Fear, Evolution, and Dating Girls

“You shouldn’t wait for complete knowledge before taking action. It is very difficult to look good and get better at the same time. Instead of being afraid of how you look while you’re getting better, be afraid of continuing to live your life at a fraction of your potential”- Eric Worre, Go Pro

Have you ever wanted to do something, but thought to yourself, I need way more information on how to even get started with that? I have experienced this so many times I can’t count. My biggest issue is I was raised in the same society as everyone else. I am scared, but here it goes.

Building on my last post, where we have lost most of our imagination to the demands of getting grades to appease standardized tests, our generation comes out of school knowing all about chemistry (which is important), Pythagorean theorem (I used this to make a deck), and trigonometry (I don’t even know what this is), but we don’t have the skills to do our own taxes, baking (see chemistry is important), or manage credit cards and debt.

So what is stopping us from taking action to change things. Well first of all let us look at what often stops us from doing anything at all, fear. Fear is an amazingly powerful part of the psyche, it can protect us from harm, and it can stop us from exceeding in our current roles in life. Evolutionary biology helps us understand why we have fear built in. The fight or flight instinct helps us to avoid situations of peril. For example, if our ancestors were walking around in the jungle ten thousand years ago and we ran into a Bengal tiger, it would be in our gene’s best interest to recognize this is a dangerous situation and run if we can, and fight if we can. It would be really bad for your ability to perpetuate your genetic material if you tried to pet the tiger despite what Winnie the Pooh would have you believe. Tigger is not friendly, and no they don’t bounce around in their tails. Fear is good, it pumps our adrenal glands filling our adrenergic cells full of neurotransmitters that say “get ready to be attacked.” It pulls the blood away from our extremities expanding the blood vessels in our cardiovascular system, and it will also evacuate our bowels and bladder if necessary to help us lose weight and run faster (I have never been so scared that I pissed my pants, but I have arrested people who did).

When was the last time you ran into a tiger? The biggest thing that scares me nowadays is driving; have you seen how people drive? Caged animals operating a 2 ton self propelled projectile, with giant truck nuts hanging off the back and a stack as big as a garbage can coming out of the middle of the truck bed (I live in the heart of oil country, so this is an actual vehicle that tried to run me over). But are you facing a situation where you are going to have to fight or run away to save your life? Not really. So, why does our body give us the exact same pump of adrenaline when we are about to go on stage to talk to 5,000 people, or asking a girl out on a date? (I would argue the latter is way scarier) Our bodies as amazing as they are, are not that old. In the grand scheme of our young planet , only about 4.5 Billion years old, we are but a speck of dust on the second hand. The entire human race (Homo Sapiens Sapiens) has really only existed for about 200,000 years or 0.0044444444444444% of 4,500,000,000. So we really are a brand new species on earth and we have only had the opportunity to evolve simple systems which are somewhat binary in nature. We either fight or we flight in these situations. On or Off, there is no try.

How do these systems work in our complex society? Not very well it would appear. We have also only been living in societies for about 6000 of the 200,000 years, which is only about 3% of our total existence, and of those 6000 years the migration from agrarian society to industrialized cities with large populations has only been around for about 100 years (post WWI) which is 2% of that time. We wonder why our fear responses sometimes don’t make any sense? The situations we are experiencing are so new to us in terms of evolutionary biology that it is analogous to having a reality TV star try to run the most powerful nation on the planet. (your responses to perceived threats will be out of proportion and you end up expending energy unnecessarily, but at least you have cool hair).

In other instances the system is perfectly adapted to protecting us in our modern society. Walk through the wrong neighbourhood wearing the wrong colour clothes, or symbol of religious freedom and you will feel the tingle in your spine because we know we are in danger.

So what does all of this have to do with Eric Worre’s statement about not being afraid to start something before we have complete knowledge? We have these overwhelmingly powerful built in responses to perceived threats and we have to apply them to modern social situations. Should I get up and dance at the wedding? Will the girls thinks my moves are good? Or is it more of a situation where I am doing the “Elaine” (millenials look up Seinfeld- Elaine Dancing), where my body is moving so spastically that people assume I am in need of medical attention. Is this social suicide, which might as well result in my death in the eyes of my peers? This gives us the same fight or flight, and so often in our society we get in trouble for fighting that we have given up on our fight, and run from the scary situations. We have been told that if we do things which aren’t socially acceptable we will be ostracized from some or all of the benefits of living in the society. I have experienced this at times, by being told at work to stop using certain words, or not dress so well because it comes off as pompous when in truth it is me respecting you by treating you as if you have the same level of intelligence as I do, and speaking to you accordingly, and maintaining my appearance because that is what you deserve.

