A Blueprint for Freedom

Lead, inspire, and learn

Taming Your Crocodiles

According to author Hylke Faber, “crocodiles” are inhibiting thoughts and behaviors that are based in fear. These creatures cramp your style at best. At worst, they turn your life into a landscape of anxiety land-mines, causing you to live a perpetual state of fight-or-flight.

What if you could banish these large and hungry beasts? Taming Your Crocodiles: Unlearn Fear & Become a True Leader provides the blueprint for positive leadership and a kind of freedom that you never knew existed in your professional life as well as in your personal one.

This approachable, friendly, and generous new book by educator and innovator Hylke Faber poses a simple question to kick off the process:

How am I growing?

This question, says Hylke, asked once a day or twenty times a day, will set you free from what you are not. You will die to your former self and all of the old thoughts and feelings that impeded your progress. And that’s just the beginning of a book with a message of kindness — and productivity.

For Hylke, the ongoing work of leading and learning is about gentleness. It’s also about unlearning eons of conditioning, maladaptive behaviors and beliefs that have been useful for survival and social cohesion but have resulted in a “dance of masks” (and crocodiles).

Taming Your Crocodiles offers a step-by-step self-study that you can begin at the introduction and work on chapter at a time, or a reference guide to access where the spirit moves you to read. Each of the nine chapters ends with a set of exercises called “field work” in which readers can learn to put ideas into practice and grow from fear-filled crocodiles into wise owls.

“We are often not gentle with ourselves,” says Hylke, “nor with others. We think: ‘I’ve got to be better than you, I have to have a bigger house, kindness doesn’t get me anywhere.’ Time is money, money talks, and nice doesn’t exist.”

But this level of thinking advances no one in the long run, not even the for-profit company well in the black. “If a company is just about making money,” says Hylke, “then it is exploiting someone; its workers and maybe even its customers. Companies straddle this paradox.”

Rather than focus on competition and domination, Hylke believes that all are better served by open and thoughtful conversation that is structured to solve problems rather than blame people: “I relish what happens when we are honest together.” Hylke is always focused on these practices and their real-world applications, promoting the concept of productive work and the culture of success.

Hylke says that he wrote the book in 10 days on a farm in Iceland — full circle from the rural landscape of the Netherlands that he left behind. “But the child wanted to be home on the farm,” he says of the process of writing. The book is also a continuation of his course, “Leader as Coach,” at the Columbia Business School.

You too can become an owl, creating a life of love and cooperation for yourself and those with whom you work and live. Just ask yourself one question first thing in the morning:

How am I growing?