Fearing versus Failing

Lucy wouldn't have discovered Narnia if she didn't open that wardrobe (courtesy of WikiNarnia)

As humans gripped by our lizard brain (aka the amygdala), our automatic reflex is to freeze in our tracks when encountering any of the following:

1) A potentially great product or service which does not have any known markets

2) A potentially lucrative client who is widely known to chew poorly prepared account managers for breakfast

3) A potentially profitable project which costs a couple of million bucks (or more)

While the rewards of such situations may be high, they also carry with them the potential to hurt us - physically, emotionally, psychologically and perhaps even spiritually - if we fail. And of course, the sheer amount of effort needed to scale these everyday "Everests" can be rather off putting - conducting primary market research, preparing a rock solid sales presentation, and pitching for those elusive corporate funds.

Sometimes, the fear can be so strong that it maims us, preventing us from crossing the Tipping Point. Those giants in Canaan sure looked formidable, occupying the land of milk and honey.

However, if we don't try, we wouldn't really know if we could succeed, would we?

If Edison hasn't failed a couple of thousand times, he wouldn't have invented the light bulb. If JK Rowling hasn't persisted in submitting her early literary works to agents and publishers - it took 7 years for her first book to be published after numerous rejections - we wouldn't have Harry Potter. If former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and our founding fathers hadn't persisted in building a new nation against the odds, we wouldn't have Singapore.

As the chinese saying goes, "失败是成功之母", ie "Failure is the Mother of Success". You've probably heard it a thousand times, but let me repeat it again that it is better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all. With persistence, with determination, with resilience (and a twinkle in our eye), we would be able to smile at any storm.

How can we "arrest the amygdala" so that we can transform inaction to action then?

First, focus completely on the task at hand rather than its anticipated consequences. Don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself.

Next, practice deep breathing and meditation so that you can dissociate your sense of self worth from the outcome of the activity. Develop an impervious hide - like Captain Jack Sparrow - that can withstand the arrows of critics and sceptics. Quell those ghosts lurking in your mind.

Thirdly, form a support group of like-minded believers who can join you in your quest. There will be tough and rough times in your voyage to victory, and your ship may even sink along the way. This is where sponsors, family, friends and colleagues come in to encourage, to prod, and to re-energise.

Finally, embrace every learning opportunity that you may have from the experience. Often, failure helps one to learn a lot more than succeeding.

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