Friday, January 18, 2008

Discourse on Fear

This will be a short post, not a discourse, but it's a topic that's been on my mind. This post comes from deep Inside Linkspank :-).

My thesis: fear is the greatest impediment to success. Learning to drive through your own fear is the ticket to achieving and being happy with your achievement.

Imagine this parable. A child is born afraid of nothing. Injuries, traumas, and rearing teach the child many valuable lessons of caution, so this child is lucky enough not get hit by a car while crossing the street and makes it to adulthood. But the adult has learned the lesson too well, being cautious of everything, and has forgotten the dreams and adventures experienced in childhood.

I think this parable may apply to many or all of us. I'm a fairly intrepid person, having turned down respectable job offers to start Linkspank, having hiked off into the jungle to get lost and have guns pointed at me by tribespeople. But I think that even the most fearless people have opportunities to push through their fear, try things that may fail, learn by doing rather than by thinking, improve by iteration rather than by design.

If you don't believe me, make a list of things that you don't do as often as you should, or that you've been planning to do but haven't gotten to, or just things you don't enjoy. Go through that list and ask yourself if there isn't a trace of fear holding you back from these things.

Luck is a huge factor in success. People try things without really knowing whether they will work, and circumstances and timing conspire to make the right ideas work. But taking a business to the next level will require being able to risk what you have achieved, and being prepared to follow your success with experiments.

I think the application of this principle can be subtle. Google is intrepid enough to test and launch many products, but rather cautious in allocating resources and brand capital to products outside of search and ads. Facebook has been bold in rolling out its apps environment (not to mention Project Beacon), but, on the other hand, the move to the apps environment may have been motivated by fear of what would happen from not doing it (not "growing fast enough").

There's the nugget of my thoughts. How deeply you ponder it is up to you - and your courage :-).