I don’t like last minute changes to my plans.
I like to plan things out in advance. To make sure I’m productive and stay focused.
But on 13 September, I broke my own rule.
I decided to be spontaneous. I registered for a ticket without much thinking.
And I attended a Google-organized event: “I Am Tomorrow”, the next day to get some inspiration from other female entrepreneurs and leaders.
The Path Less Trodden
One speaker Sara Usinger, from Germany struck a chord with her story.
A story similar to mine.
Three years ago, against everyone’s advice, she chose to go to Iran to work in a startup accelerator.
An emerging economy where she basically knew no one.
In a country that blocks the use of Facebook, there were no dropbox, no credit cards, no Mailchimp (and more!). She broke the rules by choosing to move to a developing country to join the startup community rather than opting to join a developed startup space.
When I had a moment with her, I was drawn in by her zest for life. She was very proud and excited about her work in Iran. Her eyes sparkled when she told me about the great friends she made and the community she built from scratch.
Her job was very satisfying because there were many hurdles she had to overcome yet she relished the challenges. And became more resilent and acquired experience that she wouldn't have got elsewhere.
Similar to most, she faced fears at the start of her journey. Yet, she persisted, trusted herself and kept to her beliefs. She learned to create opportunities where none existed.
She navigated and successfully integrated herself in a totally different culture.
The fear always exist
Sara's presentation about her journey and her fears reaffirms the fact that fears exist. However, we shouldn't let that stop us from going forward.
What we can do, is to focus on how we can transform this fear into a motivating force when we embark on a new adventure or opportunity. Or when we break the "rules" and insist on going down a path that's less-trodden. Well-meant family and friends who keep safe would warn you of the "dangers" so you would avoid the "worst consequences" of failure.
One question to ask, what's the worst thing that can happen?
Will we die? Will we suffer? What's the maximum possible loss and are we ready to take it on?
Fear is always part of the game. And it always will be. However, it shouldn't become our "braking force".
The fear filter
From young, most of us have been taught to follow the rules. If we follow them, all is good and there are no consequences. However, when we disobey the rules, there are repercussions. Example, being punished when you are late for school. Or being warned about "kidnappers" if we talk to strangers. These "repercussions" tell us there's a behaviour protocol and if we don't stick by it, it's not safe.
When we get older, we are told about the social norms that we've to adhere to. We've to keep our own behaviour in check so we don't rock the boat. If the boat is rocked, the results could be disastrous. For instance, if we disagree with our manager and it's being perceived as rude. Or if we dress differently from what's required at work. We tend to follow the unspoken rules to keep "safe".
Overtime we developed a phobia and a tendency to toe the line.
Is fear even real?
Fear of doing something is not real. It's not an actual threat. It's a filter of how we perceive the external environment.
Fear is when someone is holding a knife to our throat. Fear is when a car is heading at high speed at us. Those are real dangers.
The fear filter causes us to panick at the possibility that we will fail or the prospect of falling short and not meeting expectations.
Nonetheless, we forget life is not about perfection and getting it right 100%. Human beings are never perfect and we make mistakes from time to time. The most important lesson is to learn from our mistakes and pick ourselves up!
When you break the rules, it's doesn't mean you are destined for failure.
“Rules are mostly made to be broken and are too often for the lazy to hide behind”, says Douglas MacArthur.
If breaking the rules means paving a new route, there's nothing to be afraid of.
When Christopher Columbus and his crew crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1492, he didn't know where they were going. Or if there was even land. But that didn't stop him. His persistence and determination made history.
Behind the fear filter hides opportunities
Each time round when we succumb to fear, we miss the opportunity to learn and become a stronger version of ourselves.
If you break down the barrier of fear, you'll find untapped potential waiting to be uncovered.
Where your true self will shine.
Where you will experience the greatest growth.
I want to hear from you.
Tell me the last time you overcome a fear and what you've learned from it.