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Fear - Who Cares?

18th Jun 2014


I was having a conversation with my father about a job search he was embarking on in his 50’s – some years ago now. He told me he had applied to a very interesting role he had seen advertised, the Head Gardner at Kew Gardens. My Father is a businessman; an office based, suited and booted, commuter weary, boardroom slick businessman - always has been. I asked him what on earth he was thinking, notwithstanding his fierce love of horticulture he was seriously underqualified for this role and he looked at me squarely, almost puzzled that I had queried him and said “Darling, how hard can it be?”

His comment got me thinking about the plethora of things that I don’t jump at because I don’t immediately have all the answers and I realised it was simply being what I perceived to be underqualified with no thought of how simple it might be to “qualify”. I believe that societal evolution and increased opportunity has bought increased fear, we know that there is so much that we don’t know and can’t do - it can create a paralysis. Mass global communication celebrating achievements and highlighting exceptional performances does not serve to motivate everybody but conversely can serve to embed an “I’m not good enough” feeling. My grandmother drove a fire truck around London in WW2, I doubt she had the opportunity to question how qualified she was.

I find a new freedom in fearlessness as I get older and I realise that my education and variety of rich life experiences have actually taught me quite a lot and I don’t necessarily need to know everything there is to know before I jump into a new situation. I independently moved to Singapore with no real clue what to expect but plenty of people had done it before me so how hard could it be? Plus, how hard would it be to go home if it really turned out to be the wrong move for me? The trepidation and caution that at times crippled my more formative years has been replaced directly with almost a trite shrug of the shoulders as my little internal voice whispers “how hard can it be?” 

Every opportunity needs to be considered of course and I am not suggesting that education and training are irrelevant, (please don’t go running into a burning building yelling “BUT YOU SAID….…..”) however we seem to have an innate predilection to make things more complicated and difficult than they need to be. Look at the facts, don’t add multiple speculative variations and layers of convolution to a simple equation. All you need to know is that you have access to what you need to enable you to do the job.

My achievements are modest compared to many – I have not conquered Everest, I cannot remove a metastatic tumour nor can I play  Rachmaninoff piano concerto No 3 but these are the achievement of others and you can be sure their journey did not being with “That’s too hard, I can’t do that”.

This mantra has served me well, I am no longer frozen, wide-eyed in a blind panic when I am asked to do something I have no experience of. I still evaluate and apply due consideration but rarely now do I say no because I am worried it will be too difficult. I know almost 40 years worth of (many hugely interesting) people I can look to, I have Google on my person 24 hours a day, I sit in sprawling social forums of SME’s etc. The sheer volume of knowledge I have available to me is literally awesome so how hard can it be to find out what I need to know?

Did my Father get the role as Head Gardener? No, don’t be ridiculous, I doubt they got beyond the first paragraph of his cover letter but that’s not because the role would have been too hard for him.