…I would visit the snake park more often and probably pet a snake with my bare hand.
… I would go ice –skating at Panari Sky Centre with a group of 7-year-old with “Russian Olympic-gold-worthy” moves. I would not feel even a tinge of envy as I hold onto the railing for dear life while they rock their Mick Jagger moves in the middle of the rink (true story!)
…I would stop living on caffeine and dreams, resign from my 9-5…er… 7-7 job tomorrow and never look back
…I would tell my significant other or best friend or family member how I really feel about that decision
…I walk into Bata, buy myself a pair of 4-inch red heels and wear them to work the same morning (*ahem* that IS the maximum acceptable office height, right?)
….I would say “NO” to the extra responsibilities. Yes, it’s for a very good cause but I am already overwhelmed with volunteering my time and other resources for other equally important good causes!
I am 200% sure that you dear reader could possibly add 94 other things that you would do once you looked fear in the face. Musing over Harvard Business Review December 2012 magazine article, Reclaiming Your Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley, I realised that most fears are learned while growing and are not innate. Think about it. When you were in kindergarten, once you learnt a story or nursery rhyme you would gladly tell it over and over again to whoever would give you audience. As you grew older, your speech became more and more restricted as you learnt what was socially acceptable or not. This has spilt over to our creativity and even how we perform at school and in the workplace.
Tom and David classified our fears into four:
Fear of the messy unknown: You are not sure what the outcome of your decision will be or that you will ruffle a few feathers. For the longest time, I had articulated (read: whined) my desire to attend graduate school abroad. My dream became fuzzy with the fact that education does not come cheap and scholarships were not as forthcoming as I had hoped. I questioned my abilities and my mind caved in due to continuous negative self-talk. Thanks to some wonderful people and my loved ones for their belief in me and support, I resigned from my job and now, I am studying in of the most awe-inspiring cities in the world. Hear me out. I am saying that everything here is a bed of roses. I still wonder whether I will graduate since I have so much to read, so many economic models to master, so many deadlines and throw in the fact that I attend class with some of the brightest people from all over the world. I don’t know how my story will end. Nonetheless, I am living a day at a time, hopeful that I will leave Glasgow with a distinction, a scholar (especially after all these papers that I am currently writing) and a great overall experience.
The key to dealing with this fear keeps going. Enjoy the journey of discovery of yourself, your abilities as well increased knowledge of other people.
If you never try, you will never know-Anonymous
Fear of being judged: As I have shared before, growing up I had a terrible stutter. As I grew older, I was more cautious about my audience and rarely spoke because of fear of ridicule. On the flipside, I was dreaming of a career in business and hoped that one day I would close a huge deal a la Celtel-Merali. So it was a no-brainer that I had to deal with my tongue. Plus I got tired of others getting the opportunity to pitch the same brilliant idea that I had in my mind while I end up sulking and thinking “I should have said that earlier”.
To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong- Joseph Chilton Pearce
Antidote: According to Kelley and Kelley, you first have to win the battle in your mind. Listen to your intuition and embrace your ideas more. They say, “If you can put a whiteboard and marker in the shower to jot your ideas before they go down the drain“. Schedule some “white space” in your calendar to muse over your latest projects e.g. during crazy traffic jams. Writers are encouraged to put down all their ideas down and edit only when they have reached a particular target.
Fear of the first step: As a writer, I dread staring at a blank screen or page. But once, I write down the first few lines, the words keep flowing. I know. The first few lines may not even make sense, but the more I write, the more the ideas keep coming. When I sit down to edit my work later and finally hit “publish” when I am 80% confident. Sometimes, it boils down to shipping the minimum viable product (MVP) and tweaking it as you go along. Caveat: This is is not an excuse for being sloppy.
When Ms Olive Gachara was featured on the Kenyan show, Young Rich, she cited that she always took action on worthwhile ideas and would figure them out as she went along. (See the interview here). This has led her to be the editor-in-chief of Couture Africa Magazine and CEO of Olive Image, an image consultancy all under the age of 30.
Sometimes, we need a nudge in the right direction like in the story where a princess had been kidnapped and taken across a crocodile and piranha infested river. The king offered a handsome reward to whoever would rescue his beautiful daughter. Obviously, no young man was brave, foolish enough to volunteer. Just before the signal went off, someone jumped into the river and swam across to the other side. He managed to rescue the princess, build a boat and row back. During his interview, he was asked what had motivated him to do such a dangerous thing. He exclaimed, “Someone pushed me!”
Fear of losing control: Tom and David put it best, “Confidence doesn’t simply mean believing your ideas are good. It means having the humility to let go of ideas that are not working and to accept good ideas from other people”. Coming across a know-it-all will alienate you from people who might prove to be great resources. In this instance, try to separate yourself from the idea. Think about all the great ideas that have been birthed from collaboration starting with all the tech innovations like Youtube. No man is an island. In any case, the best ideas are always for the greater good.
Thanks to Tom and David Kelley, we have identified four types of fears that inhibit our creativity as well as other areas of our lives and possible ways of conquering them… the ball is your court:
What would you do if you were not afraid?
How do you deal with your fears?
Photo Credit: David Marcu via Unsplash