Exposure to danger is necessary for progress

Oct 2017 | John Marik | sharing-business-ideas.com


On the horizon a dark lump of ocean appears.  I’ve just got out the back where the waves are breaking, my heart was thumping – THUMP, THUMP, THUMP…

…the adrenal response is nothing new; “fight or flight”, heart beat increases, eyes widen, I’m nervous!

The dark lump rears up, I start to paddle, the wave starts to lift me up, forward momentum has started…and then…something over-rides…abort, abort and I pull back.


I’d been working up to this moment for twenty plus years, surfing cold Tasmanian waters, getting myself fit for months preparing for this moment.  The wave of a lifetime in the Indonesian archipelago.  So why did I pull back from the possible wave of a lifetime and that sense of achievement?

It was FEAR – plan and simple!  

Fear of what?  At that split second I would like to say I evaluated the below very quickly:


  • The achievement of getting the wave of my life
  • My mates / buddies will be pretty impressed


  • It’s a pretty steep wave, I might not make it and look silly in front of my mates
  • I could hit the reef or my board

Unfortunately in that split second there was no thought – I just froze.  The “fight or flight” response, as initiated by the amygdala, was an immediate, overwhelming emotional response whereby the threat just seemed far too great.

So what did I do about it?  I actually just got back in line, waited my turn and tried again, and again and again.  To minimise the risk of harm in surfing over coral reefs, you cannot hesitate, you must put your head down, paddle as hard as you can and just go!  For the next week I just kept pushing myself.  What was scary at the start of the 11 day trip, was not as scary by the end of the trip.

It’s interesting reflecting on this scenario a few months after the surf holiday.  I had the best surf trip of my life hands down.  I must have got over a hundred waves and pushed myself way over what I considered my limit, yet it is this one wave that I remember.  As humans we are designed to put more of an emphasis on failures than our successes whether it be on the sporting field, in our business lives or in our personal lives.  Those ten successes sometimes are outweighed in our minds by that one failure.

The fact of business life is that there is a lot of exposures to danger – risk –  with challenges from so many quarters; external market conditions are ever-changing, new agile and nimble competitors disturbing your market share, internal conditions seem to forever be trying to keep up with external changes.  The fear in business a lot of the time is related to the fear of the unknown, making the “wrong” decision, or even the fear of making a decision – whether this is rational or not doesn’t matter, it is about people’s perception and that little amygdala playing havoc.  With its responsibility for emotions and survival instincts, it can and will over-rule even the most rational minds at the earliest sign of trouble.

Yes change is, and will continue to be a constant in our lives, however we as business professionals can make things easier on ourselves, on our employees and on our teams.  We make things easier by ensuring change is added into the business wherever possible in bite sized chunks, every day you work towards your strategy by overlaying change over the existing business model.  These little increments, while they may not be too welcome at first, if played right by businesses, over time customers, employees and other stakeholders will not only accept change, but expect change! It is these little increments of change that makes a world of difference to keep people’s pesky amygdala’s at bay and not see change as a danger to them, but more so as an opportunity to progress.  As:

“…risk is necessary for progress” Jeff Bezos, CEO, Chairman, Founder of Amazon.com

Just look down at your smart phone.  Tech teams are working away in the background changing code, cleaning it up and adding new functionality at break neck speed.  You as the customer will be put out a little as you try to work out the new changes and functionality from the latest update or upgrade, but give it a few hours or days and it just seamlessly becomes part of your new normal and your new habits!


#strategy #change #leadership #habits #fear #surfing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s