A small village by the sea depended on fishing to survive. Each year the village boats had to go farther and farther from shore to catch enough fish to feed the population.
But as the anglers ventured farther away, they encountered a problem. Their usual practice was to put the fish they caught in big tanks to keep them fresh until they returned home. But the fish grew lethargic in the tanks, and many died before the boat could reach shore again.
After much thought, one of the crew hit upon a solution: On their next fishing trip, they caught a small shark and placed it in the tank along with the fish. The shark ate only a few fish, but the rest swam frantically around the tank trying to keep away from the predator -- and made it to shore fresh and healthy for the villagers who depended on them.
The moral of this story is that sometimes a little fear is what we need to stay active and alive. I certainly find that to be true. If I begin to coast, I lose concentration and focus. I perform best when I have a little anxiety or fear. I am sharper and more on my game.
A little fear can be healthy. But fear can hold a lot of people back and stop them from living life to the fullest. I understand that feeling of being afraid. However, there is only one thing worse than a quitter, and that is a person who is afraid to begin. There are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them.
Dale Carnegie once said: "Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy."
Don't let fear block your success. If you truly want to learn to control your fear and advance in your career, I have some ideas that have worked for me. They can work for you too.
-- Explore your memories. Look back over your career. What situations have made you feel afraid? Do you see any common denominators? When was the last time you were afraid to do something and did it anyway?
-- Look at your responsibilities. You have a lot of priorities in your life. Which ones make you fearful? Why are you afraid of them? Dig deep, and keep asking "why" until you are satisfied that you have found the root of your fear.
-- Construct a worst-case scenario. When a certain situation makes you nervous, try to think of the worst thing that could realistically happen. Chances are the reality won't be as devastating as you think, and examining the possibilities ahead of time will prepare you to avoid the potential pitfalls.
-- Shift your focus. When you're confronted by a task that makes you fearful, stop and think about all the positive benefits it will produce in the end. Focusing on the outcome helps you put the small worries aside.
-- Try new things. At every opportunity, take on a new task or a different responsibility. This will increase your capacity to take risks. It will also expand your skill set and build your confidence.
-- Review your risks. Look at some of the risks you've taken recently. Chances are, most of them turned out OK. Figure out what made them work. Can you duplicate those decisions that led to success and apply them to other situations?
-- Know that your fears will resurface occasionally. Accept this fact, because there will be times when you feel like you are out of control. Outside factors can influence situations adversely. Prepare yourself to handle disappointments and unsettled situations. Stop and assess the circumstances so you can decide whether further actions will help or hurt.
Not knowing how to control your fear can have disastrous results. Consider the great tightrope walker Karl Wallenda. He died many years ago in a tragic fall. His widow was quoted as saying: "All Karl thought about for three straight months prior to the accident was falling. It seemed to me he put all his energy into not falling – not into walking the tightrope."
Mackay's Moral: Don't let your fears get in your head -- get ahead of them.