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RE : Terror Management Theory

A few pre-emptive stikes before we move on :

  • This is my first post in english. I’ve been raised in French and I’m a French speaker natively. Sorry for any typos…
  • I dont want to sound like a motivationnal speaker. I’m sorry if I do.
  • If you can’t read the rest of this site and wonder what I do for a living, I’m a web software developper.

This is a reply to a post on Spin Sucks called Terror Management Theory. If you haven’t read it, go read it now : http://www.spinsucks.com/entrepreneur/terror-management-theory/. The comments are very good too. Read the discussion.

Done? No, seriously, go read it. I’ll wait!


We good? Ok, there we go.

1. Having a cause or an enemy is required

People can overcome their fear of death.We see it all the time. Someone rushing to grab a kid before he get hit by a bus, a fireman running into a fire to save an old lady, people fighting to defend their country and on and on and on.

In all those cases, the same principle apply. People will take risks if it’s for a cause worthwile to THEM (more on that later).

Your cause or your enemy doesn’t have to be a person or an organisation. It can be a principle too.

In my case, I’ve decided to fight against mediocrity. I can’t stand mediocrity anymore. Which is why I’ve stopped taking projects where I would have to cut corners. I just don’t want to do it anymore.

When I tell this to people, they all say the same thing : it’s great that you can do it, but I can’t because of [insert reason here]*.

The fact is I’m not independently wealthy any more than you. I need to make a living as much as anyone. But I’ve decided that it’s a risk worth taking in order to only do work I will be absolutely 100% proud of.

Which bring me to my second point : create a safety net and stop imagining the worse.

2. Create a safety net and stop catastrophising

There is a small part in the back of your brain called the amygdala. This part is responsible for the voice telling you to stay in your cave because a lion might eat you if you go outside.

100 000 years ago, this part was very useful. The guy who stayed behind passed on his genes…

But now, what is the worse that can happen to you if you publish that controversial blog post? Or launch this risky new project ?

Ridicule? Losing your job? So what!

With the boomers retiring, the economy can suck, you will find another job kid. The boomers need you.

Dont worry so much. There is a very high probability that everything will be alright.  And you will have a war story to tell at your next interview which will put you in the top 1% of the candidates.

If you want to take risk (or want your employees to be able to take risks), you need to create a safety net in which you feel safe to do the thing that frighten you. As Mark Twain said : I had a lot of problems in my life, most of which never actually happened.

3. Procrastination is a symptom

I procrastinated a lot. Not anymore. You know why?

We procrastinate when we’ve forgotten who we are and when we are afraid of failure or success.

I was afraid of success. I was afraid that if I did my job extraordinarely well, people would ask me to do another job, but harder this time. Followed by an even harder and harder job, until I would fail and be ridiculed.

I’m not afraid anymore. I’m confident in my ability to handle it. Which is why I don’t procrastinate anymore.

You have to figure out what is keeping you from doing those awesome and risky things. Then, create a safety net and go do it.

4. Never ask someone to do something you would not do

Finaly, the most important principle of all. I said before that people will take risks when a cause is worthwile to THEM. The other side of this is that you should never ask someone to do something you would not do yourself.

During World War 2, 25% of the planes taking off to bomb Germany aborted their mission.

They all cited mechanical problems. It was balloney.

The probability of being killed in any mission was 10%. They did 1 mission a week. Not everyone would be killed, but the chances were very high that you would not make it to Christmas. They were turning back because of fear.

When General Curtis LeMay (Dr. Strangelove himself) heard this, he issued an order : He would fly in the lead plane of every mission and if anyone turned back before they reached the target, they would be court marshallled.

The abort rate went to 0% overnight.

Hope it helps! Don’t hesitate to tell me why I’m full of c… or how awesome I am in the comments. I’m not afraid anymore.

* If you think you have a good reason why you cant do it, go see Kirsty Henshaw pitch on dragon’s den (starting at 3:07).

Publié le par André-F. Landry | Posted in Entrepreneuriat | Un commentaire