In his book, Rules of Thumb, Alan Webber talks about one of the rules in his book: When things get tough.
Rule #1: When the going gets tough, the tough relax.
In crisis management, I teach people that fear is normal and natural. In fact, what matters most is our behaviors in these stressful, frightening situations that strongly determine the difference between a safe or disastrous outcome. If it weren’t for our ability to experience fear, we would not be able to survive for too long in this world. Just think about the number of times your own fears warned you of impending dangers (a car coming dangerously close to yours on the freeway, a stranger who seems a bit creepy, etc.). Most of us are familiar with the “fight-or-flight response,” which experts describe as a physiological arousal response in which the body prepares to fight or escape a real or perceived threat (Donatelle, 2009). Although this instinctual response is designed to help us, if overused, it can actually damage our bodies.
Simply stated, although it’s normal to be afraid, if you live a life based on fear, you will hurt yourself and those around you.
In Webber’s case, his fear was of failure, of being embarrassed, or appearing to ask a stupid question. The person he was scheduled to interview, Helmut Schmidt (a former German chancellor), was “notoriously difficult.” It was completely understandable that Webber was fearful of this guy “dismissing my questions as stupid” (Webber, 2009, p. 3).
However, rather than letting his fear get in the way, Webber decided to jot down some notes to himself on a yellow legal pad. On it he wrote: “Relax! Smile! This is a blessing, a treat, and an honor. It’s not a punishment to be endured.” After all, “[h]ow many people get to sit across from a world leader and ask him questions?”
Webber’s advice, applicable to business and life, is this:
“Anytime you approach a task with fear you are at least a double loser. First, you color the work with fear and increase the chances of failure…Second, you guarantee that you won’t enjoy the experience. Whether you succeed or fail, wouldn’t you like to remember the experience as one you enjoyed, not one you suffered through?” (Webber, 2009, p. 5)
“Don’t let fear undermine your chance to do that one thing you’ve wanted to do.” -Alan M. Webber
Donatelle, R. (2009). Health: The basics (8th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.
Webber, A. M. (2009). Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business without Losing Your Self. New York: HarperCollins.