Conquering Fear. More Lessons from my Dog.

There is a hyper-delicate balance between rational and irrational fear.  This is easily explained by example:  there is the well-founded fear of standing-in-the-middle-of-a-field-with-an-umbrella-in-a-thunderstorm fear.  On the flip side there is the fear that the cockroach skittering on the floor will somehow approach and harm you.  I suffer from both.  I am the biggest wuss in my house.  Ask my kids. They will be happy to back this up.

In Galvin de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear, the case is made that some fear is innate.  Fear can save your life as he shows in an example in the book.  The simple act of an attacker closing a window as he leaves his victim behind in the room and, intuitively, the victim realizes that if she doesn’t get out of there, she will be a murder victim.  She does and lives to tell about it.

There is the completely neurotic fear that my dog, Baci, suffers from.  She won’t step on a different surface.  New hardwood, tile, slate or plywood.  She will not step over it, onto it or around it.  She is paralyzed.  It seems so irrational but there must be something to this paralysis.  Did she step onto some surface in her puppydom that caused this irrational fear?

So now what? How do you conquer fear?

1.  Check First.  Is this rational? What are you basing this on?  Is the cockroach really going to attack you? When did you last read the headline – “Mother Killed By Palmetto Bug.”  Think about this in relation to YOU – Would applying for that new position mean you would lose your current job? Nah.  Face it, most decisions you make are not catastrophic.  But investigating what your fear is based on is important; especially when it comes to your future in the workplace.

2. Research.  I find that researching all available scenarios helps.  If you are looking for a new job, maybe this means looking down avenues you would typically not consider.  Maybe you would be willing to move or adding an extra 30 minutes to your commute. Maybe look at a different industry.  Baci is constantly testing the waters;  especially if there is a desirable tennis ball in the middle of the piece of plywood. Doing the research makes it easier for her to take the next step.

3. Test. Take a step. Go grab your slipper from the other room. At least you’ll be prepared to smack that cockroach. Call a friend you know in the industry you might want to move to and ask what opportunities are available.  Baci starts by putting out a paw and then retreating.  She’s testing her hypothesis.  You are going to have to test the waters.  Start writing the blog even if you don’t finish it in the first pass.

4.  Scared. Sometimes you just have to do it scared.  Actually, you frequently have to do it scared. My husband and I were watching the gymnastic trials for the Olympics last year.  There was Danell Leyva on the high bar, flying high above the bar in some kind of back flip. I turned to Kevin and said, “So how do you try that the first time?” We laughed. But you have to.  I can promise you Levya, was at least a little bit scared the first time he let go of that bar to launch himself 25 feet above the ground. You really don’t want to fail at that the first time out –  watch it here. Do it scared.

5. Pathways. You are going to need to lay some new neural pathways.  Charles Duhigg compares them to ruts in the mud. It’s really difficult to change ruts. The only way is to start working on it.  This is extremely hard for me. Take a breath, regroup and lay down a new rut.

My dog Baci is amazing at this. First, she is paralyzed by the new hardwood floor in the dining room. She won’t set a paw on the floor. But her favorite window for squirrel hunting is only three feet away…across the new surface. She runs around to all the entrances to check that the new surface is everywhere. She looks at my husband to be assured that the new surface is safe.  Sniffs.  Tests it with her paw.  Retreats.  It may take an hour or three days, but eventually she is trotting up to her favorite spot staring out the window, standing proudly on the new hardwood floor.  She’s laying new neural pathways.

How about you?

Triskaidephobia

This is my 13th blog post and I have the fear of the number 13; hence the title. Ironically, it’s my daughter’s favorite number. There is a hyper-delicate balance between rational and irrational fear.  This is easily explained by example:  there is the well-founded fear of standing-in-the-middle-of-a-field-with-an-umbrella-in-a-thunderstorm fear.  On the flip side there is the fear that the cockroach skittering on the floor will somehow approach and harm you.  I suffer from both.  I am the biggest wuss in my house.  Ask my kids. They will be happy to back this up.

In Galvin de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear, the case is made that some fear is innate.  Fear can save your life as he shows in an example in the book.  The simple act of an attacker closing a window as he leaves his victim behind in the room and, intuitively, the victim realizes that if she doesn’t get out of there, she will be a murder victim.  She does and lives to tell about it.

There is the completely neurotic fear that my dog, Baci, suffers from.  She won’t step on a different surface.  New hardwood, tile, slate or plywood.  She will not step over it, onto it or around it.  She is paralyzed.  It seems so irrational but there must be something to this paralysis.  Did she step onto some surface in her puppydom that caused this irrational fear?

So now what? How do you conquer fear?

1.  Check First.  Is this rational? What are you basing this on?  Is the cockroach really going to attack you? When did you last read the headline – “Mother Killed By Palmetto Bug.”  Think about this in relation to YOU – Would applying for that new position mean you would lose your current job? Nah.  Face it, most decisions you make are not catastrophic.  But investigating what your fear is based on is important; especially when it comes to your future in the workplace.

