Fearlessness, trust, and caring.
Those are some magical words. More than words… Traits. Behaviors. States of being. Secret and powerful incantations… Let me explain.
We had a meeting at work about a week ago, and during part of it, we talked about one of our primary job responsibilities, and some of us were tasked with figuring out why we’re not always great at it. We assumed that maybe we needed to clarify the expectations, so we started to list all the things that we should be doing while in that role… All the tasks, and priorities. It quickly dawned on us that every single person in the room already knew that list. They knew exactly what they were supposed to be doing, but that somehow wasn’t enough to get them to do it.
Why not? That’s the question that got us to something new. When we honestly asked ourselves that question we found out that there were three things that ultimately get in the way of being great.
Fear. So many people are afraid. They won’t admit it, because of the stigma that the word brings. Fear implies weakness and lack of control. Nobody wants to be labeled that way, but want it or not we all – every one of us – have fear. You can call it something else if you like. Sometimes it’s the obvious “I’m-being-chased-by-a-wolf” terror that anybody would know, but most often it’s something different. Something hard to recognize. It’s that quiet whisper of doubt. The small vibration of anxiety. The subtle absence of confidence. It’s just feeling uncomfortable.
We avoid those feelings. Maybe there’s a reason for that. We evolved that way. Doing something uncomfortable could be DANGEROUS! It could get us HURT or KILLED! RUN!!! …But the only times we ever learn, develop, grow, or get better is when we face those feelings and have the courage to say “No… I will not run.” We take a breath and embrace the challenge before us. We might get laughed at. Or ridiculed. Or bruised. Or sore. But we will learn and grow.
We need to stand up to our fears, big or small, and tell them they don’t get to hold us back. It’s been said that courage is not the absence of fear… it is the triumph over it.
Trust. We live in a world that constantly erodes our trust in others. It’s been built that way. So many people are overselling themselves. So many products and services are made out to be much more than they actually are. We can’t trust a friendly “hello” on the street, because it’s so often followed by a hustle of some kind. There are countless ways to be taken advantage of, and even the most savvy and weary among us have been lied to and let down again and again. We lose our trust in others.
But that’s just giving up. Giving up on trust is the same as throwing your hands up and resigning yourself to live a sad, guarded, cynical and lonely life. Who’d like to sign up for that? No? No… because it’s really is not a life at all. We need to begin with trust. No matter how many times the world might try to break our trust, we need to protect it and keep it alive. I’m not advocating gullibility, or naiveté… they’re not the same. Trust is knowing that others might fail us, and often will, but it’s making sure that we first give them at least a chance to prove otherwise. It’s still believing that if we trust in somebody to do what they should, they might just do exactly that.
Care. It is there or it isn’t. You care about what you are doing, or you don’t. People will often work tremendously hard convince themselves that they care… they rationalize that what they’re doing and the way they are doing it is important to them. That’s a poor superficial gilding that flakes and peels when put to the test. For those who are deceiving themselves, the effort it takes to keep up appearances makes work harder than it ever should be, and our self-deception makes this one of the toughest behaviors to change.
But when you really ask yourself the right questions and don’t take bullshit in the replies you get, you’ll know where you stand. Do you put everything into what you’re doing? Are you completely present? Does what you are responsible for take priority over anything else that’s tugging on your attention? Do you really believe it’s worth it? …So much that you’ll make yourself uncomfortable to get better at what you do? If you can’t answer yes to all of those, then stop. You have a decision to make. You can choose to change… Search yourself, and recommit yourself to your work. It will take effort, but it will make a tremendous difference. Or you can choose to stop for good… admit that this is not what you love and give yourself the chance to find something new that does let you say yes to all of those questions. There’s a third choice, of course. You can do nothing, but we’re not going to discuss that one, because once you know you don’t care, anything less than change is unacceptable. You’re better than that. When you truly care, you know it through to your bones. You cross a threshold and a magic thing happens where work actually isn’t work at all.
Be fearless. Trust. Care. We’ve made a great deal of progress since we’ve begun to use those filters. We keep asking ourselves if we are being fearless… If we are trusting the people we’re with… If we really care. We keep pushing ourselves to be able to honestly say yes. And something unexpected has happened. We made another discovery (one that you have probably already figured out at this point): Fearlessness, trust, and caring doesn’t just apply to the role we started out trying to improve… it applies to everything you and I do. Everybody knows what they should be doing at work or in their lives in general, but few people actually always do that. Why not?
Think about where you are and what you are doing. Ask yourself: Am I being fearless? Do I trust? Do I care? Try and see… I dare you!