Overcoming fears: The forces beyond your courage

0
647
Fear
How much does fear hold us back: How much does it create marketing opportunities?

A YouTube video showing all sorts of reckless, risky behaviour. While I had a sportbike, I never took it this far — but by conventional standards, I still took some serious risks.

Paula Ryan, president of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) has written a powerful article where she describes how she had (justifiable) fears — and overcame them. I’ll let you read the whole story yourself. Her conclusion — meaningful in the context of the story: “With the right equipment, relationships, and attitude anything is possible!”

Her observations brought back my memory of when I realized I had defied fear, not so much because of any brilliancy or (as Paula enjoyed), the right equipment and relationships, but perhaps because of my attitude — in this case, not knowing better. I was 26 years old, and very drunk in a very strange place — a bar in a remote village in what had been Rhodesia.  The community had been a centre of the insurgency that led to Zimbabwe independence, and a few years later, would be a place of horror and genocidal massacres of about 20,000 civilians, with the help of the North Korean army. But for a few weeks, as the independence celebrations neared, it was safe from violence.

Local white people said I shouldn’t risk going to the community. But the blacks said it was okay. And so I enjoyed the celebratory Good Friday bus ride, which led to my self-discovery (and losing my job — it isn’t okay to get drunk and represent your employee relationship without authorization in a war transition zone.)

In the weeks immediately following this discovery and before my return home, I took risks beyond anything in my life, perhaps fuelled by a temporary mania — a sense that I was invincible. Luckily, there was no permanent harm, even at my final stop in Africa, in Liberia, a week after a military coup, when I ended up in a commandeered taxi with a drunken (and well-armed) Liberian soldier.

There have been a few other times when I went over the line in risk taking — like riding a sportbike at 160 km for 40 minutes on a 90 km road (and for this ride, in motorcycle parlance, I dressed like a ‘squid’ — that is, without proper protective clothing.)

Clearly some fear is a good thing, and lack of fear can lead to reckless risk and danger. The challenge, then is to find the balance. And here I think we can add one more testing tool for risk-taking — perception and knowledge.

Thankfully, for example, through most of my time in Africa, I indeed took proper precautions. I checked locally for risks and modified my activities. (I had for example planned to visit Uganda during the era of Idi Amin with a travelling friend. But after listening to advice at the Canadian High Commission, I backed out.  My friend went in, and was picked up by Amin’s goons — and thrown into prison.  Thankfully he was released but his story made the international news at the time.)

Similarly, I decided to make my career-changing decision to live and work in Rhodesia through the transition to Zimbabwe only after having visited for a month a couple of years earlier, and with knowledge about the rules and systems that existed; plus plenty of reading about the country’s circumstances and history. It wasn’t a blind, wild, experience most of the time.

In the real world, fear serves a useful purpose — if we blindly ignore the warning signs, we trend to the reckless and dangerous extremes. Yet our success can be measured by our ability to overcome fears; and even better, to engage in activities which others think are risky, but which we know are reasonably safe. So, yes, I spent a 18 months as a journalist in a country at war far from my home, but with a few crazy exceptions, I didn’t push the risk button too hard. However, the perception of my courage — and my realization that I had indeed pulled it off — opened doors and set the stage for success in the rest of my life.

In overcoming fear, then, think about equipment, relationships, attitude . . . and knowledge. If you can solve the fear problem, you probably can solve any problem. And that means, at times, realizing that it is right to be afraid.

Did you enjoy this article?
Share the love