Feb 042014
  • People in Plane Crashes in the United States from 1983 to 2000: 53,487
  • Number of People Who Survived: 51,207
  • Survival Rate: 96%
Fan Death (Caution)

Fan Death (Caution) (Photo credit: kang_a_ji)

Although I can’t say every one of the man’s ideas are sound, Robert Kiyosaki taught me this great little acronym for FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real.  It turns out that there’s actually very little connection between the things that we’re afraid of and reality.  This probably served a survival purpose way back when.  It probably pays to be a little too afraid when Uglook might kill you at any time to take your sweet pile of rocks or when roving packs of wild animals competed with you for game.  But in modern society, although technically death is still imminent, our brains have found other things to be afraid of.

  • Number of Species of Scorpion: 1000+
  • Number of Species of Scorpion with Venom Dangerous to Humans: 25-50
  • Number of Species of Scorpion with Venom Dangerous to Adults: 10
  • Odds of Dying from a Scorpion Sting: 1 in 300 million
  • Odds of Dying from Falling Down in Your Shower: 1 in 65,000

We all know this from practical experience.  We know many more people die in traffic accidents than airplane crashes, but we are deathly afraid to fly and not at all afraid of suiting up in our two ton motorized death machines.  We know that zombies aren’t real.  We know that, even if they were, the odds of the undead spontaneously appearing in our bedroom would be slim, but our pulse still speeds up when we hear an unexplained noise in the house after watching a zombie movie.

  • Number of People in the U.S. Who Die from Shark Attacks Each Year: 1
  • Number of People in the U.S. Trampled to Death by Cows Each Year: 22
  • Number of People in the U.S. Dated by Taylor Swift Each Year: 4

The implications for our individual lives are obvious.  Once you recognize there is virtually no connection between what you fear and what is likely to happen, hopefully it encourages you to take more calculated risks.  I wouldn’t jump in a bathtub full of scorpions, exactly, but if there’s a particular reward you want, but you fear the risk, you might consider acting in defiance of your feelings, because the odds are actually in your favor.

Even in those areas where the risks are real, known, and not in your favor, that shouldn’t paralyze you.  Another little nugget from Kiyosaki is that 9 out of 10 businesses fail.  You might look at that figure and decide it’s too risky to start a business.  You also might look at that same figure and make plans and prepare to try at least 10 times.

  • Number of People in America per Year Who Receive Venomous Snakebites: 7000 – 8000
  • Number of People in America per Year Who Die from Venomous Snakebites: 5
  • Number of People in America per Year Who Die from Non-Venomous Insect Bites or Stings: 7

Organizations have something to learn here, too.  Organizations are, at root, collections of people who have fears that are often way out of proportion with reality.  Having a large group of us doesn’t make us any less prone to our psychology.

Organizations have to be courageous, too, acting in defiance of their feelings when a desired reward is on the line.  That may take the form of totally overturning ensconced business practices.  It may mean rewriting a code base that has been “good enough” for years.  It may mean putting some marketing muscle behind an untried product or making a foray into a new segment.  It may even mean redefining your mission.

What good ideas have died a horrible death at your organization because of fear?

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