Be Afraid. And then do something about it.2 min read

“Audentes Fortuna Iuvat” – Latin proverb. Translation: “Fortune favors the bold.”

Fear is one of our most powerful survival instincts. It warns us of impending danger. It triggers physiological processes to dump performance hormones into our bloodstream to help get us out of dangerous situations. And, left to its own devices, it reduces us to creatures of instinct.

A deer is crossing the road, perhaps because it recognizes an opportunity for better food, lower predation, better availability of potential mates. Whatever the case, some level of risk is accepted and the journey begins.

But a car approaches, headlights bearing down. The physiological defenses kick in. Adrenaline surges. The heart races. What does the deer do next? It might hasten its advance toward its goal. There is some risk in this, but the rewards are great. It may retreat back to where it started, gain better understanding of the plan, and try again after the immediate danger has passed. Or it may stand still and not live to regret its paralysis.

Reckless behavior is not warranted and has a high likelihood of failure. But standing still and deliberating the options for far too long is almost certain failure. When the time comes, one must understand the risks and rewards, take what they know, and act decisively.

We’ve all heard by now the story of the reptilian brain vs the emotional (or feeling) brain vs the rational (or thinking) brain. This is also known as the triune brain. Our evolutionary advantage over the sorts of creatures that most often find their end in the middle of the road is that we can make decisions that rise above our base instincts. There is power in engaging those higher brain functions, rising above the instinct of fear, rationalizing a decisive course of action, and doing it.

It’s okay to be afraid of change. Don’t be paralyzed by it. Don’t pursue it recklessly. But don’t be so afraid as to stand still in the middle of the road, either. Rise above it, and get where you already know you need to be (and get there before the strategic advantages of being there have been leveraged by those who’d like to get there before you).