The Forward Mind

A thinking man's guide to mastery

Category: Courage

The Boogeyman

You wake up in the middle of the night.  The room is pitch black, except for some light coming underneath your door.  The light is barely enough, but you can start to make things out in the room as you look around.  Suddenly, you see him.  There is a man sitting in a chair in the corner of your room staring directly at you, and he’s holding a gun.  Your heart leaps from your chest and you immediately spring to action (more than likely you just sit there frozen scared, but in the story you tell later you’ll have leapt immediately to action).  You run to the door and turn on the light switch to find…

Clothes.  Just a large pile of dirty clothes that you threw into your chair the day before.  In the dark they looked like the figure of a man, but as soon as you shed some light on them, you realize you were just overreacting.  This has probably happened to many of you as children.  You get tucked into bed, the door closes, the lights turn off, and suddenly you’re filled with terror.  The room was just there in front of you for all to see, but now the unknown sets in and you start hearing noises and seeing shadows.  Contrary to what your parents may have thought, however, you weren’t scared of your room.  And you weren’t scared of the dark.

You were scared of the unknownAnd for the most part, you still areYour fears are a lot like the Boogeyman in the nightThey will disappear the second you shed some light on them.

Most articles and books on fear will tell you to face your fears head on.  I only recommend this technique for irrational fears.  You are scared of snakes for a reason.  Poisonous snakes will kill you, and there is not a huge benefit to playing with them. You are startled by gunshots because your ancestors ran from gunshots and survived to pass on their genes.  These are rational fears and reactions.

However, if you have an irrational fear, I recommend exposing yourself to it in small doses, and slowly getting more and more exposure until your fear is diminished, if not gone entirely.  A good example of an irrational fear is public speaking.  Yes, crowds have gone crazy and rioted in the past, trying to kill the speaker.  No, it is not going to happen while you’re presenting on “How a bill becomes a law” in your high school government class.  I do public speaking for a living, and can attest that it gets easier the more you do it.

I want you to start thinking about what scares you, and label that an irrational or a rational fear.  Some rational fears, like heights, become irrational as long as you are using caution.  Find out what you are irrationally afraid of, and think of an incredibly small way to expose yourself to that fear.  Then you can start getting over that fear slowly and with more exposure.  No more boogeyman… just dirty clothes.

Is the world rejecting you, or are you rejecting yourself?

You hear it all the time.  Your best friend is complaining about how they haven’t gotten a raise in 5 years, despite giving everything they’ve got to the company.  They tell you they’ve worked hard, come in on weekends, and gone above and beyond in every way, but their boss still won’t give them a raise.  Then they go on a hate-parade about how their boss is a selfish, totalitarian douchebag who only cares about profits.  Finally, you ask the inevitable question.

“So… how much of a raise did you ask for?”

You friend turns to you and replies “oh… well I didn’t ask for one, but I deserve one because I’ve been with the company for 5 years”

Think about this for a second.  You’re the owner of an organization.  Are you going to willingly give more money to people?  Not if you’re any good.  Increases in income only boost morale for a short while, and then employees return to their normal level of productivity.  You don’t volunteer raises; you give them to people who ask for them.  If you work at a company for five years and you’ve never asked for a raise, then you shouldn’t be surprised that you haven’t gotten one.  Here’s the take-away:

You will be amazed at the things that you can get if you simply ask for them.

Your boss didn’t reject your raise.  You did.  And this goes for just about every other aspect of your life.  You see a cute girl sitting at a bar texting on her phone.  You walk away thinking “girls like that never go for guys like me…”, but you never say a single word to her.  That girl didn’t reject you.  You rejected yourself.

I know what you’re thinking.  Easier said than done.  You agree with me completely, but when you’re actually about to walk into your bosses office, or walk up to that girl at the bar, your heart is pounding, your survival instinct has kicked in, and your rational mind is creating a tornado of excellent reasons not to pursue what you want.  I won’t bore you with the evolutionary biology that’s gone into this response, but maybe I can help a bit.

People always say that when you approach a situation, you should imagine the best possible scenario, but I always like to imagine the worst-case scenario, because once you’ve done this a couple of times, you’ll find out that the worst-case scenario never, ever happens. So, what is the worst case scenario of asking your boss for a raise?  Simple. He fires you.  You walk in and demand a raise, and your boss thinks “whoa, is this Carl from accounting?  I thought we fired him months ago!  I’m glad he brought his existence to my attention, otherwise he would have received his meager salary for the rest of his life!!” .  Now you have no raise, and no job.  You go home and tell your wife, who leaves you immediately, taking the kids and half your income.  Then the IRS comes to collect on back taxes and throws you in jail, where you are viciously raped.

Sounds a little over the top, right?  That’s because it is.  Let me tell you what will realistically happen.  You’ll ask your boss for a raise, and he’ll sit you down and talk to you about quarterly profits, and how his boss is on his ass about the numbers, and how the company just doesn’t have the money to give raises right now.  Then he’ll tell you to ask again at your next performance review and he’ll “see what he can do”.  You won’t get a raise, and life will proceed as normal.  Or, you’ll get a raise.

That girl at the bar?  She isn’t going to throw a drink in your face, blow her rape whistle, or immediately call on the Sopranos to beat the shit out of you with a baseball bat.  Here’s what will realistically happen with her.  You’ll walk up and start talking to her, she’ll be polite and give you a minute or two of conversation, and then she’ll say something like “Well listen my friends are over there, but it was nice talking to you” and walk away.  If she’s really classy, she’ll even touch your forearm when she says this.  You’ll have been rejected, and life will proceed as normal.  Or, you’ll immediately hit it off and spend the rest of your life together.

The point is this.  Before you assume that you can’t have something, shouldn’t have something, don’t deserve something, and will never be happy without that something, why not just ask for it? Why not ask the simple question?  You might get absolutely nothing out of it.  Or you might get everything.