremlin”.  Like the classic Phoebe Cates movie, Gremlin’s seem harmless at first, but in reality are nasty little creatures that keep your ambitions stifled.

In earlier posts we’ve explored “fear of failure” and fears like “imposter syndrome.”  As we’ve talked about before, fears are part of our ancient reptilian brain designed to keep us “safe”.  Unfortunately, they’re often misguided.  But getting past our fears can be a struggle.  One of my personal fears has always been fear of failure.  Case in point: for several years, I’d been toying with the idea of starting my own business, but couldn’t get past this fear of failure that had a stranglehold on me.  So, I did what any self-directed type would do, I decided to tackle it head on.  With my friend Brenda, I attended a weekend workshop given by Gregg Levoy who wrote the book “Callings”.  The weekend was filled with exercises to help you find your true path in life and move beyond your fears.

Recently, I found one of those exercises from that weekend over a decade ago.  Gregg had us take a piece of paper and write at the top of the page what we wanted to do but were afraid of doing.  Then we drew a line down the centre of the page.  On the left side we wrote what our rational brain was thinking and on the right we wrote what our “gremlin” was thinking.  I wrote at the top of the page: “I want to start my own business.”

Here’s a small excerpt of my conversation with my Gremlin:

ME: I’m going to start my own business;

My Gremlin (MG): Are you crazy!  You don’t know anything about running a business.

ME: Sure I do.  I’m running one for another entrepreneur right now.

MG: But that’s different.  They did all the grunt work.  You couldn’t take a business up from scratch.

ME: Why not?  I’ve built departments from scratch.  I’ve built programs from scratch.

MG: Yeah but what if you fail and you can’t find another job.

ME: If it didn’t work out, I’m sure I’d find another job. I can work as a Barista if I really need the money.

MG: Yeah but what will your friends think of you if you can’t make it work?

ME: I don’t think  my friends would desert me if my business didn’t work.  That’s ridiculous.

Etc. etc. You get the picture.

I filled 4 pages of back and forth between this tenacious little Gremlin and me, but an interesting thing started to happen.  Towards the end, my Gremlin started losing steam.  His arguments were getting weaker.  Reading the pages 10 years later and four years into being an entrepreneur, I’m amazed at how incredibly wrong my Gremlin was about 95% of the arguments he was making.

So, if an annoying little Gremlin is derailing your ambitions, try Gregg’s exercise.  There’s something very empowering about seeing your fears and insecurities in black and white.  Somehow they start to lose their power.  You may not move through your fear immediately (it took me six more years and a couple of stupid job moves to finally just plough through my fear and make the entrepreneurial leap happen), but I definitely found the exercise was a step in the right direction.

This blog post was inspired by the Monday morning #usblogs community exercise from #usguys. 

Check out these other blogs in the network series:

Happy leading!

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