Fear Not IdeasReply
Instead of listening to my preferred talk radio station on my long drive between the Washington, D.C. area and my home in central Virginia, other sorts of sound tracks allowed my mind to wander the other evening. I started thinking about three of the seven key habits in the book How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, which happen to correspond to practices recommended by the “stand-out” leaders cited in the 2010 IBM CEO study:
- Curiosità, and questioning;
- "Dimonstrazione": Experiential learning, which goes with the willingness to make, and learn from, mistakes, and,
- "Sfumato": Comfort with uncertainty and ambiguity.
It then dawned on me that these ways of being all relate to overcoming fear. Even the term used in the report, “stand-out,” implies people who are willing to follow their own instincts and speak their truths in the face of “group think” and at the risk of rustling feathers, or worse.
I’d been wondering about the linkage that those successful leaders alluded to between
creative/innovative thinking and “integrity.” As was said, yes, it does take courage to question the status quo, go into unknown territory, and be willing to learn from mistakes. But I then saw a deeper connection: that overcoming one’s own fears requires personal integrity.
As President F.D. Roosevelt said, “… the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Although the two words, “curious” and “courage,” are not etymologically related, it occurs to me that they are intertwined. Both require a willingness to question, to forge into the un-known, and to risk making mistakes.
It seems to me that fear is what sabotages our capacities for creative expression and innovative thinking. It is fear that seduces many of us and keeps us in our comfort zones. It is those people who have no choice, or those who are inspired by the greater visions, who exhibit to us time and again that “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
What moves us to overcome our fear? Inspiration. The word “inspire” derives from the Latin: “to breathe,” and is related to the word “spirit”: “The vital principle or animating force within living beings.” Inspire: (American Heritage dictionary, 4th Edition)
1. To affect, guide, or arouse by divine influence.
3a. To stimulate to action; motivate
5. To be the cause or source of; bring about
6. To draw in (air) by inhaling.
7. Archaic b. To breathe life into.
Brave people, warriors on any number of fronts, consistently say that they do experience fear, but they push themselves beyond it for the sake of others or because they are inspired by causes or visions beyond themselves.
We were born inspired with curiosity about life and possibilities. As little children, most of us didn’t fear being “wrong” when unfettered imagination was allowed and for which there was no right or wrong. But gradually, fear crept in as we were acculturated to come up with the correct answers, to draw between the lines, and not be perceived as too different, “weird” or “stand out” from the crowd. Actually, come to think of it, this is ironic in America, where the dominant culture is considered to be the most “individualistic” in the world… Food for thought for a future blog post.
Some say Leonardo da Vinci was the most curious man who ever lived. But then, there was Socrates, who inspired even the maestro and other great Renaissance minds. Our greatest artists and leaders overcame their fears through what inspired them and through their own integrity, often in the face of tremendous sacrifices. These men and women continue to stand as inspirational figures for all of us. Those who saw what was possible and asked “Why not?” and “What if…?”
What comes to mind regarding overcoming our own insecurities is the well-known Marianne Williamson poem quoted by Nelson Mandela in his inaugural address. It speaks so poignantly to the fear that many have of standing out and the need for being true to our gifts in order to benefit others:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles
That’s what truly inspirational leaders and innovators do: they do not shrink from standing out, from speaking their truths, or from daring to inspire with imagination. We need a lot more of them; we need to be them. As Ms. Williamson wrote in her more recent book, Age of Miracles, our world desperately needs our full range of skills which includes our creative imaginations, “All hands are needed on deck.”
So now, I have some contemplating to do. If you care to join me in pondering these questions, please do.
- What have you been most afraid of? What has gotten in your way of following your heart’s desires?
- What inspires you? When do you feel most alive?
- What helps you to overcome fear?
And best of all:
- Where would you love your inner “drummer” to lead you in this year ahead?
Tags: Adapting to Change and overcoming Fear, Ambiguity and embracing the Unknown, creativity and innovation in organizations, Curiosity and Asking Questions, how to think like leonardo da vinci, i2010 IBM CEO Report, Innovation in History, Integrity; Following own drummer, Learning from mistakes, Lifelong Learning and innovation, Riding the Wave Training & DevelopmentReturn >>