I’ve been told that fear can only create short-term success. That’s a lie.
You see I grew up with a single mom. She probably didn’t sleep most nights, and the nights she did it was probably helped by a glass of cheap boxed wine. She had a mortgage and she had two kids to feed. She lived every single day in fear. Fear of losing her kids. Fear of losing her house. Fear of her check bouncing at the grocery store.
She did the one thing she knew how to do, recruiting, and started her own business. She started as a branch manager for a local temporary employee company. Learned the business in the hardest way possible. Temp staffing is the lowest common denominator in the staffing world. It is the definition of ‘grind’! She knew technical staffing, high end bill rates, was a much better life, but she was a woman and it was the 1970’s. Fear.
She built a successful technical staffing business that has lasted for the past 35 years. Never has the fear stopped.
You see she grew up in an era where you managed by fear. It seemed normal. If I’m living in fear, why shouldn’t I share some of this fear. It was a very common management tactic in the baby boom generation. You had Opec, the cold war, recessions, etc. People didn’t believe they have the choices they have today. If you got a job, you had to keep ‘that’ job, and if that meant a little fear, so be it.
If you didn’t do what you were told. If you didn’t make your monthly goal. If you talked back. All of that could get you fired, and you never wanted to be fired. Fear.
I took over the company five years ago. I’m a man. I also have fears. I fear I won’t be able to pay my mortgage if I don’t have a good job. I fear how I’ll pay for my son’s college education. I fear I’ll have enough money to ever retire. Different fears than my Mom. But I live with some fear in my heart. Maybe I was wired that way from growing up the way I did.
Fear pushes me out the door to work every single day. Fear isn’t my enemy. Fear of failure motivates me to succeed. If I didn’t have fear, I’m not quite sure how I would perform.
I tend to believe businesses and business people who succeed have embraced living with this fear. They’ve decided to become partners in a way. Fear is their life coach. I won’t call fear a friend, but I know it’s something I can count on. Rarely a day goes by when we don’t meet for some reason or another.
Here’s what I know from 35 years of sustained profitable success. Fear isn’t what you believe it to be. We believe fear can only motivate for short bursts, and then people will fall down in a puddle and be less productive. That’s a lie. The unmotivated are selling this version of fear. Those who don’t want to reach levels they never thought they could, are selling this version of fear.
Fear can create sustainable success, but it might not be as comfortable as you would like it to be.
Biologically, fear/threat can be very strong in motivating us to do or not do things. It’s based in our survival instinct which evolved from our ancestors from long, long, long ago. A survival instinct was essential to avoid being attacked or eaten by animals, etc. Even though we usually don’t worry about that too much anymore, our brains are still structured to get wound up when sensing threat and that fear state can be activated to help us “survive”.
Although this is a strong emotion/motivator for us, we do know that it can have negative health and other consequences. So, although it may motivate us, it may come with a price.