Let me tell you the secret to success in any business, any pursuit, or any relationship:
Let go of the fear of looking stupid.
It is impossible to be 100% amazing at something if you’re afraid of looking stupid.
You might recognize this fear by its other names: fear of failure, fear of rejection, or the big one: PEER PRESSURE.
Yesterday, I attended a presentation by Todd Dewett, a very engaging and insightful leadership expert. Todd asked us to perform a succession of small tasks. First, he had us close our eyes if we were comfortable doing so. Then he asked us, again, if we were comfortable doing so to stand up with our eyes closed. Finally, he asked us to stand on our chair with our eyes closed — yes, only if we were comfortable doing so. Then he told us we could open our eyes.
A small handful of us were standing tall on our chairs. Others were standing on the floor, and a few were still sitting in their chairs.
I know some people get dizzy when their eyes are closed, so I’ll excuse those people from elevating themselves 2.5 feet off the ground. I’ll also let the woman in the miniskirt off the hook out of common decency.
The rest? Chickens each and every one.
They weren’t afraid of heights (we’re talking about a chair here, not a mountaintop). They were afraid of what they might look like as an 8-foot tall person in a business suit.
I think it should be stated that there was no reward at stake, but if you’ll only fully commit when a reward is involved, are you really committed to being amazing or are you just after the free stuff?
The funny thing is that there’s no reward for giving into the fear of looking stupid, unless you call status quo a reward. If I don’t stick my neck out, the BEST I can hope for is that nothing will change. Woo hoo. Big prize.
Let me share with you some people who have given up the fear of looking stupid:
Ok, every US President
NONE of these people gave up the fear of looking stupid before they became famous, rich, or powerful. Nope. They became famous, rich, or powerful BECAUSE they gave up the fear of looking stupid. They decided to be 100% committed to their callings. They decided to go for it.
Can an organization be affected by the fear of looking stupid? Absolutely. Can a company stand out by giving up the fear of looking stupid? Same answer.
Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays. Think they haven’t been told a million times how crazy that is by about a billion different peers and business “experts”? It takes some guts to fly in the face of convention like that. It takes getting rid of the fear of looking stupid.
The irony makes me smile: Chick-fil-A ain’t no chicken.
To be honest, I have a chicken moment once in awhile. There are times I’d prefer to sit back and maybe not be noticed just this once. Then I remember that playing it safe has very little reward. I also remember that 99% of the time I drop my fear of looking stupid I am rewarded far beyond my expectations.
I’ve told people for years in my workshops that the number one obstacle for success is the fear of looking stupid. Conquer that and you can literally achieve just about anything you desire.