Unfolding plans 128 – what holds you back?

Whose unseen hand is it that rests on your shoulder and holds you back? I think it was in the Facebook offices that a sign was hung which asked ‘what would you do if you weren’t afraid?’ Underneath someone had written ‘I would write on this wall’.  I like that. It appealed to my somewhat anarchic sense of humour. So what would you do if you weren’t afraid?  Would you approach your work or your life in a different way?

If the answer is yes then the question must be what is it that you are afraid of?  Whose voice is that tells you that you have gone far enough and stops you stepping out into uncertainty?  What is it that stops you from writing on the wall?

Perhaps there are things to be afraid of.  It makes perfect sense to be afraid of some things, or at least to be wary of them, such as messing things up, losing your reputation, letting a customer down or even losing your job.  These are difficult times.  Our family moto is ‘We’re Jackmans, we’ve got to eat’ and having a paying job goes a long way to help.  (You can thank Roseanne Barr for that joke.  I cannot claim credit.)

Yet there are two types of messing up.  There is the ‘I couldn’t be bothered and things went wrong’ type and there is the ‘I tried hard to do something different and it went wrong’ alternative.  Both may have the same outcome yet both have very different starting points and intentions.

Our businesses require creative change and this can only come about by people trying out new things.  Some of these are bound to fail yet without them the work you are doing will stagnate and be chipped away by time and your competitors.  It is clear from this then that failure is a key part of business life.  We all know that and we mean failure through effort rather than failure through lack of it.

Fail fast, fail often is a modern mantra.  Some have watered this down to fail better or even fail forward, whatever that means.  The implication is clear.  Failure is going to happen.  Learning from failure is the best way of making the improvements that your business needs.  Fear of failure holds us back from driving our businesses forward.

So if it is fear of losing your job, or fear of raising your head above the parapet, or fear of being torn off a strip for stepping out of line you should ask yourself about your own position.  Why would you want to work in an organisation that stifles creativity?  Why would you want to work somewhere that does not recognise your talents?  Why would you want to work where inertia is rewarded over effort?

Ask yourself, who is that is holding you back? Look in the mirror.  Who needs to give you permission to try something different?  I think you already know the answer.

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