Beyond this place, there be Dragons… An old map might say this right near the edge… near the undiscovered country. The unfamiliar, the unknown, and the dark are voids in which our minds really quickly try to fill in gaps. What we are not always good at is filling them well. I picked up a children’s book the other day (The Dark by Lemony Snicket). It made me remember a time, long ago when I was afraid of the dark. I took a challenge upon my self to walk a trail around a lake, through swamp and woods, about a mile, at night, with my eyes closed. My feet felt their way along a dirt and sometimes gravel path, and my ears were turned up to 11. It is not a challenge I am recommending, but as a personal experience, the dark and I had a better understanding. I have wondered if a mind unknown is as surprising like that olden, unexplored map.
We map to what we understand
So often we forget that communication has a receiving side that interprets. We very often learn to provide context up front, and have checkpoints along the ways of a conversation to verify understanding. Without that feedback and correction, we easily leave misinterpretations, bad impressions, or points unconveyed. Sometimes our audience even lacks the initial concept or language to express it well. I am reminded of a RadioLab program called WORDS. In essence our language enables our thinking. George Orwell had a similar premise in his book 1984 – in which ‘newspeak‘ eliminates words; as the language decays, so does the thinking process. Linking of different concepts is done through language. Through all those navigable words – there are islands of ideas. What are the concepts, examples, and actions that make our journey easier when there are dark, unknown areas? Assume good intent. In those unknown moments, if you instead assume the dark holds maliciousness, or embarrassment,it will always stops us. Fear stops growth, stops our ability to explore and even to change. When we remain optimistic, or even better, opportunistic, it allows us options into the dark to explore, or ignore. F-EAR Just as we cannot spell learn without ear… we need to exercise the ability to listen, we also fear what we heard but did we pause to consider if we may have misunderstood? It may not have been the intended message. So how do we best proceed to map, understand and conceptualize the reply?
Fearless at Work – Michael Carroll
If you read one book that might help explore and tame some of the fierceness we find in life, this is it. 38 themes or topics around pulling our awareness into the moment, and dealing with what lurks in the dark corners of life. Exploring cowardice, taming our own minds, establishing a fearless presence, and living a skillful life are presented in such thoughtful ways that I would enjoy reading what resonated with others. Here are three of mine:
- Recognize Fear – Take time to assess, and be reflective. Sound like a retrospective? What freezes us? What are we avoiding? What really makes us lose our ability to be critical thinkers and go straight to anger, cynicism, sarcasm or skepticism?
- Command Gracefully – In realizing how little and limited our control may be, we not only accept reality, but are far more confident and have a dynamic and agile presence.
- Stop The Bubble Wrap – It is OK to fail. Even to get hurt a little, you’ll be all right. REALLY. Enjoy it, but don’t wrap yourself up in so much safety, defensive protections, or even apathy so that you don’t get hurt. Your ability to take some risks, explore, create, and be resilient is rewarding.
“Fear is the mind-killer“
The quote is from Dune – Frank Herbert – Language and that internal dialog we have with ourselves is a continuous story. If that story ceases to change, and becomes a singular focused infinite loop – repeating a fearful mantra… we are blocked and impeded. Those that are fearful often go on the attack, or maybe even withdraw and sacrifice their ability to engage. The opportunity to influence others is essentially taken from you. Isn’t fear more like being stuck in an improbable future instead of being active in the moment? In essence by sacrificing the present, fear robs us of life, placing us in some prison.
I used to fence… Yep, the En garde, parry – riposte. One of the first things an instructor may do is to have you gear up, and pair you off. Then, have your partner just poke you in the mask – right between the eyes. This isn’t fair target (unless you are using a saber) but it IS a lesson. On the receiving end, a pointy object coming at your eyes WILL make you stop, shut your eyes, and the brain falters because it can’t believe what just happened. After a while though – you learn to trust the equipment you check regularly. You trust your environment, and even that your fencing opponent is actually a partner. Both of you are striving to become better. After a time you learn to parry, ignore, and think through to the next appropriate response. A question can sometimes be as halting to an individual, or an entire team. I’ve seen it often enough. Everyone goes on the defensive, or simply clams up tight – stopped. A team is so wrapped up in proving it wasn’t their code that caused the problem, they forget to listen to what the problem is and instead take that concern to heart, and offer some choices for what it will take to fix it. I’ve seen customers whose fear of prior experiences stop them from creating a new relationship or being engaged during a project. Do we have a fear of speaking to a crowd? Or of making a mistake in front of others? Or of telling everyone what we did? We haven’t become used to the physical or psychological safe space we should always be creating for ourselves. No Bullies – No Victims. We need an environment to solve and tackle some pretty big problems. Sometimes we change the environment, sometimes the change is in ourselves. As long as we continue setting our challenges and meeting them, we will grow to get where we need to be.