The antidote to fear

One definition of fear is that it stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. Fear appears not when we know what to expect or when we don’t know what to expect but when we guess what to expect.

When I coach people in public speaking, I explain to them that to overcome the fear you need to remove as many of the unknowns as possible (such as know your material well, you’ve examined the room, you know the profile of the audience etc.). Whatever unknowns remain, the one’s you can control are the ones that could remain in the dimension of fear, such as audience reaction. So for these last few we need to imagine their outcome as the outcome you want. Remember, the fear is always based on imagining the worst, so imagine the best instead. The ‘fear’ then become ‘excitement’.

There are only really two types of fear. We fear not being loved and we fear that we are not enough. Fear of failure is actually one or both of these: we fear people won’t love us if we fail (or even if we succeed) and we fear we’re not worthy enough to succeed.

Our faith should answer both of these. We are loved. We are enough. Faith not only removes fear – it is the polar opposite of it. To live in fear is to live without faith. In our secular world some people seem to think they don’t have or need faith. This is not true. We all have faith in gravity. We don’t need to hurl a stick in the air to see if it still works. It is more than just belief. We have a conviction that it still works and will always work. This is faith. Faith is certainty, the antidote to fear.

So if we’re living without fear is there a danger that being completely fearless puts us in danger? Actually no. We should still take risks, but only calculated risks, in confidence, through faith.

The only reason we have for not pursuing our dreams is the story that we tell ourselves that we can’t. In that situation, fear is controlling us and holding us back. We need to re-write that story. The secret to achieving is to imagine yourself already in possession of the goal and believe you have it with conviction. That is faith. That is certainty.

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The Apple of Your i

Is the iPod the best mp3 player around? Possibly, it’s certainly outselling all the others put together, controling over 70% of the market. Interesting that it has the least features of all its competitors. So what’s going on? Anyone who owns an iPod or an Apple Mac knows. Apple products appeal emotionally and asthetically. Other manufacturers seem to ‘over design’ and over complicate things. This is why Apple is doing so well at the moment; their products appeal to the right brain directives of wholeness, meaning and empathy.

According to Steve Jobs, Aple CEO and co-founder, one major reason for the iPod’s success was its relative simplicity.

“Look at the design of a lot of consumer products—they’re really complicated surfaces. We tried make something much more holistic and simple.”

Jobs was asked if he was worried about Microsoft’s new media player (Zune) and its “community” features:

“In a word, no. I’ve seen the demonstrations on the Internet about how you can find another person using a Zune and give them a song they can play three times. It takes forever. By the time you’ve gone through all that, the girl’s got up and left! You’re much better off to take one of your earbuds out and put it in her ear. Then you’re connected with about two feet of headphone cable.”

Proving that the best solution is usually the simplest. Always ask yourself, ‘what am I trying to achieve here?’ In the case Steve mentions above you want to share your music to get connected with someone. The idea isn’t to prove wireless technology. Some companies seem to have lost awareness of the benefits in their race to prove how good their features are. Not Apple, and the sales figures speak for themselves.

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Be a creator

There is an interesting dimension to being a creator that sets apart creators from non-creators. It is that highly creative people value what they have created while less creative people don’t.

A friend of mine, Abbie Cooke, runs a session for business that gets the executives to paint a picture by the end of the session. Everyone enjoyed the session and seemed to learn something from it and the messages that she taught them. But then she noticed an interesting thing. Some of the delegates left their drawings behind. They obviously didn’t feel they had any value and effectively had thrown them away at the end of the session. I wonder, does this mean they metaphorically had also ‘thrown away’ the learning from the session, and perhaps every other training session they’d ever been to? So she changed the focus of the session from then on. Now the delegates had to make a frame for their paintings. She began to teach them the value of what they had created.

To a true creator it doesn’t matter if you took just a few minutes to create the work (Paul McCartney wrote ‘Yesterday’, the most recorded and most played song ever, in just a few minutes.) or whether it took you years to complete the project. Whatever you bring into being in the universe that wasn’t there before always has value. We need to understand this and trust it. All creation has value and worth. Overlooking this will stop your creativity dead as who would want to create something worthless? If you don’t value what you do you haven’t done anything more worthy that what you flushed down the toilet this morning.

To a creator, the worth of their work is tied into their self worth. If you don’t like yourself or trust yourself you’re going to have real problems being more creative.

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Don’t turn your brain off

There have always been opponents to new technology. Long before ‘luddites’ smashed the machines that stole the work of men during the Industrial Revolution, many early philosophers (including Socrates) argued that even writing was dangerous technology. They said that the written word was not alive and the act of reading was passive unlike taking part in an argument. This is actually true and during learning, involvement is much better than reading a textbook.

There is another reason why writing is bad technology; it allows us to forget and to use our m emories in a sloppy way which has destroyed the continuity and accuracy of oral tradition which lasted tens of thousands of years. Obviously writing has so many plus points that we tend to overlook these two small handicaps.

But what about other, more recent technological developments where the advantages and disadvantages are far more evenly matched?

New technology makes idle promises that it often fails to keep, or by doing so causes new, unforeseen problems.

In 1980 my great aunt bought a microwave oven. She must have been one of the first people in the north-east to have one. In those days they were heavier, noisier and weirder than they are today. A large number of the family had gathered for Christmas dinner. Aunty Madge was to impress them all. Their Christmas dinner was to be cooked entirely by microwave, 80s style. We can all guess what that meal was like. They had a course of carrots followed by a course of sprouts followed by a course of gravy . I don’t think the turkey was quite edible and the brandy soaked Christmas pudding burst into flames.

New technology is often misunderstood. Around the same time there was the story from America where a woman had put her poodle in the microwave to dry its fur. We of course all know that microwaves cook by vibrating water and salt molecules on the inside of small dogs.

A decade ago a machine was invented that sliced onions perfectly. It peeled and sliced the entire onion into exactly the size of pieces you required. Gone were the days of weeping or getting smelly onion acid on your fingers. Now it was all self contained and perfectly sliced in no time at all. A wonderful labour and hassle saving device. Until of course you tried to clean it. It required disassembly and all the small delicate parts had to be hand washed to remove the onion. So now you were exposed to the tear making acid and the process took ages. Using a simple knife would have been better after-all.

There has been a surge in the number of people who have problems getting to meetings due to over-reliance on sat nav. Satellite navigation is an incredibly sophisticated and complicated technology. Just think about it for a moment. It requires the ability to put a self-powered complex computer system in a geostationary orbit around the Earth. It requires radio transmitters and receivers, advanced micro processors and speech simulators.

It is so wonderfully advanced and useful that people repeatedly get lost using it. “Take the B408 for two miles and then take the third exit onto the B3129” says an emotionless voice. What are you talking about? If you were describing it to a friend you’d say “turn left after the pub”. People place their trust in the machine so much that they turn their brain off and then wonder how they ended up on a farm track in a field instead of at the conference centre.

Technology is neither goo d nor bad of course. It provides us with tools which we can choose to use to make our lives easier. But be careful – there is always a trade off. There’s an argument that the pursuit of technology for it’s own ends is certainly bad, that is when we run into problems.

The best idea may be to apply Occam’s Razor to any new development. Occam’s razor is a principle attributed to the 14th-century English logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham which advises economy and simplicity in scientific theories. Occam’s razor states that the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating, or “shaving off”, those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the theory. Applying the razor to our examples here give us the following simple answers: use a conventional oven, a knife and a map.

So when you are confronted with any new idea, gadget or method, experiment with it by all means, but don’t, on any circumstances, as you turn the gadget on, turn you brain off.

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