Arment Dietrich

There Is Nothing to Fear In Fear Itself

By: Arment Dietrich | February 23, 2011 | 

See that picture? That’s me. Crying with joy, because I just rappelled down a 40-foot icefall halfway into a day-long cross-country ski tour. I signed on for that little adventure knowing full well what I was getting into. And I was scared to death until I got past it and was able to relax the rest of the afternoon.

Some of us love to scare ourselves, we embrace fear. Maybe you go to horror films (not I!), you jump off airplanes (again, not I!), you register for a marathon, you take on speaking engagements, you quit your job and start your own business, you shift the direction of the business you own. We all have our different thresholds.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because I’ve been surrounded by fear in various manifestations and I’ve been analyzing how it can paralyze and how it can catalyze.

I recently worked with an organization that is governed from the top down by fear. Fear of failure. Its very culture has been grounded in “cover my ass,” and “please the boss.” It breeds decisions and a work ethic that are totally unproductive. Instead of building something to be proud of, they are in a state of paralysis.

I think it was Elaine in Seinfeld that said there’s good naked and bad naked. That’s bad naked.

Some  of you know I moved to Chicago last month to join the Arment Dietrich team and launch Project Jack Bauer. I’ve (temporarily) left my husband, two dogs, and skis behind in Idaho to take a little urban adventure and to launch something of which we can be proud. On Sunday Jan 9th, my husband used the return portion of his roundtrip ticket to go back to Idaho, leaving me here, at the completion of my one-way flight to Chicago.

I’m not going to lie. I was a mess. Fear clenched my gut and I really struggled to find comfort somehow as I left Midway Airport and had the entire Sunday staring me in the face, empty.

And then there is my very friend and colleague Gini Dietrich. She has put her heart and soul into Project Jack Bauer for the past year and a half. She has her own set of risks and anxieties that we talk and joke about as we move forward and build something we are excited about.

Let’s just say, between the two of us we have a good supply of puke bags in the office and we’re looking at ordering branded bags soon.

So there you have it; a grab bag of fear scenarios; one that paralyzes (bad naked), and two that catalyze (good naked).

What fascinates me, is why do we do we choose to do this to ourselves?

Somehow, stepping back just and saying no is not an option.

If we aren’t willing to take risks, we must be content with the status quo.

Of course, it would be nice to be assured of a positive outcome. But that’s not possible.

A risk/benefit analysis might look like this:

  • Play through the various scenarios. What is the worse that could happen and is that a scenario that can be lived with?
  • Is it a no-fail scenario? If it doesn’t play out as planned, will it at least open other doors and opportunities? (Thanks to my friend Adora Fulkerson for that advice.)
  • What is the biggest worry? Can it be overcome?
  • What is the cost of NOT doing it? Is it a missed opportunity?

“There was a kind of freedom that came with not caring if it failed, and caring primarily that it was something we could be proud of.”

Groupon’s Andrew Mason in an interview with Fast Company. When I read this last week, it immediately hit home for me.

There’s nothing to fear in fear itself! if used with care.

What is your good fear story?

  • Great post Lisa!

    I had to deal with “If we aren’t willing to take risks, we must be content with the status quo.” about this time last year! I’m so glad that I too took the risk!

    Way to go girl!

  • bdorman264

    That is the big question to always ask, ‘what does it cost to do nothing,’ what will that look like and will you be happy with it or later regret doing nothing? There are ‘costs’ associated with with all your actions, you just want more to be on the + side of the ledger when it’s all said and done. Regardless, is the sun going to come up tomorrow?

    I admire the both of you taking on an endeavor of this magnitude and be willing to ‘let it all hang out’. Burn the boats baby ’cause we’re not going back…………………

  • Great so you are ready for the 500-foot abseil right after cycling up the Ventoux?

    Interesting you chose a rappel photo to talk about fear. I use to run a trip with my outdoor coaching firm and send executives down a 200m rappel into a cave. It was a breakthrough moment for all.I personally find it a lot more terrifying to climb and have someone belay me just 10m off the ground. I guess loosing the illusion of control is what we really fear.

    You are right about the good and the bad fear but in the end it’s how we deal with that feeling in our gut that really says it all.
    You can rationalize with risk/benefit analysis but does it really change that feeling in your gut?
    I believe it is all about the way we talk to ourselves and how much we believe it. We can analyze a situation to death if it doesn’t feel right we still have this big fear in us. Sometimes I believe it keeps us alive and we should listen to that little voice telling us not to go there.
    But often we just need to quiet that feeling and jump.
    The tricky part is finding out when to do either.

    You guys are going to rock Jack Bauer (the project not the pet) and I look forward to it.

  • lisagerber

    @justinthesouth It’s pretty rewarding, isn’t it? but its easier to look back on these things and determine that. when you’re IN it, there’s a lot of second guessing going on.

  • lisagerber

    @johnfalchetto 500 foot Abseil? no. cycling up the Ventoux FORE SHORE. I cannot wait.

    funny thing, I edited this thing way too many times, and i had a bullet point in there about gut feeling and meditation. The gut reaction does say it all, the rest is just a way to validate your instinct. great point.

    can we go do an outdoor coaching trip now, please?

