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Fear Isn't Fatal, It's a Feature of Being Human

You’ve heard the advice “Conquer your fear!”

This idea has been distributed through culture as an invitation to be FEARLESS. Songs, movies, books, and even companies bear this name. They claim fear is fatal and will kill your dreams.

The hope that we can become fearless is compelling; intoxicating is the right word, but the problem is that fearless people don’t have brakes. They’re like the drunk at a frat party. They’ll do anything, but they're not fearless; they’re pretending that they’re invincible.

At Ikon we believe fear isn’t fatal, it’s a feature of being human. Leaders know how to dance with fear and great leaders know how to lead the dance.

Have you ever wondered why we love dragon stories? It’s because they have something to teach us about fear. Dragons are mythological creatures that represent our fear of the unknown. They’re the amalgamation of 5 things that terrify us: they have four legs and giant talons; lions, they have long necks and tails; snakes, they’re covered in scales and have large toothy jaws; crocodiles, and they have huge wings; birds of prey. Four apex predators—plus, they breathe fire, and when fire gets out of control we run.

But dragons weren’t always seen as mythical. During the middle ages Northern Europian’s believed they were real. And they knew how to keep track of them. They understood that there was a known and unknown world; they could map the known world but beyond it they just guessed or left it blank. Since they had never seen a dragon they always drew them in the unknown parts of their maps because that’s the only place left for them. Adventurers would explore beyond their known world to fill in the unknown world, but they never saw dragons, so when they updated their maps, the map makers would move the dragons further and further out, keeping them in the unknown world. Once they had explored the whole world, and never found a dragon, the myth was revealed.

We no longer believe in dragons in fact, now we believe in them in myth. We’ve internalized our dragons.

Like the map makers of the past, we make maps in our minds. It’s the map of our known world, places we can safely navigate; relationships, cultures, values, and beliefs. We also have our own unknown worlds; places we have yet to venture—places we fear.

Like the Northern Europeans in the middle ages, we believe in dragons, but the dragons in our minds are fear. It’s important to keep track of fear; like pain, it’s unpleasant but serves a purpose.

We experience fear when we approach the boundary between our known and unknown worlds. The dragon roars, it’s a warning sign that we are traveling off our map and we feel a lack of confidence. The roar of the dragon tells us it’s time to switch from confidence to courage. That’s what fear is for.

We can’t have confidence in the unknown; it’s new to us. We haven’t experienced it yet so how can we have confidence in it? It takes courage to enter the unknown. It requires curiosity coupled with humility fused with action. These are the markers of the courageous, not the fearless. The ‘fearless’ ones are trying to mask inexperience with confidence which can be fatal when exploring unknown worlds. Leaders know the roar of their fear and they know how to dance with it. Great leaders even learn to lead the dance.

There’s one more piece of the dragon myth. Dragons hoard gold, but why? What do they need gold for? We subconsciously accept this part of the myth because it's obvious to us. Dragons represent our fear, and gold represents our desires, of course our greatest desires are guarded by our deepest fears.

We want to start or expand a business but we are afraid it will fail. We want the promotion but we are afraid we aren’t ready. We are excited about a new product but we are afraid the market will reject it.

The failure and rejection feel personal. But of course it's personal, it’s personal because it matters to you. The fear of rejection is your dragon roaring, inviting you to switch from confidence to courage.

To attain what we want most we must venture into the unknown, trusting the roar of our dragon like a compass pointing towards true north. The more meaningful and important the desire, the louder the roar of the dragon.

So you’ve got a dragon roaring. That’s great. It means you’re doing something with meaning and purpose. This is what Ikon is for. We want to come alongside you and help you learn to lead the dance so you can accomplish what you desire.

If you're ready, so are we. Let’s do it together.


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