Are You Paralyzed By Fear Of The Unknown?

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - May 11, 2015: The Plymouth automobile was introduced at Madison Square Garden on July 7, 1928.[1] It was Chrysler CorporationWe were really excited. My parents decided it was time to buy our first new car. I’m pretty sure it was the first time they took my sister and me along for something like this. I guess it’s not the same shopping for a used car. Who knew that they even let you take your favorite new car out for a test drive. That seemed pretty novel at the time.

We climbed into the gleaming green Plymouth Fury with white leather seats. The new car smell floated around my head like the smell of pie baking in the kitchen. When my Dad started down the road with pride on his face, I rolled down the window to feel the cool breeze half hoping someone would see us in this beauty of a new car.

My Mom and Dad talked enthusiastically about the smooth ride of the car as we came to a halt at the stop sign a few miles from the car dealership. They both worked so hard to buy their first new car.

As my Dad pulled slowly away from the stop sign, I could see another car approaching at what seemed like a pretty fast speed. It was hard to tell. No need to worry, I thought. He has a stop sign coming up.

CRASH! SHATTER! CRUNCH! SCREAMS…Yells…whimpers…m.o.a.n.s…..a..g..o..n..y…and cries for help.

He didn’t stop. He slammed right into us.

I sat there stunned while the smell of fuel mixed with the new car smell. I was fine, but I began to worry about my parents and my sister who all seemed to be in pain.

Time has a way of playing tricks on us when we are in these types of situations. I just remember the sounds of ambulances, crying, comforting voices from paramedics, and the sight of my entire family being whisked away with sirens blaring.

I was only seven years old. One of the kindest policemen drove me to my neighbor’s home. Our neighbors took me into their home and tried to calm my growing fears. But, I was alone. My family was gone…somewhere. I had no idea where they were. I assumed they were at a hospital, but we had traveled very far to this car dealership and I didn’t even know what hospital they could possibly be at. My neighbors were very helpful. But their compassion didn’t stop the questions from running through my head:

  • Will I ever see my parents again?
  • Will I ever see my sister again?
  • Will I have to move?
  • Will I have to go to an orphanage?
  • Will I have to change schools?

My mind was flooded with “what’s ifs” and “fear of the unknown.”

I share this story because “fear of the unknown” is so paralyzing. I felt it on that day with my family. And, I have felt in on occasion as a Founding CEO.

In some respects “fear of the unknown” is rather silly. We fear something that is uncertain…that has a shot at NOT happening. My guess is most of us focus on the possible negative outcomes rather than the positive ones. Here is what you, Founding CEOs, have told me you fear.

  • I worry I won’t be able to make payroll.
  • I may not be able to keep my house after the second mortgage we took out.
  • What if my investors try to oust me?
  • What if we hire too fast for our revenue?
  • What if our churn rate suddenly exceeds our monthly new subscriber rate?
  • What if someone steals our new idea?
  • I feel like I am under water and I’m afraid someone will find out.
  • Will someone find out that I’m a fraud and that I have no idea what I am doing?

The list goes on. The key is to prevent the “fear of the unknown” from crippling our ability to lead. There are some things that help us break the vice grips of fear. Here are a few actions you may want to consider the next time “fear of the unknown” begins to overtake you.

  1. Ask yourself, “What really is the worst that can happen?” Sometimes the worst case scenario isn’t really as bad as you think.
  2. Ask someone who has been there before. Sometimes just listening to someone else who was in a similar circumstance can lift your heart and mind to a higher perspective.
  3. Read an inspiring book or watch an inspiring movie. Crowd out the “what ifs” with “what can bes” by substituting hopeful messages for fear messages.
  4. Hike. I love this piece on Huffington Post about the benefits of hiking. There is just something about walking amongst things that are bigger than you that makes your worries seem smaller.
  5. Meditate/Pray. I think there is a difference between the two. Meditation is great because it helps you to clear, calm and empty your mind. Prayer is my preferred activity. It clears, calms, and fills my mind with the uplifting word of God.

It turns out that the young man who hit us those many years ago was the car dealership owner’s son in a company car. He turned out to be ok. At least all the paperwork would be in the family.

And, my family eventually returned home after a brief stay in the hospital. None of my fears transpired. So, number six is…spend some time with caring friends, family, or next door neighbors. It worked for me back in the 1970s when I thought I lost my entire family.

How do you overcome “fear of the unknown?”

Please share your thoughts below so we can all learn from each other.

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