Last month, I had the opportunity to go hear Seth Godin speak. He was actually out promoting his latest book, Linchpin, and was in my neck of the woods. Someone I am connected with on facebook and LinkedIn worked very hard to get Mr. Godin to stop by, speak to about 600 of his closest friends and sign a few books. I am a big fan of Seth and have taken much of what he has written and said to heart. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet him. When I did meet him, he asked, "What frightens you?" I looked him square in the eye and said, "Nothing."

In a recent blog, Godin touched briefly on an Andrew Carnegie quote, "Take away my people, but leave my factories and soon grass will grow on my factory floors... Take away my factories, but leave my people and soon we will have a new and better factory." People are the heart of any organization; they are what makes it tick. I also adhere to a systems thinking approach, that each of us represents a working cog, small or otherwise, in our families, our work, our industry, and the world.

A cog cannot work by itself. It must have other cogs to push and /or be pushed by. There must be a force or motivation sending each cog on its way. No one cog is more important than another, not in a true, working system. They all must work together or the machine stops and /or cogs get broken or jammed. But I believe (like Godin does) that each of us has the opportunity to prove our worth, to rise above others, become the best cog possible. Would your company/firm/organization survive without you? Are you vital to the success of your company/business?

Sometimes we become underappreciated or overshadowed. Perhaps you stumbled upon an injustice or lack of integrity that you could not tolerate. This has, unfortunately, happened to me and mostly likely to you, as well. My course of action was probably different than yours; each of us has to be true to our own core. Sadly, both of my instances led to me making the choice to leave what I considered really great jobs. The work I did that was important to me, was too important for me to allow it to be tainted or run through a proverbial gutter.

My work matters to me. What I do matters to my organization. It matters to my supervisor and what he thinks matters to me. Whether or not your work matters depends upon you; you place the value and live up to that value. Where are you going to place it? There is a proverbial gutter with each of our names on it. I'm gonna keep sweeping so I stay out and not get stuck. 

So, I guess "Nothing" wasn't a completely truthful answer to Godin's question.  I am afraid of getting stuck and failing. My cog has to work.  How about you, what frightens you? 


© by rayannethorn

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As I read today's post, I immediately chuckled and perhaps cheered, when I read 'Nothing'. Those are the answers that we love. It is the confident jump shot at the buzzer, to win by one, or the walk off home run, that brings the crowd to their feet. Meeting someone you admire and having the self confidence to say 'nothing' is the stuff of legends.

Does it deminish it that you do have a fear, no, not at all. We all do. I can't think of a fear, as it relates to business. I have often undertaken projects, perhaps that were over my head, becasue I just assumed I could figure it out.

Are there other fears? Oh yes. I remember a time, when I was trying online dating. I had been having a lovely conversation with a delightful woman, over a couple of weeks. She had answered my question, "Who is your favorite dead author?", without missing a beat. We had similar senses of humor and interests. I was, to say the least, a bit smitten. We made plans to meet on Saturday evening, at a place I had never heard of in the Dupont Circle area of DC. I was talking to my friend Celeste on that Saturday and I asked her about the bar. Celeste told me it was one of those places where they have the velvet rope and don't let everyone in.

The rest of the day was filled with fear. I like who I am. I wouldn't change anything about me. But I had serious doubts if a middle aged balding guy could get into the bar. Was it a test? The woman I had been talking with rather nice looking. She had seen me too, but perhaps she used this bar, to weed out her suiters? Perhaps it was just where she liked to hang out and never considered whether there would be a problem? I didn't know. Celeste said it was fine. Celeste is much too pretty to fully grasp my delima. She just couldn't imagine not getting in.

The rest of the day was agonizing. I eventually called and told her I couldn't make it. We never talked again. I haven't dated since. To be honest, I have always felt anxiety and fear about dating, and giving it up was liberating. So I guess I would say I fear single women and nightclubs.

So now my worst fear, would be that the grocery might, one day, run out of Diet Mt. Dew. That fear I can live with, because I know they will get more eventually.

Great post.
You know, (to continue the 'basketball theme' started by Brian) the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan, said that if you don't get butterflies before a basketball game, you're not ready.

I've thought about that a lot - and it struck me particularly because it implied a nervousness - or fear - for the greatest of all time. I always thought Jordan wouldn't fear anything. If he's the best at his craft, why would he be nervous?

But as I've spent time thinking about that, it has become clearer that Jordan's butterflies came from a fear of losing (i.e. Fear of failure). He was the ultimate competitor, and even to this day has an unmatched drive to win at whatever he is doing.

I think there is something to having fear that's good and natural. To fear failure drives a competitive spirit that ultimately leads to performing better than you might have expected - even push personal boundaries.

So I guess I fear failure too... I just "wanna be like Mike".
I agree wholeheartedly - no slam dunks unless you are the Michael Jordan or George Tenet... ;)

But here is a question for you based on your article: Do you ever fear that your work might not be meaningful? That your cog might be spinning, but by itself?

I think it's something that driven people struggle with more often than we might imagine.
I think it is more how you deal with fear Rayanne. Fear can be a limmiter because it stops you doing things or it can be a motivator because it makes you respect a challenge and keeps you on your toes. At times I have been described as fearless, this is far from the truth but I have never let a fear of failiure or looking stupid stop me doing anything. The key is to channel the fear and use it to drive you on. This starts with a fear of hunger and grows from there.

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