2. Research.  I find that researching all available scenarios helps.  If you are looking for a new job, maybe this means looking down avenues you would typically not consider.  Maybe you would be willing to move or adding an extra 30 minutes to your commute. Maybe look at a different industry.  Baci is constantly testing the waters;  especially if there is a desirable tennis ball in the middle of the piece of plywood. Doing the research makes it easier for her to take the next step.

3. Test. Take a step. Go grab your slipper from the other room. At least you’ll be prepared to smack that cockroach. Call a friend you know in the industry you might want to move to and ask what opportunities are available.  Baci starts by putting out a paw and then retreating.  She’s testing her hypothesis.  You are going to have to test the waters.  Start writing the blog even if you don’t finish it in the first pass.

4.  Scared. Sometimes you just have to do it scared.  Actually, you frequently have to do it scared. My husband and I were watching the gymnastic trails last week.  There was Danell Leyva on the high bar, flying high above the bar in some kind of back flip. I turned to Kevin and said, “So how do you try that the first time?” We laughed. But you have to.  I can promise you Levya, was at least a little bit scared the first time he let go of that bar to launch himself 25 feet above the ground. You really don’t want to fail at that the first time out –  watch it here. Do it scared.

5. Pathways. You are going to need to lay some new neural pathways.  Charles Duhigg compares them to ruts in the mud. It’s really difficult to change ruts. The only way is to start working on it.  This is extremely hard for me. Take a breath, regroup and lay down a new rut.

My dog Baci is amazing at this. First, she is paralyzed by the new hardwood floor in the dining room. She won’t set a paw on the floor. But her favorite window for squirrel hunting is only three feet away…across the new surface. She runs around to all the entrances to check that the new surface is everywhere. She looks at my husband to be assured that the new surface is safe.  Sniffs.  Tests it with her paw.  Retreats.  It may take an hour or three days, but eventually she is trotting up to her favorite spot staring out the window, standing proudly on the new hardwood floor.  She’s laying new neural pathways.

How about you?

What my dog has taught me about leading others or….The Pink Jacket Story

My dog Baci in The Pink Jacket….isn’t she cute?

Dogs are amazing at reflecting back what humans’ desire.  Most of us treat our pets like they are part of the family but I think my dog, Baci, thinks that she is an employee and a damn good one.   My relationship with her has taught me as much as any off site training or college course.  Our relationship is simple and can guide you in your relationships at work.

1. Trust. Baci expects her meals to be timely and fair.  She’s the first one to speak up if the kibbles are late to the bowl.  My employees and customers expect the same when it comes to compensation, goods or services….better be on time and accurate or there will be attrition.

2. Appreciation.  There isn’t a dog who doesn’t demand their belly scratched once, twice, countless times a day. Your coworkers, boss or client wants the same “scratch” but I doubt they are up front about asking for it. Show them appreciation….more frequently than they expect.

3. Dutiful. Baci has very clear duties at the Graham House….keep it free of all squirrels, geese and lizards.  She does an outstanding job. I am confident that she is on duty no matter what.  We haven’t had squirrels take up residence…so I know she is on top of her game.  You should have the same confidence in those who surround you at work. It’s best to assume they have your best interest at heart. That they are looking out for you…if some squirrels move in…then clarify what your expectations are.

4. Perspective. Baci has a different lens. She views things from ground level. I might be cutting up raw beef on the kitchen counter or potting a plant.  She doesn’t care except for whatever falls on the floor…and hopefully it’s the former. Your clients, cohorts and boss all have a different perspective and some are from the penthouse and others are in the basement. Make sure you know their perspective if you end up dropping something or having the last word.

5. Attention.  I admit that I lose sight of Baci’s priorities when I’m in my office concentrating on work.  Sometimes I get up from my desk to find her sprawled at my feet and surrounded by her army of toys. She has carefully brought each toy as a gift while I wasn’t paying attention. Are your direct reports doing the same? Showing up early, staying late…working extra hours on that overdo project…are you paying attention?

6. Needs.  Baci is exasperating at times. She can’t decide if she wants in or out…to sit on my lap or my husband’s….upstairs or down. Are your clients fickle and difficult to figure out? Are they changing their minds and causing you frustration. They are taking the cue from your guidelines and how malleable you are (I give in more easily than my husband on letting Baci in or out). Are you meeting your clients’ needs or tuning them out?

7. Team player.  I love to dress up Baci.  And she is happy to oblige (ok…I’m not sure she’s happy). Whether it’s some Halloween monstrosity or a pink rain jacket that I happen to think is cute; she patiently shows up to be the team player; poses for pictures and moves on.  I bet there are things your co-workers put up with…just cause you think it’s cute…or critical.  Are you letting them put on that pink rain jacket once in a while?

Animals teach us humility, patience and appreciation.  Maybe it’s time we apply those lessons to the human race.

What role does your pet play in your home?