Posts Tagged ‘love’

Lots of people – myself included – talk a good game about being open-minded. But how many of us are truly open to ideas that challenge our most closely-held beliefs? This question is important because the odds are overwhelming that at some point your career, marriage or even life will be undone by your belief in an idea that proved to be wrong.

One of my most treasured and longstanding friends is a conservative Texas CEO; I am a somewhat liberal creative type born in Massachusetts. I’m pretty sure we have never voted for the same candidate. But one reason I treasure his friendship is because he works very hard to try and understand how I think, and I do the same about him. Each of us recognizes that we are limited by our beliefs, attitudes and – most importantly – restricted access to information.

Limited access to information in the Information Age?

Many of us are surrounded by people who share our views. If you are religious, you congregate regularly with people of the same religion. Americans are surrounded by Americans; the same is true in Russia, India, China and Portugal. If you work for a cautious firm, you are surrounded by other cautious professionals. If you work for a startup, you associate with people more willing to take risks than the general public.

When you go online, you do not see the same Web that I see. You see a Web that has been personalized to match your ideas, preferences and activities. So you find more reasons to be set in your ways, and so do I.

The more set you are in your ways, the more blind spots you have. That’s why a closed mind is so dangerous.

The big problem is, we are blind to our blind spots.

As we get “experienced,” we think we get wiser. In reality, we simply accumulate a longer list of mistakes we have made. If we are reasonably smart, we avoid making the same mistakes again.

But few of us have the courage to SEEK OUT our blind spots. Doing so requires challenging many of our most cherished beliefs. It makes us feel foolish. Why would we deliberately do something our brains are telling us is nonsense?

Let me be clear: I am just as blind as you. I count pattern recognition as one of my best skills, but thinking in this manner limits my creativity and causes me to draw some conclusions that are stunningly wrong. (Unfortunately, it can take months or years for me to recognize when this happens.)

I cannot give you an easy prescription for opening your mind. Anything that’s easy will simply fool you into believing you are being open-minded; it won’t actually open your mind.

The only thing I can tell you is that lurking among your beliefs are one or more deadly traps that have the potential to cut short your success, health and/or happiness.

I tell you this not out of a sense of altruism. I tell you in the hope that your responses to this article will further motivate me to seek out and challenge my own blind spots.

Time to call my friend, Bill.

Tina Fey actress, comedian, writer and producer known for her roles on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock …

“Follow your fear, which in improv usually leads to someone making you sing an improvised song or rap, which is the worst thing that can happen. But the larger thing is the notion that if something scares you a bit, it means that you should follow it a little bit. Now, ‘follow your fear’ does not mean that you should get in the car with a weirdo in a small parking lot. But it does mean that there are moments in your life when something comes up, a chance to move to a new city, or the chance to study in another continent, read your short story out loud, and you feel a lot of fear. And that fear means that you should definitely do it.”



It’s hard. It’s hard to move away from fear. Hard to be willing to fail. Hard to try and perhaps not succeed. As a result, we end up with so many things we haven’t had the guts to do yet and so many reasons why we haven’t done them. The real question is, what are we going to do about it?

We could sit and complain about how we don’t have time, or how the right situation just hasn’t come up yet, or how it’s just not a priority right now or instead, we could take action.

Earlier this year, I suddenly became very aware of one of my own fears that I had been avoiding and decided to do something about it. The journey so far has been eye-opening.

Improv is terrifying to most people. In fact, it was to me when I first started, and it was that fear that kept bringing me back for more. And every time I’m on stage, I’m working to be more and more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Early in my Improv career I had the opportunity to study with David Shore. David had always encouraged his students to follow their fears, and even though I was probably one of David’s more terrified students, I always took that message to heart.

Especially when he chose to lead by example by performing a one man solo improvised show. The idea that anyone would ever even consider attempting such a thing was enough to send chills up my spine. But he did it and it was amazing. It was at that point I knew that one day I also wanted perform a one man Improv show.

Years passed and I never did perform that show, until one day Andy Eninger came to town to teach a weekend intensive on solo Improvisation. This was what I needed! I always wanted to do a solo Improv show, but I just didn’t know how! Here was an opportunity to learn! Do this, and then on to the performance!

Not so.

While I managed enough courage to sign up and attend the course, I never did perform that solo Improv show…

Fast forward a few years later, I’m hanging out after a show and I get to chatting with a fellow Improvisor. He was performing in a one man scripted play and I asked him, “Have you ever tried solo Improv?”, and he replied, “Nope, you?”.

And that’s when it hit me. For years I’ve been wanting to do this, for years it’s been in the someday/maybe pile, but for years I’ve found excuse after excuse to put it off.

That night I decided it was time to make this dream a reality.

And so it’s happening, June 15th, 2012. You can buy tickets to come see the show if you’re in Toronto and want to come check it out.

But this article isn’t a plug for a show (but by all means come to the show), it’s about the realization I had that these things don’t just happen. It’s up to us to take the steps to make them happen. And some times the first step is simply making a commitment to get something done and to give yourself a deadline to reach a certain goal.

So I thought, why not invite other people to participate in this event? Why not see if there are others like me that have a list of things they’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t yet gotten to? And so I opened Follow Your Fear Day to anyone in the world who wanted to join. All they had to do is sign up to make it known that they were going to do something about it by June 15th, 2012.

And that’s when things got even more interesting…

As I talked to people about this event, so many of them were excited about it.  They would tell me how they thought it was a great idea and they’d tell me about all the really amazing things they’ve always wanted to do and then I’d send them the link to sign up and then…



People, when faced with actually doing the thing they’ve always wanted to do, more often than not, don’t. Some have signed up (and kudos to them), but the majority have not.

The Follow Your Fear Day facebook fan page has almost 100 fans. So far none of the sign ups for the event have come from there.

We like the idea of being someone who could be somebody or could do something, but when given the opportunity to put it to the test and risk finding out whether we are or are not that person, we freeze.

Perhaps it’s loss aversion? Perhaps the idea of losing this concept of ourselves is too tragic to put it to the test.

We like things like TED talks and inspirational quotes, but perhaps these things end up doing more harm than good. They make us feel good about ourselves, like we’re people that could do the things these people talk about. Like we could change the world by simply sharing a link, but when it is time to take action, we don’t.

Think about this in your organization. We would all like to be in organizations that valued their employees and allowed them to be innovative, creative and produce high quality software. We’d love to be in a company that did pair programming, TDD, CI, and continuous delivery, but when given the opportunity to make it happen, will we? Or will we find some way to maintain the status quo?

Take a few minutes and think about what it is you want to do, whether it’s in your personal life, or in your job and instead of just saying “some day”, sign up for Follow Your Fear Day and make something happen.