Let me provide a bit of context. We are way past the new year resolution timing. So why this post now?
I am writing this post from New York City, more specifically, from Newark airport in New Jersey. I am waiting for my connecting flight to Miami. I am going to the annual Mastermind retreat with 6 classmates from School. We meet every year for a personal and professional development weekend. We talk about broad topics. This year, I set the agenda. It is built around the book “Think Like a Monk” a self-help book by Jay Shetty, which discusses principles and practices for developing a more mindful and fulfilling life based on the author’s experiences as a monk.
An excellent read that I strongly recommend. As a group, we will have 3 deep conversations. One to reflect on the past, another one to focus on the present and the last one to focus on the future.
The first conversation is around our fears. And to make it more specific, zoom in on a fear we faced in 2022. I am taking this opportunity to bring you into reflection and how I approached it.
First, let’s ground us in the typical fears that people face:
- Fear of failure
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of change
- Fear of the unknown
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of not being good enough
- Fear of being alone
- Fear of making mistakes
Do you recognize one or several of your typical fears? I do too. So let me explore each of them 1 by 1.
- Fear of failure: I am 90% over that fear. Call it the benefit of having failed many times and realising that my life is more than amazing. I am also at the point where I can project that comfort to my family. I am convinced that my kids and my wife will be fine and that any adversity they may face will build character and make them even more, themselves and uniquely amazing.
- Fear of rejection: Recently, a colleague reminded me of the book “the subtle art of not giving a f*ck”. And that summarizes pretty much where I am today. I am probably even actively seeking rejection. Anyone rejecting my authentic self does me a favour and save us both time. And that time saved can be re-invested with people sharing my values, and that will elevate our collective purpose.
- Fear of change: This is a difficult one. I could play it wise, e.g. “there is only one constant in life, and that is change”. And I do believe in it, until a certain point… If you were to tell me that the S&P500 is no longer a safe asset to invest in or that real estate is disrupted, I would not welcome that change.
- Fear of the unknown: Now we are talking. I am a former control freak. I love some form of stability in my life. I am so grateful for our financial independence and that, in many ways, not matter what may happen, my family and I will be fine. So I am cool with the unknown, but mostly because I know that it will most likely not impact me negatively.
- Fear of losing control: Now we are hitting my hot button. And there is a pattern there. I preach delayed gratification, e.g. save now, so you are financially independent later. Work hard today so you can have flexibility in the future, and study now so you can land where you want in the future. I delay gratification to have control over my future. Last year I was obsessed with control on critical projects at work. I got annoyed when things did not go the way I had planned. And I noticed that every time this happened, I was not my best self. And I regretted it. The most vivid memory was when I rushed the kids in the morning to be on time for school, and I sucked the joy out of them. We arrived on time, but at the price of seeing my son strolling, without joy, towards his class. Not a good trade-off. This fear bothers me the most because it means I do not trust myself. Of course, I am not perfect and do not even aim to get close to it. But I want to enjoy life and have priorities in the right places.
- Fear of not being good enough: This was the plague of my life for way too long. It drove me to achieve in different areas, elite schools, renowned employers, and sound investments. But all that was to impress people that did not care about me. Even worse, once I got closer, I realized I did not care about them and did not want to be associated with them.
- Fear of being alone: Yes, but not last year.
- Fear of making mistakes: This is connected to the first one. Failures or mistakes do not scare me. Plus it is guaranteed to keep on happening!
So what now? leaning into my fear is only the beginning. There are a few things I need to continue or start doing:
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness involves being fully present at the moment and accepting things as they are, without judgment or attachment. I made progress on not judging and detaching myself. But I still can not do it when a topic is core to my values.
- Focus on what you can control: Rather than fixating on the things you can’t control, focus on the things you can control, such as your thoughts, emotions, and actions. Same here. I made progress, but sometimes, ok often, I feel like I am Black Panther and need to make wrong things right. Even things that probably just a superhero could achieve. But who can blame me for thinking too big?
- Surrender to the moment: Surrendering to the present moment means letting go of your attachment to a specific outcome or result and instead accepting what is happening right now. I simply suck at this! I try to find a new tree or flower daily on my way to work. But beyond that, I am rarely in the moment!
- Embrace uncertainty: Rather than fearing uncertainty, accept it as a natural part of life. We should reframe uncertainty as an opportunity for growth, learning, and adventure. I love this point, especially when confidence in the future and self-esteem are there