You experienced fear. Why? It is the uncertainty and the paralyzing fear of failing. Even as the best student, you are haunted by this uncertainty.
I recently attended a seminar with Anthony Robbins. I had no idea what to expect, and I knew only what I saw on his infomercials that are slotted between the Flo-Bee mop and the spray-on hair. After spending four days at this seminar that ran without fail from 8 a.m. to midnight, I have to say one thing: I was totally impressed.
It was so interesting. So many things resonated with me, and strangely made me think of risk, the anatomy of risk and our reactions to it.
Many of Robbins' philosophies revolve around the paralysis we experience caused by our underlying fears. Achievement of outstanding goals and taking risks are often circumvented because of our fears and our associated emotional state. Sadly, we as humans have a natural tendency to go to dark places when faced with mystery, when faced with uncertainty.
One thing he said that I found quite profound and in fact inspired this column was, and I quote, "Fear and faith are made up of the same thing--imagination. Fear is simply undirected imagination, while faith is directed imagination."
How brilliant. The only thing that differentiates the two is how we actually treat it and how we process it.
Our global gloom is real enough, but it isn't really a matter of insufficient funds and liquidity. It's a matter of insufficient certainty. We have been perfectly happy with far less wealth in the past, but what is new this time around has been the relentless and unavoidable media bombardment that essentially exploits fear and uncertainty.
FEARING A RESPONSE
Here is something to consider: how we respond to this fear can actually determine our success in the pursuit of opportunities. As others stand paralyzed, those who have faith will get ahead. It makes me think of the adage, "The rich think differently from the poor."
The successful don't acknowledge limitations. The rich live in uncertainty and take risks because they have faith in their ability to overcome uncertainty. They act on faith, not fear. Fear does not stop them. They have the same amount of information as the rest of us, but they draw on an emotional state of faith to take those leaps. Ironically, they make emotional decisions.
So, do our risk management programs instill faith or fear? What story do our programs tell? Are they biased toward achieving certainty before taking action? Do our risk management activities try to minimize our feelings of fear or optimize our degree of faith? Do we truly understand our organizational fears, and what are the consequences of allowing them to drive our behaviors?
We've all heard the expression, "No guts, no glory." While we all regret past actions, our inactions can be even more devastating. Missed opportunity is one of life's greatest tragedies, both in business and in our personal lives. Maybe reprogramming our fears now can lead us to new opportunity and become our competitive differentiator. The willingness to take risks is our grasp of faith.
JOANNA MAKOMASKI, the former risk manager for a global energy company, is a leading specialist in innovative Enterprise Risk Management methods and implementation techniques for ERM Quickstart. She writes on risk management.
August 1, 2009
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