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How to be a High Flyer

Optimize Blog - November 6, 2012 - 1 comment

As we all saw recently, via very dramatic high resolution film coverage, Austrian Felix Baumgartner leaped out of a capsule 39km (24 miles) above the Earth. The skydiver went into a free-fall taking him faster than the speed of sound. An amazing event and an amazing man who overcame his severe claustrophobia to wear a high pressure suit which enabled him to complete the world record leap.
His next generation, full pressure suit was made by the same company that prepares the flight suits of astronauts. Baumgartner’s hand-sewn suit cost more than one and a half million dollars and took a team of 30 people six months to make.
One of the team’s biggest fears was that Baumgartner’s suit would not function above the Armstrong limit – the altitude that produces an atmospheric pressure so low (0.0618 atmosphere) that water boils at the normal temperature of the human body.
“You don’t have the pressure of the atmosphere holding the gases in your bloodstream – so your body starts releasing all the gas. Out of every orifice you have you’ll start to ooze fluids. It’s like the worst possible horror film,” said Art Thompson, the project team principal. Scary stuff.
During training Baumgartner had to fight his fear and the urge to tell the team to get him out of the suit. At one point he took a year off training, returned to his home in Austria and had hypnotherapy to help him prepare mentally for the challenge.
It may be hard to draw a comparison between our mundane business lives as leaders and this extraordinary feat of courage and daring. On the other hand overcoming our fears and concerns and the fears of others to achieve great things is a key leadership trait that sets apart the great from the good.
Accomplishing extraordinary things in organizations is hard work. To keep hope and determination alive, leaders need to recognize the fears that they hold themselves and that they recognize in others. Leaders need to address these fears and make their people feel like heroes.
People fear many things, and they expect their leaders to alleviate those fears. People are afraid of making mistakes, and of failing. They are afraid of conflict and not meeting their potential.
People expect leaders to make fears go away. They want the leader to solve their problems and to inspire them to make things better. When the leader appears not to have the answers they seek, it makes them even more afraid.
Fear usually plays a part in the decisions we make. Probably the biggest fear that you will have to face when making a decision is that of failure. Obviously, the bigger the decision, the greater the downside if it doesn’t turn out to be a success. But leaders need to recognize the value in failure – the ability to do things differently the next time.
Great leaders keep their fears in context and are able to put the fears of others in context too.
Take stock of your fears now and see how many of them are senseless. If you are honest with yourself you will probably find that most of them are groundless but even where real fear exists, here are a few tips to help you overcome them:
• Share your fears with trusted friends. Talking about them helps and can provide a different perspective
• Don’t lose sight of your vision and use the relentless pursuit of that vision to place your fear in context.
• Find a boss who will support you.
• Make a wise decision that makes someone unhappy and see if the world comes to an end.
• Think of what you can do and stop spending anytime considering what you can’t do and so focus on your strengths more than on your weaknesses
• Take small steps forward rather than giant leaps; Rome wasn’t built in a day.
• Know and accept yourself. It’s easy to define yourself by the work that you do. That creates fear. Recognize your own values and passions and then pursue them.
With determination we can overcome our fears just as Felix Baumgartner has done to write his name in history…….

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1 comment

  1. Paul Salmon

    Good spin/advice. It especially puts non-life threatening fears into perspective.

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