When I was much younger, I was almost always called onto the stage for every school event – drama, public speaking, etc etc. Those days, I recall with fondness, I found it very easy memorising lengthy pages and even easier standing before a crowd, reciting from memory those long foolscap sheets out loud, hearing my tiny voice ring in the air, parents watching with rapt attention, and afterwards receiving pats on the back at the end of every event. I took risks like I was born for them. My childhood was filled with images of me as a bold and audacious child; nowhere in the pictures in my mind do I recall ever feeling afraid of taking risks.
Fast forward years later, and my palms have suddenly developed wider pores that churn out sweat when I am afraid. When I think of taking risks, a little devil with a pitchfork perches on my shoulder and begins to list all the reasons why I am the worst person to try this or that.
At the end, taking the bold step becomes a struggle especially when I think of the responsibilities that I am saddled with, now that I am older. Most importantly, there is the fear of failure and the stigma that comes with it, which cripples most of us in different stages of our lives.
But the truth is, in the future, I will probably look back and I will wish I had taken those steps, just like I wish there were steps I had taken when I was younger. What I lacked was the wisdom to deal with fear. Rephrasing the great late Chinua Achebe’s words; wisdom is the palm oil that you use to eat fear.
Let me explain.
Fear is nature’s way of curtailing our excesses, but only a few have been able to understand this and approach it with wisdom and courage. Look at the greatest entrepreneurs who have made it today. I am certain at every point of their lives they were faced with that bone-melting, muscle squishing, tongue-drying fear that keeps you awake at night then makes you let go of that wonderful dream or that next big step in your life.
Recently, I heard of a seminar in which someone was asked, “If you were given ten million naira, what would you do with it?”
A lady, married with children, replied that she would keep it in the bank and be taking the money ‘small-small’. I laughed but sobered up quickly, because I understand what it means to take a risk when you are unsure of the outcome.
So, let me share with you four things I have learnt about fear:
· Fear can be an ally. It can make you wiser
To tackle fear, you must arm yourself with wisdom. What are the options available? Have you weighed in the options and decided on the right approach to the problem? Sometimes, a vision may take longer to achieve because of lack of resources. That’s perfectly alright.
Do you have a backup plan, just in case? Do you have ONE person in this world who has got your back? Are you talking to the wrong people? Bear in mind that there are 3 kinds of people – people who will support you no matter what, people who will discourage you no matter what and people who are indifferent. Which of them are you talking to?
· Failure is not a red light to stop.
It is actually the red light that tells you not to go in that direction because you’ve been there before and it did not work out well, and the green light towards another direction. Yes, there is the stigma that comes with failure, but the truth is: it is your life, not anyone else’s. Plus the greatest people I know passed through failure. Failure should make you stronger and wiser, not defeated and cowardly.
· Ask the most important question of all
And this is the question: “what’s the worst that can happen?” As long as no one dies, you don’t lose your reputation or all of your means of livelihood, why not take that bold step? There is something all humans have which is a survival instinct. No one falls into the deep end of a pool and drowns without struggling to keep afloat. Use that survival instinct wisely.
· You only have one life to live
You can discard every idea you have or remain where you are. Ask yourself though, in the next couple years, would you look back and regret not making the move? In all things, I urge you to apply wisdom.
On a final note, one day, sit your fear down and this is what you should say:
“Dear Fear, let’s have a talk, because you know what? I know you just as much as you know me. So shouldn’t you scratch my back so I can scratch yours?”
I bet your Fear will answer “Yes Boss!”