Jay Shirley

Striving to be a man of gallantry and taste

Fear and Confidence

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Life is complex. It’s incredibly complex, and sometimes frustrating. Other times annoying. This is when life is good. When we try to be productive amongst such an uncertain landscape, we’re bound to build up some fears and anxieties. All because the fears are magnified.

Unfortunately, because of our ancestral history, we’re really just nervous monkeys. We fear failure the same way we fear for our survival; every fear is fight or flight. These perceived, imagined dangers really impact our ability to be human.

Fear creates inconsistency

We perform the best under unusual circumstances. Our best performances don’t come out to win something big, instead they appear to prevent deep loss. A study of PGA Tour golfers showed that the fear (loss aversion) of going over par for a bogey is more powerful than the desire to get a birdie. To put it simply: A professional golfer putting for a birdie is less likely to succeed than the same golfer putting for par.

The difference isn’t substantial, under 4%, but missing one out of every 25 shots is huge! This amounts to lower scores, which can mean a million dollars lost. Fear in the moment can keep us from failing, but we won’t perform to our maximum levels.

Why fear is necessary

Fear keeps us from being overconfident. Overconfidence causes many of our most miserable failures. After a well-placed shot, a golfers next shot is going to be worse. Fortunately, fear tends to kick in, and after a poor shot golfers then increase their accuracy.

Overconfidence and fear are the yin and yang in life. If we have too much or too little of one, it can affect us in profound ways. Forget 4%, even a 1% difference when calculated over the course of our lifetimes is a massive change.

Confidence and fear keep the tight-rope we walk elevated. Too much fear or confidence, the tension builds and we snap. Not enough, and we sag into a pit of demotivation.

This is part two of three (Part 1), based on my reading about fear, creativity. It all started with the Remote Associates Test. Up next, I’ll write about how I work to find a different place to work from.