Fear

There is always going to be someone bigger, smarter, faster, or better looking than me–sometimes all at once–and the internet is making it harder to hide in localized pools of mediocrity. More than ever, it’s clear that prospective employers will want to see your on-line presence, blog, twitter, LinkedIn. Always looking for new opportunities, I decided I needed to be online…

But in spite of having a blog site since August of 2010, I didn’t post anything until 9 months later! There was-and is-fear to overcome–fear of my own inadequacies being exposed to the world. for example, my knowledge doesn’t compare to that of John Langford, Arvind Narayanan, Steve Blank and lots and lots of others. My postings are available to anyone in the world to read and criticize. Good God, someone with a real follower base might negatively retweet one of my postings and expose me as an idiot! Before the internet took over, my stupidity was more localized. There was little chance of a personal gaffe going viral on YouTube.

But it’s all relative, isn’t it? My world was smaller, so, even though I can now be exposed as an idiot in front of billions instead of the hundreds or thousands before, as a percentage of my world it’s still the same. I now have equally far greater opportunity than ever. It’s doubtful I would have ever known about any of the above individuals or the many others from whom I learn every day. How effectively could I have collaborated with others from around the globe to start a new venture? Not very!

Why do I not grasp these greatly expanded opportunities? Do I not believe they are real, or am I more concerned with the downside? I think I am afraid to fail. Why am I afraid, and why this particular fear?

I am who I am, and my life is the one I lead. I’m wondering what I’m really afraid of. What is the worst thing that can happen? Maybe someone catches a mistake I made and let others know about it, or perhaps my feelings get hurt by their tone? If I’m ashamed of my life, or some part of it, wouldn’t it make more sense to change than hide? I think the first thing I should work on is disclosure–identify what I’m hiding, stop hiding it, and try to understand why I felt I needed to hide it and maybe make some changes in my behavior so I don’t have to hide it. For instance, I was unemployed for a few years after the tech bubble burst in 2001, and labored on a farm and as a builder’s apprentice. I never included them in any resume. I told myself they weren’t relevant to the world of software, but I think now that it was more out of embarrassment. I have updated my LinkedIn profile with these two positions, and am going to look for other such “omissions” in my life. For instance, I need to post some of my failures on this blog.

In terms of getting upset by something someone writes, or the implied tone, I can’t control how others behave, but I can certainly practice the kind of behavior I want to receive. I’m thinking of the word humility, the best description of which I’ve found being “quality of being courteously respectful of others”. Notice that it says “respectful of others” and not “respectful to others”. I take the use of “of” to be more inclusive behavior, that being respectful of someone extends to how I think of them and how I do things for them, not just how I act towards them in their presence.

I hope that I’ll start to feel more liberated, and in the meantime I’m going to continue to explore why I’m worried. I’m comforted recalling the words of Dr. Seuss: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

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About jeffmershon

Director of Program Management at SiriusXM.
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