Fear is part of the human experience, plain and simple. It’s easy to assume that people who base jump, climb mountains or put it all on the line to start their businesses are fearless. But they aren’t. They’re just people who have found ways to manage their fears in a manner that does not stop them from taking action.
Fear doesn’t have to paralyse us. The amygdala (fear centre in your brain) is very active in humans, and in part takes credit for our survival as a species. But today, there aren’t many predators stalking us, so the fear response has been transferred to other things. Fears like… What happens if I get rejected? What happens if I fail? What happens if I’m not good enough?
Rejection and failure are not fatal, but in the view of our prehistoric hardwiring, it can feel the same way. So, if fear plays a big role in our lives, are we fated to simply do as much as our fear tolerance allows and call it a day?
I for one would argue no, everyone can be pushing themselves a little harder. Stewart Mason, a recent guest on the Get Invested Podcast agrees. ‘Fear is not a subjective experience that only happens to you. Simply knowing that others are facing the same thing and can get through it has been a source of inspiration for me.’
Stewart is an ultramarathoner, whose credits of incredible physical challenges would make most people balk. The fear of taking on some immense physical challenge is one of the key ways that Stewart has faced down fear and embraced vulnerability in his life. One of the hallmarks of his success has been the VUCA framework. An acronym popularised by the US Army War College that represents some of the adverse elements that frequently come up in life and what to do about them.
VUCA is broken down as follows:
- V – Volatility. The conditions of life are unpredictable and unstable. The solution? Build in slack to your approach, train yourself to have capacity beyond what is required, save money, redesign your business to be able to absorb shocks more easily.
- U – Uncertainty. The conditions of life are unknown, you don’t have any information, change is possible but not certain. The solution? Invest in education, take every step that is within your control, don’t waste energy pondering or speculating.
- C – Complexity. A problem may have too many variables to be clearly understood. The solution? Simplify to the degree possible, fight overwhelm by restructuring your approach, distill problems down to their most essential properties.
- A – Ambiguity. Everything is unclear, you face unknowns on top of unknowns. The solution? While there may be no precedent or guiding light to move you forward, you can always experiment. Go with trial and error, make small bets and review the results carefully until you get your bearings.
The VUCA framework has become a popular business management framework in recent years, but its utility does not end there. This acronym is simply a way of identifying common problems or fear-inducing situations people and organisations often face, and provide a way of thinking about them. VUCA can be a way to lay a mental groundwork for the trials and tribulations of life that make you stop and question yourself.
Whether you’re talking about property investment or personal fitness, the best way to overcome fear and lean into vulnerability is to have a system in place, follow that system and let the momentum of small victories swell with time.
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