“At the heart of fearless living is a sense of purpose. The values that inspire your purpose must be anchored within you to guide your reactions and decisions in the small moments.”
In Fearless at Work, author Molly Fletcher provides insights and anecdotes from her varied career that illustrate her leadership principle: overcoming fear leads to success. The whole concept of this book is based upon the belief that you can make choices in your thinking and actions that allow you to change your results. Throughout her career, Fletcher was faced with obstacles and choices, and she analyzes these moments and overlays her concepts of “trades” in ways that make it easier for the reader to understand how sometimes even small or subtle moments can make a significant impact.
It’s all about the fundamentals
"Fearlessness stays present, and that’s what these fundamental habits are about. The here and now. By recognizing the moment that you are in and its potential, you can begin to create profound changes in the way you think and act."
The key to success is realizing that even the smallest of changes can lead to greater results. Fletcher continually highlights how simple choices in thinking can lead to major shifts in outcome and provides examples from her own personal experience, as well as from the experiences of many of her clients. The book focuses on 10 habits or patterns she has identified. For each of these she provides a series of “trades,” where if you exchange a current behavior for an alternative, it will lead to positive outcomes.
The 5 fundamental trades are the basic habits that influence everything – making a change here can lead to significant progress and lead to the largest impact.
- Trade Defensiveness for Curiosity – here the goal is to ask “what if…?” and find a way to push yourself out of trying to protect your own narrative, and find new solutions.
- Trade the Old Story for a New Story – too often we live with fear, afraid to try new things and challenge ourselves, so here the goal is to eliminate the “but” and search for the new who, what, where, when, why and how to become what we truly want to be.
- Trade Bad Stress for Good Stress – here the goal is to find those things that energize us, not wear us down and leverage this to focus on those things that excite us and avoid those that don’t.
- Trade Words for Action – this is one of the most critically important elements, and the one that is so often underutilized. We spend time planning and talking about what we want, but do not spend enough time doing… we know what we want, but never truly define why we want it, and what it will take to make it happen… how and what don’t matter if we don’t know our “why.”
- Trade Comfort for Clarity – we allow ourselves to be comfortable and this usually means we then try to stay comfortable and fear of change stops us from growing. Finding clarity means asking questions to truly understand how we will get to what we want, our why, and what we are willing to sacrifice, or not, to achieve it.
These essential elements are all linked together, and through working on them, trying to achieve a level of mastery will lead us to improvements in all areas of our lives. These trades will make the rest of what it takes to achieve fearlessness possible, because each of the future trades will be based on these fundamental choices.
Know who you are and what you stand for
"If you don’t have a clear purpose, you are more likely to sacrifice your time, energy, and resources to the desires of others and to stay in a place of passivity and fear."
The key to success is in knowing what is important, what you value, and having that mission lead you in every decision you make. When there is alignment, you will find success. Fear and indecision come from making choices that go against our values, or call the goal into question, but when we have clarity of purpose, these moments are less frequent. Fletcher provides a few chapters where she discusses trading superficial behaviors such as insecurity, status, and entitlement for more beneficial behaviors such as authenticity, legacy, and humility; trading excuses, regret, and impulse for accountability, responsibility and self-discipline. These choices can only be made consistently when you have a clear understanding of your values, those of your organization, and your ultimate mission.
Embrace fear to make yourself better
"Fear can’t be eliminated, but we can work through it. You will achieve this by creating awareness of key moments and learning to trade a current behavior for a better one that builds fearlessness."
Embracing fear is not ignoring its existence, or having a false sense of bravado—rather it is understanding what drives the fear, and then facing the reality and searching for alternatives that confront the negative behaviors and situations with more positive ones. Examples of trades that focus on this are intentional, such as trading scarcity for opportunity, trading urgency for simplicity, complacency for ingenuity, grudges for gratitude, complacency for ownership. In each of these examples, the author describes the differences and provides anecdotes that illustrate how to overcome them. The call to action is to understand that you can make conscious choices to confront the negative behaviors that are holding you back, and to search for better ways to live your values while still exhibiting leadership.
With each chapter, this book provides a few trades where a simple shift in mindset can take you from crippled with fear to a growth mindset rich with fearlessness. Success is not dependent upon you alone, but rather in gaining alignment and support from those around you, co-workers, friends, and family through finding cheerleaders and creating your own tribe, that subscribes to the same set of values and your shared mission.