This social pressure to conform, continually reminds us not to exceed standards, because you will be seen as a threat to position, or status quo. You begin to internalize that you are not good enough, and that you don’t actually know where to start because you have fear that if you do, it would be misinterpreted or seen as subversive and then we believe we can’t do what we want crushing our will to start even before we hit the go button.

Don’t fall into despair, there are many things that you can do to change your perspective on this. First, when you want to do something, find out what others are doing. For example, I am a member of Rich20Something.com, Under30Experiences, Calgary Network Marketing Network, and many other affiliations to learn what others are doing. Second, once you have looked at what others are doing, don’t get caught thinking you are doing something watching Gary V. videos, and reading James Altucher (btw I recommend both of them). My friends Rajiv Nathan, and Martin McGovern call this phase of starting something, Mental Masturbation (They’re smart guys, you can find them at IdeaLemon.com). You can spend all your time thinking you are making progress by watching and learning what others are doing, but taking the learning and applying it is one of the most important things. If you think you are learning how to ride a bike, by watching videos, reading books, and watching other people ride bikes, you are not going to ever learn that riding a bike is about downwards force on the pedals, leaning your whole body, pulling and pushing the handle bars, gyroscopic procession in the wheels, and scanning the road ahead to determine where you need to go, who to avoid (everyone), and how to stop in the case of an emergency. Third, and this one is super important. There are going to be people who are going to tell you that you shouldn’t. They will absolutely tell you that you’re crazy, you should find a steady job and get your head out of the clouds. That there are only a few people who can ever be successful, and that you will never be the best at something. Couple of things, first is that person putting any money in your bank account by saying those things to you? NOPE. Why would you take advice from someone who isn’t successful in the first place? More often than not the people who are telling you that you shouldn’t do something either wish they had done it first, or they don’t actually want to see you succeed because it reminds them of the fact that they are not doing what they want to. For example, I was on a social media post today where my friend was mentioning that his cousin had given up her passion, because there was no money in it. Instead of focusing on it someone decided they wanted to take this as an opportunity to humble brag that they had achieved the goal my friend’s cousin hadn’t and that maybe it was just that they weren’t cut out for it. Look at how damaging that would be if it was you who heard these words. I still remember when the CHRO of a company I worked at said as a passing comment at a business dinner “why are you looking for advancement, when you are struggling so hard with the job you have currently?” (I was the top producer for the company and had managed to grow my portfolio by 4% in one quarter while the company lost 13% in the other two portfolios) Very often things others will say or what you think they might say will stop you from seeking growth. DON’T LET THEM TAKE YOUR JOY.

Finally the only way you will ever learn how to do something is by practicing. The song Ten Thousand Hours by Macklemore talks about the struggle, the grind, the time that it takes to get good at anything you want to do. My favourite lyric from the song is “the greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint, the greats were great because they paint a lot.” It is from a premise that was posited by one of my favourite authors, who happens to be from the same area as I was raised in. Malcolm Gladwell uses different ways of thinking about things, and one of my favourite ideas is that it takes 10,000 hours to be good any thing, Yo Yo Ma, Wayne Gretzky, Michelangelo, all had to work their whole lives. Gary Vanyerchuk hates people who call themselves or anyone who is successful and overnight success, because everyone who has ever achieved something resembling greatness has worked for years to be good at it.

A deer gracefully runs, but as a fawn they could barely stand on their own legs. A lion’s first attempt at hunting results in her going hungry. Do they give up before they even try? NOPE. Incomplete information and knowledge is inherent at the beginning. You’re going to look silly at first,like Bambi. It will be painful at times, when you are hungry but can’t find any food to eat, like the lion cub. The only things that will save you is persistence, consistency, and telling fear to go away, because you will get it eventually. Fail Forward. Go out and fucking live a life that is scary and makes you uncomfortable. (I am writing this and it is hard, but I promised myself I would keep going. I am no one special. Just a guy who expresses how he feels from behind a keyboard, so he has enough ammo to face the real world.)

“the greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint, the greats were great because they paint a lot.”- Macklemore