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The Midweek Motivator – Jumping Over the Wall

Heading into the new year a very good programmer shared the she was concerned; perhaps afraid for her company’s outlook. Fear in natural. It’s the appropriate response for any of us unsure about challenging situations. Facing another ratings report, prospecting for a new client, working through a severe personnel issue or speaking before a corporate meeting, you should expect to feel some anxiety. Fear is like a Radar antenna; it signals you’re facing a new challenge, trying something new or breaking an old company paradigm, long-overdue.

Talk with any achiever you admire: they’ll admit to “being afraid” when diving into a serious problem or a daunting challenge. Boxing coach Cus D’Amato trained several Boxing champions, including Floyd Paterson and Mike Tyson: “Heroes and cowards feel exactly the same fear; but like all champions, heroes just react differently.”

Fear is like a fence that envelops us and creates false boundaries that limit our growth and creativity. All top performers I’ve known get to the summit by taking on things that lie beyond the wall. They accept challenges they are afraid of! Others either deny their fears or simply avoid conflict altogether. It doesn’t work! And anyway, sooner or later we’ll run into it again with another project, another job, another relationship or in another place.

Look the monster in the eye: winners will admit they had to first acknowledge their fear before they could rationally find the window or the door…sooner than later you’ll find a way to do something you didn’t think you could do. A good behaviorist will tell you everything changes when you confront a daunting challenge, knowing you have no choice but to confront that fear and turn anxiety into excitement and action.

Over the last decade we’ve seen waves of change in the broadcast business. Those who toughed it out adapted to new company cultures, strategies, and outcomes. Understanding the “fear cycle” is half the game. (1) Fear exaggerates “imagined outcomes” that rarely happen. (2) Fear disrupts normal reasoning; we see what we perceive! (3) Physical response: if you listen to your body, you may find fear is affecting you. Stop: take deep breaths; see yourself on the winning side of a menacing challenge. (4) Freeze or speed-up: The most common fear response is to either slow down or race, freeze or panic. When we “speed up” we communicate poorly and jump to conclusions. Conversely when we freeze procrastination often sets in: “This can wait until next week.” (5) Self fulfilling failures: A ski jumper afraid of falling holds back and finishes poorly. The speaker worried about meeting his audience’s expectations, doesn’t.

Busting the Fear Cycle: Start by asking, “What’s the worst that might happen?” Make a what-if list: What if my flight is cancelled? What will the boss think? What if my presentation bombs?

Then: change that potential outcome to “If the worst does happen, I’ll…”

Speculating: History records JFK was masterful at televising his Press Conferences; many of which were hot topics (war, space exploration, and such). JFK diligently rehearsed “what-if” situations and routinely prepared for eventualities.

Personification: in advance of a speaking engagement, one nationally known CEO actually visited an empty auditorium in advance, sitting in different seats, imagining possible questions!

Sometimes fear even seduces us to avoid embarrassment altogether, so we do nothing…and that’s a total loss.