Who’s in Control – You or Your Fear?

I admit it, I have a fear of flying. It might stem from having flown Kuwaiti Airlines during the Gulf War when I was 17 or a particularly disturbing 6 hour flight I took right after 9/11. Whatever the reason, I’ve been working on overcoming it for the past 2 years through an excellent program called SOAR, which has helped greatly. Lately, I’ve found that I’m not really bothered by flying so much anymore. While this program undoubtedly helped, I recently realized that something else was allowing that fear to continue.

I had been working at a global semiconductor for about 7 years as a technical lead and architect when I got promoted to manager of the team. Things were going well. Despite having most of my team across the nation and around the world, I never had to fly anywhere for my job. Instead, I adjusted my working schedule and used productivity tools to conduct meetings. This worked out great!

When large projects came up for our remote offices, I let others fly under the guise of giving them an opportunity or I would argue out of it. Granted, I didn’t get face time, but I still provided significant value to these projects and developed great relationships with my co-workers.

During my tenure, job offers would come up. Every job was a great leap forward, but seemed to require that I would have to fly somewhere. My brain shut down when I heard this. I was so comfortable in my job without having to fly, I couldn’t even entertain the opportunities that required travel, even light travel.

I had become complacent and my fear kept me down.

So, I continued to turn down jobs. Of course, my comfortable job couldn’t last and didn’t! The company I was working for was acquired, and the new company valued face time and travel over video collaboration and other cost saving efficiencies. The new company was also based out of Singapore and I live on the east coast. Not a good sign!

I was now being asked to fly to plan a migration, resulting in my team’s eventual demise. I had avoided flying for so long, but couldn’t anymore. Latent fear surfaced, but something else happened.

My perspective changed.

It was one thing to fly for career advancement or an exciting project, but to fly with the end goal of losing your job is a miserable prospect. Well, I did end up flying and it wasn’t horrible. 9 months later, I was out of a job.

In my new role as Microsoft Solutions Sales Lead, I have the opportunity to fly again, but this time the upswing is huge. I now have the opportunity to help grow the business by interacting with Microsoft, customers and other partners.

For 9 years, I allowed complacency and fear to rule my career. It took a real shock, losing my job, to realize that this was a mistake.

Here’s an analogy. I’ve been teaching my kids how to ride a bike. My middle daughter cannot maintain her balance because she doesn’t control the handlebars too well and she is afraid, just like I was. She wants to have the security of me holding onto her as she rides. This is what we yell over and over as I run along side her:

“Who’s in charge of the bike?”

“I’m in charge of the bike!”

My advice is – don’t get too comfortable where you are and allow fear to dictate your path. Let go of your fear and take control!