Lean in was part of a speech Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook presented at the Barnard College commencement. Barnard College educates nearly 2,400 undergraduate women. What did she mean by lean in? Lean in means to incline or press into something.
Here is an excerpt of her speech, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” She went on to say, “Don’t let your fears overwhelm your desire. Let the barriers you face and there will be barriers be external, not internal. Fortune does favor the bold. I promise that you will never know what you’re capable of unless you try. Ask yourself, what would I do if I weren’t afraid?” And then go do it!” She was encouraging women, but this can apply to everyone.
“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” What is it about fear that keeps us from doing something we say we want to do? Why do we give fear so much power over us? Fear is okay when it keeps you out of dark alleys, bad neighborhoods or away from the edge of the cliff. Everything else should be under consideration. Fear makes us think twice about what you are going to do. That is good! It makes us research more, check with professionals and think it through, but it should not stop us.
For all you thrill seekers who jump off buildings, or out of planes, you can skip this section. Failure is pretty intimidating and downright scary! Frankly, I do not know anyone who wants to fail. There is a large group of people who overcome fear every day. We all have fears and insecurities that make us think twice about something. What is life’s biggest fear? I believe it is public speaking. Fear is sometimes confused with being nervous. Most people are afraid or nervous because they want to do well.
How do you overcome this fear or nervousness? Confidence is not just a word. Confident people prepare for opportunities. They research, practice, investigate alternatives and then go for it. What do you need to do to feel confident? Making a decision means looking at alternatives. Put together a list of benefits and consequences to help you make your decision. Start small and grow as your confidence grows.
What is the consequence of not taking a risk? Yes, you can take the safe route in life, but you miss out on the rewards of risk too. Opportunities offer rewards and risks; the biggest risks generally have the biggest rewards. What opportunity did you turn down because of fear? If your dream was to be self employed, you have to take a risk. You may have to invest time, money and make that leap!
What drives you to overcome your fear? Is it ambition, determination or preparation? For me, ambition may start me off, but it is determination coupled with preparation that gets me through my fear. Recognize fear as a good response to new things and work with it. How do you react to new things? Successful people try new things and they are prepared for change. They prepare by practicing skills and acquiring new ones to meet the challenges of new things.
Overcoming your fear is just part of what is needed to succeed! If your fear prevents you from trying to accomplish your dream, you are letting your internal barriers keep you from your goal. You need to step up your effort to overcome the challenge. This is when self discipline or ambition takes over and you apply the effort to succeed. If you never try, you can never succeed.
What are you afraid of? Is it failure? If you let your fear prevent you from trying, you will not succeed. How do you overcome your fear? I prepare myself, get the skills I need, research and press forward. Making that effort can overcome any fear. Successful people make mistakes, fail and stumble, but they don’t let that stop them from succeeding. They learn from their mistakes and apply what you learned to succeed. We call that continuous improvement! It is up to you to decide what effort you bring to a challenge.
Some people work on the fear aspect, others just work on the task or goal itself. Either way, in order to succeed, you must be willing to make the effort to succeed. You are responsible for your success and failure. I wrote an article called “What is your next step” reveals my ambitions, but it also shows how I concentrate on goals versus fears. Successful people processes fear differently that other people. They use it to help them succeed. What are you going to do? Lean in and make the effort to succeed!
Photo by: dryhead
I would add, if part of your fear is that you don’t have enough experience/cash to invest, set a goal for how many years of experience or dollars in your savings account, and then when you hit that goal GO FOR IT.
Good point! Successful people usually find/acquire the skills necessary to succeed. They don’t even think about it, they just do it.
I think people fear losing what they have. The more you have the less likely you would take a risk. It depend on the personality too. Some people are natural risk taker and some people likes it safe.
You are right the more you have the less risks you are willing to take. Loss can be money, prestige, even position. For me, I am very comfortable with business risks because I am familiar with the risks.
Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog says
I’ve read quite about about Sheryl and I’m pretty impressed with her – the advice she gave in this speech seems to be spot on. I also dont know anyone who’s totally unafraid of failure (and if they are, they probably have no skin in the game). To fell confident about hte risks I take, I try to minimize the downside as much as possible through preparedness.
They call those calculated risks. Fear can be good if it makes you access the situation better.
Hunter @ Financially Consumed. says
Lean in. I like it. I agree that we definitely get more out of life if we embrace it and accept the challenges that are all around us. Fear is all around us too. Fear of being successful, and fear of losing face are two big negative forces.
Very true! So are you leaning in?
Hunter @ Financially Consumed. says
Sometimes I am, and sometimes I play it too safe. I’m working on it.
Fear makes us think about the risk! For me, calculated risks mean that you thought it through and expect to succeed.
Miss T says
I have learned the last few years to not be afraid to be true to myself. Confidence in who you are and what you want to tackle is the real key to happiness. If you let things pass you by because you are not confident or because someone says you can’t , then you end up miserable. We really need to embrace opportunities and accept challenges just like Hunter said.
Confidence usually comes from past experience of success. It helps you attempt bigger and riskier projects. The riskier projects may require more preparation and effort, but fear should not stop you.
Kris @ Everyday Tips says
I go in cycles. Sometimes I feel like I can conquer the world, and other times, I get quite nervous. Right now I am on a project for work that did make me quite nervous because it was a new system and all the ‘experts’ are too busy fighting fires. However, I have dove in and now I am enjoying it so much. Basically, knowledge alleviates any fears I have.
In may ways, it is good that the “experts” are busy. You build confidence when you overcome fear. Each time it gets easier.
Darwin's Money says
I wonder if that’s where our HR robots got the latest phase they’re pushing “lean into discomfort” in how we interact with others and lead teams, etc. I always laugh at how certain phrases just catch on nobody credits the initial source…
You are right! I tried looking it up to get a general meaning and it was pretty vague. In my business career, I felt a lot of them were from sports such as “let’s huddle” or “touch base”.
Buck Inspire says
Great article. Fear of failure is my top fear. Lack of confidence makes that fear grow. Working on gaining skills and knowledge to increase my confidence. In turn, that will kill my fear. What is that saying, “Nothing to fear, but fear itself!” Often times my perceived outcome is way worse than reality!
Why not expect success? The only thing separating you from success is the amount of effort you exert. Confidence comes from achieving success and you can use it to overcome your fear.
Amanda L Grossman says
What a fantastic question! I am the type of person who certainly has fears, but I face them head on; otherwise they will eat me up.
I am trying to think of one off of the top of my head, but I think what I will do instead is ask myself that question the next time I feel afraid of something.
It is sort of interesting how everybody overcomes their fears differently. For me, I will think it through thoroughly and then practice it a lot. I build up confidence that way.
Marie at FamilyMoneyValues says
Well, I have jumped out of a plane (twice) and do love public speaking – but only because I do prepare. Sure I have failed, but those have been my greatest learning experiences.
On my site, I publish a monthly tip about what millionaires do differently. One of them was that Millionaires overcome their fear of risk. “Millionaires manage their risks. They analyze the pros and cons of the situation, seek knowledge and expert advice before committing. They understand in advance what can go right and what can go wrong and have a plan for each path.”
What is interesting is that everyone should do what you describe, yet only the successful people do it. Hmmmm, maybe that is the lesson if you want to be successful!