By Matt Michel
“Fear is the mind killer,” wrote Frank Herbert in the novel, Dune. When people are overcome with fear, they freeze. They stop thinking. They stop behaving rationally. They are paralyzed.
Growing up, everyone experiences points of fear where we freeze for an instant or perhaps longer. Some freeze at the top of a high dive. Others freeze when sledding or skiing down a steep slope. For some, it’s facing a fastball. Many lock up when forced to stand up in the front of the classroom and give a speech or report.
If we try, all of us can remember a point in childhood where we froze, where fear became our mind killer, if only for a few moments. A degree of fear in childhood is healthy. Many of us would not have survived childhood without fear acting as a brake against our more idiotic notions.
What’s beneficial for preventing an eight year old boy from trying to sail off the roof of his house, using a beach towel as a parachute can be devastating among an adult who is struck by one or more of life’s setbacks and freezes, forestalling any act or motion.
I’ve seen it with the business owner who all but loses his business in a tough economy. Confronted by a series of setbacks and reversals, he becomes locked in place. He spends more time on Facebook than prospecting. He stops trying because he’s convinced he can never succeed again. As long as he’s convinced he can’t succeed, he won’t succeed.
I’ve seen it with the business executive whose career doesn’t pan out as planned. Rather than try for new career in a new company, he mails it in. He retires without notifying anyone and each day… just… shows… up. He’s scared to apply with another company. He’s worried that he’s too old. He’s afraid he’ll have start over. He’s questioning his sense of worth.
Fear has frozen these people in place. They worry that no move can make things better and any move might make things worse. Life ceases being a proactive event. Afraid to change, they do nothing. They wait for things to happen to them.
The great business philosopher, Dr Seuss, wrote about this in the classic Oh, The Places You’ll Go…
The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go, or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a yes or a no or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a better break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or another chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
Fear has trapped these people in hell. The only way out is to take action. Take a risk. By taking a risk, risk failure. Risk it again and again and again, if necessary. The only certainty is success will ever elude those who refuse to reach out for it.
As a child you failed and failed and failed before you learned to walk. Failure precedes success as naturally as falling precedes walking. Few men experience one success after another from the outset in a repetitive string of victory. Most find it only after tasting failure, and usually after much more than a taste.
If you find fear becoming your mind killer, break the cycle. Take one positive action today, no matter how small. Tomorrow take another. Take another the day that. Progress is made by putting one foot ahead of the other, over and over again.
The mere act of action breaks cycle of fear. When fear no longer halts you, it no longer holds power over you. It all begins with one small act.
As Dr. Seuss put it, “Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.”
© 2011 Matt Michel