The husk that blocks you from becoming who you really are
There's a reason that people don't start-up. It's not that they don't have ideas. Or, resources to make things happen. Or, even access to money.
But there's this thing that blocks us from doing things. It's like the outer shell, the husk that covers the seed. Imagine a seed that never sheds its protective cover.
Actually, all this goes beyond starting up a company.
This husk stops us from speaking our mind clearly, particularly to our bosses or clients. It stops us from putting our work out there for the world to judge. It stops us from dusting off business plans and actually making some business happen.
That beastly thing is f-e-a-r.
Fear from what you wonder. From losing money. From being unloved and ignored. From being criticized. From sleeping hungry. From even getting sick and dying.
Napolean Hill, the big-daddy of all self-help gurus, wrote a full chapter in Think and Grow Rich on the six ghosts of fear. Along with presenting symptoms. Like indecision or doubt as a symptom of the fear of poverty.
The most common reason we give ourselves for doing nothing is this: It's not practical. That phrase masks all fears and makes us appear less foolish to ourselves.
- How can I ask my client to pay correctly in time? It's not practical. What if they stop being my client altogether?
- How can I start building that product without money? It's not practical. What if no one buys what I build and I waste all my time?
- How can I tell this investor that he's not a fit for me? It's not practical. What if no one gives me money and we go belly-up.
You get the idea. We are masters at masking fear.
You’d think it’s only you with this fear thing. Until you start observing it all around.
Founders of billion-dollar startups who fear smarter, direct reports. CEOs who fear their board. Board members who fear other board members. Entrepreneurs who fear upsetting their VCs. VCs who fear their LPs. Business leaders who fear politicians. Politicians who fear the media. Media that fears their advertising clients. And so it goes.
The disease of fear wraps the world in a vicious cycle. Making us weaker than we actually are. Making us behave in ways that are incongruent to our values. Never allowing us to be fully true or pure. Limiting us from exploring our full potential.
Short-nail ego vs long-nail ego
They say our ego must be like our finger nails. If it's too long, it hurts others. If it's short, it hurts us.
Fear in the form of short-nail ego makes us doubt our abilities. We'd rather do nothing than suffer failure. And be laughed at by the world.
It's our long-nail ego that makes us go overboard. A defense mechanism to suppress our fear of failure. It makes us speak rudely and act like brutes. Usually, when we are in safe positions of authority. Think, barking from inside a car at a jaywalking passerby.
So, what's the way out?
There's no complete way out. Fear, like salt in our food, is needed in moderation. It prevents the child from putting his hand in the fire. Stops us from jumping traffic lights.
But when it's out of balance, it becomes a thick husk covering our entire being. Stopping us from becoming who we really are.
Consider these random, disconnected episodes
- After my first year of MBA, I dropped out of school. To start a government consulting business. 50+ pitches later, it didn't go beyond a $5,000 consulting engagement. We took the money and returned to school. But the experience helped me shed something.
- A year later, a couple of friends and I went to Put-in-Bay, a party island in Ohio. Only after reaching I realized that we were too old and too desi for the island. A group of guys started calling us names and making fun. Instead of ignoring, I walked up to them. Introduced myself. Asked for directions. And that was that.
- One more year later, I had started up. My co-founder and I setup a table at a small medical conference in Michigan. A lady walked up to me and whispered, "I'll never let you steal my job!" I was too shocked to react even as she quickly walked away. But I later sought her out. Introduced myself and explained to her what we were really building. We became friends for the day. Kinda.
- A few more years later, I thought my life and business saw no light of day. My reaction was to buy a Royal Enfield motorcycle. Drive up to the highest motorable road on the Himalayas. An action that permanently shed the husk for me.
There may be no correlation on the face of it. These random episodes and say, my business. But for my mind, these are permanently wired.
If I won over fear in one area, I'd win over fear in another. One form of fear begins to shed many other forms. It makes no difference to my mind.
And slowly we begin to see ourselves under the hood.
Then we begin to like it.
It even becomes easier to be ourselves with the world. And do what we should be doing.
When all that husk sheds.