Be Not Afraid (On Fear)

October 29, 2019

From the Founder - Be Not Afraid (On Fear)

Halloween season is upon us, and I thought it might be fun to draw some parallels to the world I know best - small business.  The first thing I think about when I think of Halloween is the costumes - it’s how we’re hooked in the early years! Kids put on costumes and adults give us candy - easy peezy.  In costume, I’ve been Batman, ET, and even Michael Jackson! (Just to derail any future thoughts of political pursuits now, there is a picture of a ~10 year old Curt with a for-real perm, one white glove and blackface somewhere in my mom’s photo albums!)  The ability to change who we are is also very prevalent in the world of small business.  Often the change from corporate stooge to entrepreneur is a traumatic one requiring many pivots and changes, and then once you’re off the launch pad you’re wearing ALL the costumes! - CEO, Sales, CFO, COO, CMO, HR, Cleaning, Maintenance...

Also, the world of small business can be like a scary movie sometimes - you never know what’s around the next corner!  Business owners face new challenges daily as technologies and the competitive landscape change, as staffing challenges arise and economic cycles swing, and in addressing all of the “am I doing the right thing?” kinds of questions that business leaders face.  It’s a lonely place at the helm of a small business, and most business leaders face a lot more fear than they let on. 

It’s said that “Fear Not” or “Be Not Afraid” (or whatever your translation says) is the most oft-repeated phrase in the Bible, with over 100 direct statements and a load of adjacent references too (“Fear God” holds a regular appearance and implies that we not fear anything else, and David says things like “I will not be afraid” all the time in the Psalms.)  Whether you believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God, a fairy tale book of mythology, or a contrived tool of man used to suppress the proletariat, you’ve got to admit it often drops some pretty serious wisdom. The more I learn about life and business the more I’m realizing the significance of this call to “Fear Not”.  

Some recent reinforcement of this has come from our book suggestion for this month - “The Brain - The Story of You” by David Eagleman - which I have recently read.  It’s a compelling and relatively easy to understand book despite the complexity of the topic.  To summarize the whole of the book - OUR BRAINS ARE AMAZING!, doing the work of a room full of supercomputers on the energy load of a 60-watt light bulb!  One key learning for me is that our brains are much more plastic than we might imagine, building new synaptic connections and allowing lesser used ones to shrink and even go away!  Interestingly, we peak out on these connections and pathways as 2-year olds, when basically becoming anyone is still possible. From there, we are constantly becoming who we are becoming, informed by our memories, our emotions, and especially by our constant examination of the potential future outcomes of possible choices in the moment.  

I’m going to repeat that last for clarity, and I know most of you will resonate with this even if you don’t acknowledge it - our subconscious mind is basically running an endless array of choose your adventure decision trees in the background of the machine - all the time!  Should I go to the gym or should I have a donut? Should I ask that pretty girl to the dance or should I play it safe? By the time we consciously think about most decisions, the majority of the work has already been done! In many ways we fool ourselves to think that we’ve made any decision at a point in time - your brain has been grinding and seasoning and packing that sausage for weeks or months, and your conscious mind simply took it off the grill and served it up!   

That’s why this call to “Fear Not” is so compelling to me.  When we allow fear a foothold in our minds, and then especially if we dwell on the topics that we are fearful of, we build synaptic connections around feelings of fear!  One of the problems with that is that fear is often the enemy of action - and so we freeze, and fail to make a decision. Which, as my friend Chris Hutchinson is fond of repeating, is a decision in itself - and often but not always the wrong decision!  Similarly, my pa, Donald Bear would say to me in my youth - “I understand that you’re not sure what to do next - but do something!  If you make a decision and learn that it was the wrong one, you can change it, and that’s better than just sitting there waiting to know what to do!”  

At LoCo Think Tank, we use words like challenges and opportunities more than we do problems and apprehensions, and we do that for a reason.  How we think about things matters!  If we see the world as having scarcity of resources and opportunities, we will make decisions and build our lives based on the choices that our subconscious minds make for us, built around the synaptic connections that we’ve unknowingly spent days and weeks building.  The invocation at my Rotary Club last week was a short story that I think will button up this essay nicely: A 2nd grade teacher was asking her class - “When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing you think about?” Answers came rolling in from the students, such as “breakfast”, and “bacon”, and “seeing my dog!”, and “going to the bathroom!”, while young Debbie waved her arm frantically in the back.  Finally called upon, she answered to the teacher’s surprise: “I wonder what wonderful thing is going to happen to me today…”  

Fear not dear readers, something wonderful is going to happen to you today. 

- Curt Bear 

 LoCo Think Tank Founder

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