Fear can cripple you. Most of the time it’s the fear of doing something that, on the outside looks ridiculous (like what I did with my iPhone) but is functionally quite simple (deleting apps requires little brainpower or exceptional motor skills).

Very rarely are we asked to do something that is functionally difficult, thus driving the primal instincts to kick into high gear for self-preservation and survival, like jumping off a real cliff or something of that nature.

Again, most of the time, these are functionally-simple exercises and yet our fear drives us to believe that our life is over if we attempt it. I challenge you to reverse your thinking for a moment and think that you life may be over if you do not engage, if you do not complete that task, if you do not take that first step.

I’ll give you one example from my past that is (unfortunately) all too common:

Simply Asking

How terrified can we be at times to simply ask someone something?

I know, I know… I don’t understand what you’re up against and what it might cost you if you simply ask that question of your spouse, your boss, your partners, your employees. Right, right…

Wrong. Dead wrong. You see, even I know what it’s like to grasp in fear for what might happen if we open our mouths at what we believe may be the wrong time, with the wrong person, or with the wrong idea.

For example, many years ago when I worked at Dell as an engineer there were always a number of lunch-and-learns that a number of employees and managers would hold that would cover a number of topics that were fairly interesting. What was most tantalizing was the fact that many of them were discussions about things that weren’t in direct line with my particular role – I liked that.

But the “problem” was that I hadn’t been there “long enough” (or so I thought) to attend some of these lunch and learns. I didn’t need expressed permission to go and I certainly had the time because it was during my regularly scheduled lunch period, but I remember sweating over how I would request permission from my manager to go.

A number of these excuses came up as I looked myself in the mirror, contemplating the “cost” of asking a simple question:

  1. She’ll think that I don’t like my job and will fire me.
  2. She’ll think that I don’t have enough work and give me more mindless work to do.
  3. She’ll think I hate my current role and that I’m “scouting” other opportunities.
  4. She’ll think that I don’t like her because I want to spend time with other managers and ding me on my next performance review.
  5. She’ll report me to HR for not wanting to be a team player because I’m not eating with my immediate teammates.
  6. She’ll think I’m going behind her back and trying to recon other business segments and management to see if they are doing a better job than her and she’ll look me over when promotion time comes.

And the reasons kept on getting more and more ridiculous.

I remember preparing the night before some wild speech on how this would all benefit not only myself but the direct team and how it was imperative that I should go to these lunch-and-learns so that Dell could be more freakin’ profitable or some other mumbo-jumbo.

I remember dressing up a bit nicer that day and I remember going to the bathroom multiple times to make sure that my hair was settled, that my breath was set, and that I had nothing in my teeth.

I remember walking into her cubicle, tapping on the wall, and I felt like the bottom would drop out as any moment as she spun around. I muttered:

I need to go to a lunch and learn session.

A short pause, which seemed like an eternity, and she said:

Great! I thought you’d want to check those out. Tell me how they are and maybe at our next team meeting you can share some lessons-learned.

I think I turned around without even a thank you and ran to the cafeteria.

The moral of the story is obvious and I don’t need to belabor this point much longer. Our minds create infinite scenarios that will stop us from doing the very thing we are supposed to do. In some cases, that we were born to do.

Asking a question, asking for permission to do something seems so simple and yet we craft these excuses because emotionally we think we’ll perish. Nothing even close ever happens.

Fear is irrational (so are the negative voices) and yet the tragic consequences are untold – more innovation and ground-breaking work is never done because of it. Your future may lie in the balance. Your life’s work might be at risk, just because you didn’t ask. Just because you didn’t take that first step, just because you didn’t risk a little shame.

Life is far too short to not give it a try.

[Photo Credit: Logan Brumm Photography and Design]