In “Paying Your Debt to Society,” I attempted to take a term, typically perceived as a negative, and turn it into something positive. I would like to do that again today with a word that has deep meaning for almost everyone. That word is FEAR. As FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Well, that must mean that fear is pretty scary! However, a counterpoint to this can be found in Ryan Holiday’s book, The Obstacle is the Way, where the author points out that, “Blessings and burdens are not mutually exclusive.”
I would argue that in many cases, the presence of fear may be the precursor to something great. Nelson Mandela once stated that “courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” An astronaut would be a fool, to not have some degree of fear before her space shuttle launches. It is only by moving past that fear that she can progress towards a goal and achieve the incredible. In this way, fear is a sign that you are moving in the right direction, trying new things, making discoveries, growing and progressing. If these things were not happening, you would likely feel nothing at all.
In many ways, I am in the business of helping people to make change in their lives. On some level, I have always known this to be true. Lately, it has been quite a bit more evident. It is easy to recognize the gravity of this change when you are helping someone through a life event like divorce or the death of a loved one. I have been thinking lately about the discomfort that a person may experience when they are simply changing their investment strategy or perhaps their professional relationship. This kind of fear is no more or less valid than that of the astronaut. They are faced with the prospect of moving away from something that is comfortable and familiar. The first step for the astronaut is to face her fear and get off of the ground. Similarly, the investor must move beyond the old ideas that no longer serve her.
These comfortable, but limiting beliefs may be in the strength of an investment portfolio. Many times, I’ve seen investors hold on to a dangerously concentrated position in their employer’s stock. They often knew that they should diversify and that holding so much of one asset was risky, but the combination of habit and familiarity made it feel safe. Similarly, most clients who chose to work with our company, have to also decide to move away from a professional relationship that is no longer serving them best. This not only comes with fear of moving away from the familiar but sometimes apprehension about having a potentially uncomfortable conversation.
Perhaps we should occasionally seek out scary obstacles to overcome. The presence of fear may act as a guidepost along a road of personal growth. Facing fears may not be easy, but may be necessary in order to improve our lives and achieve our potential.
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” — Jack Canfield