  • ParkRidgeDDS

    Timing is everything. I had a hard time getting motivated today because I am faced with the potential of a very big change in my business…one that is wrought with risks….one that kept me up most of the night and will probably be the reason for many future sleepless nights. It had my stomach roiling to such an extent that a few hours ago, I thought to myself, “maybe it’s too much…maybe I should just go back to the safe status quo” and then, I read your article. The risk/benefit analysis that you suggested was, for me, the game changer. The final bullet point being…”is it a missed opportunity?” Why would I ever want to miss an opportunity for growth and challenge in the face of a fear of the unknown and wonder for the rest of my career life what it was that I may have missed. Thank you….moving forward…..

  • HowieSPM

    First off SSSSHHHHHH! You are causing trouble Lisa. Don’t give any of those people content with safety and the status quo any ideas! We don’t need to compete with them too. It took me years to convert Jack Bauer into a double agent for me and if I have to do this to any other people’s pets I will blame you!

    @meganbeausang does these as CFO the risk/benefit its very financy in nature. We all have different risk tolerances. And I agree with the statement you made you can’t complain about the status quo. Like someone miserable in their job who refuses to leave or look for new work. You laid this out very well for people.

    I sure hope Jack Bauer takes your advice I heard he could get uuber stock options at Google these days.

  • TawnieSleep

    I love your transparency…your honesty is real.
    I see you feeling the fear and doing it anyway!
    What a great inspiration you are.
    It has been a joy to watch you “go with your gut” and move full steam ahead.

  • AlanLemire

    As a famous song goes… “We never failed to fail, it was the easiest thing to do”.

  • lisagerber

    @AlanLemire good one. I know exactly the song and I never paid attention to what the lyric meant. I love it. CSN, isn’t it?

  • lisagerber

    @TawnieSleep Tawnie, you are an inspiration too!!!!!!!!!

  • lisagerber

    @HowieSPM Ok, i’ve been warned – i’m keeping you far away from my dogs!!! yeah, the risk benefit thing – it happens, i made it look all scientific, but when it comes down to it, it’s gut reaction!

  • lisagerber

    @ParkRidgeDDS Seriously? I am so excited if I had an affect like that. that last question was the same for me too – things were just fine, better than fine! the way they were, but I couldn’t say no. and if one of the questions can dictate the rest, then ….. t here you have it. Thanks for sharing. I know that feeling about being slow to motivate. you’ll get through it. : )

  • AlanLemire

    @lisagerber Indeed. Southern Cross. It actually makes a lot of sense. So much easier to try and fail. Takes all the pressure off, lowers expectations. Just don’t get too comfortable.

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  • I can’t thank you enough for sharing your story. It is perfectly timed for me, and reminded me that sometimes taking a risk can be a GOOD thing and just being scared to take the leap doesn’t mean we should settle for complacency and comfort.

  • I love your courage Lisa!

    There really isn’t anything more exhilarating in life than facing your fears head on and breaking through on the other side.

    I highly recommend you and Gini go jump out of a plane ASAP — it’ll provide that extra adrenaline rush that will hit Jack Bauer out of the park!

    OK, you guys will do that anyway — but you both should still jump haha!

  • lisagerber

    @GACConsultants Thank you! and yes, it is exhilerating. often afterwards. which is why it’s important to try and be in the moment and enjoy the adventure while you’re in it.
    I will add: I will never jump from a plane. do you do that? I actually hate, and i mean HATE that free falling feeling. 🙂

  • lisagerber

    @JocelynRimbey this makes me happy if I helped or had an affect in any way. 🙂 taking a risk is a good thing, if you’re intuition says to go for it. stupid risks are another thing. 🙂

  • TawnieSleep

    Couldn’t help but think about your post today when I was watching the Space Shuttle BLAST OFF!
    You want to talk about that crew feeling the fear…I know you left Patrick and the dogs for Chicago but these guys left their families and friends to travel into space. WOW, amazing the risks that some are willing to take! It’s a good thing.

  • VivaBolova

    Hi, I love your post. I visit Spin Sucks occasionally to read and learn.Ten years ago I left my post-communist country to pursue a journalism career in America. It’s interesting moving across the ocean when all you know are 800 words and you can only speak in present tense. It was very scary but not as much as staying in a society that doesn’t foster change and a journalistic guild that supports the status quo. I remember looking at people and thinking that if I did what they did back then, and if I made it till 80, I wouldn’t have any stories to tell. So in short, that’s why I did it – for the stories. I couldn’t imagine growing old and having no remarkable memories. It sounds silly, especially when you think that I don’t see my family more than once a year, and, of course, sometimes I wonder why I do this to myself; yet, I have learned, met extraordinary people and gained rich memories.

  • lisagerber

    @VivaBolova wow. thank you for sharing this. It’s amazing what you’ve done, and yes – questioning why we do it to ourselves is part of the whole process, isn’t it? It’s too bad we can’t have it all. It seems there is always a trade-off. Great story, thank you.

  • MissAmanda

    Hi Lisa, first I would like to say thank you for sharing your story. While reading this post, I began to compare myself to you and try and examine my personal and professional life- and turns out I have more fears than I thought. I work to please someone else, but constantly thrive to do more and BE more. Towards the end of the post I asked myself, if I did (such and such), what is the worst that could happen? And can I live with it?

    Well, the worst that can happen is completely bearable and I am going to start pushing my boundaries a little more. Maybe add a little more spice to my life, if you will.

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