“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” —Mark Twain
I often think about fear and how it relates to consistently doing great work. I’ve learned the biggest thing holding people back isn’t a lack of time or money.
Fear of failure. Fear of making mistakes. Fear of letting themselves, or someone else, down. Fear of not matching up to other people. It’s almost universal.
We’re a fearful bunch, to be sure.
But it’s important to have some perspective. We’re building software, not bridges. If you make a mistake, nobody’s going to die — not evenyou. More often than not, if you screw something up, you can easily go back and fix it.
Most of us live in relative comfort. Heck, I’m writing this on an expensive laptop, with nice Bluetooth headphones in my ears, drinking an incredible coffee. I don’t have much to complain about. Or fear.
Most of us don’t need to worry about bears, falling down a mountain, or dying from a simple cold. Our ancestors had those — very real — things to worry about.
Today, though? We’ve moved on to worry about things like meetings, public speaking, or being criticized by someone else.
Our fears have no basis in reality.
Modern society is full of guardrails. Fall and break your leg? A quick trip to the hospital and you’ll be all set. Can’t get to the hospital? That’s okay; we have cars designed to pick you up and take you there.
(Depending on where you live, those services might bankrupt you. But that’s another article.)
If you think about it, the potential downside of any action you take is pretty damn small. It’s almost never going to be fatal. And there’s a good chance you’ll be able to bounce back, with a bit of time and effort.
Rational fears keep us alive. Irrational fear keeps us frustrated, demoralized, and depressed.
Unfortunately, in modern times, most of our fears are irrational.
Until next week,