Today's Challenge: Getting UnStuck

Each week, I respond to a question submitted by a reader. Today, the issue has to do with two different, yet connected adversaries – fear and inertia. Specifically, “How do you overcome fear to start something new?”

I’m not sure where the myth of the fearless leader began - perhaps in ancient mythology…thus the name? In my life, and the leaders I know, fear is real. Fear about many things. One of our leading fears often revolves around the unknown – unfortunately, all the future holds is yet unknown.
The past is the only path to certainty. Historians traffic in facts, leaders travel by faith. Not necessarily in a spiritual sense, although that’s an approach I personally recommend. Leaders must have faith in their vision, their strategies and the people they’ve enlisted to make the dream a reality. ALL of this is faith-based. We must have hope is things yet unseen.
Leaders are confronted continuously with the inherent fear that comes with uncertainty. However, leaders must fight with all their strength to not be paralyzed by fear. This isn’t easy - the laws of the physical world create a vivid illustration as to why it’s so hard.
The present is known. Therefore, there is a gravitational pull toward today. This creates inertia. Do you remember this from grade school? A body at rest tends to remain at rest until acted on by an outside force. In our organizations, leaders are that outside force. We must diligently and purposefully push against the inertia of today.
In our lives, we may need others to provide the “outside force” to help release us from the grip of inertia. This could be in the form of a coach, a supervisor, a peer, a spouse, an employee, a friend, an accountability partner, or maybe even a blogger.
One idea I’ve shared with other leaders racked with uncertainty is straightforward:

Rather than focus on what you don’t know, concentrate on what you do know. 

Often, if you think deeply about this, you’ll discover you know more than you think. You may also conclude you know enough to act.
This recommendation is not to minimize the need for information to make good decisions. And, granted, the more information you have, often the decision ahead gets safer, clearer or easier. Although, this is not a guarantee. Sometimes, leaders get stuck when they have too much information!
The bottom line, at some point we must act. If we don’t eventually act, we’re not leading. So, my advice, in summary, is: Focus on what you know, face the fear and get started! That’s what leaders do.[GLS_Shield]
What do you need to start in the next 30 days? What are you waiting on?

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Jon Stallings

9 years ago

Great points Mark. As leaders we have to learn to be OK with Risk and OK with failure. Not just our own failure, but the failure of those we lead. We can only make progress if we move forward.

David Sanford

9 years ago

Thanks for the great article addressing the myth of the fearless leader head-on.
Over the past decade I have worked with some of the most interesting and successful people in the world. You may be an entertainer taking home $35,000 per hour. You may be a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. You may be a Wall Street corporate merger guru. Still, you have to understand, quickly recognize, and know how to defeat the top 5 professional fears. They are:
1. The fear of silence
2. The fear of sharing
3. The fear of selling
4. The twin fears of rejection and failure
5. The fear of success
Not surprisingly, most (not all) successful individuals initially assume they are the exception to the rule. "Fear? Who me? No way."
"No fear" isn't just a Millennial motto for the adventurous. It's a way of life. I know all this, yet yesterday I got hit with 1 of the 5 professional fears and responded 180 degrees opposite of what I know to do in such situations.
I still believe "No fear" is a way of life, but it's an imperfect way. Every time we give into fear, we need to humbly acknowledge it, remind ourselves what to do next time, and then move toward that "next time" as quickly as possible.


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