Friday the 13th

It’s estimated that 17 to 21 million people in America suffer from paraskavedekatriaphobia. Say that one three times fast. Actually, I’d be impressed if you could say it just once. It’s the fancy name for the fear of Friday the 13th. Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, NC, estimates that $800 to $900 million is lost in business because of the behavior shifts that occur every time Friday falls on the 13th.

Whether or not those estimates are correct, the truth is our fears – legitimate or not – affect our behavior. As leaders we must acknowledge our fears; if we don’t we are fooling ourselves – and, by extension, those we mean to lead. I disagree with the popular “No Fear” brand – they’re promoting delusion and posturing. I also disagree with Andrew Jackson when he exhorts you to “never take counsel of your fears.” By all means take counsel of your fears! That’s why you have them – to keep yourself and others alive and safe.

Fear is a good thing. Besides keeping us safe, it’s a crucial ingredient for one of the key attributes of an extraordinary leader: Courage. Without true fear, true courage cannot exist. Courage isn’t an absence of fear; courage happens when you’re afraid, but you chose to press on. And when people see true courage, they follow it.

Fear is a power hungry emotion. It wants to call the shots. Your fears are not – and never should be – in charge; you are. That’s what Roosevelt was warning against when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” FDR knew a little about irrational fears. He refused to begin traveling on the 13th of the month. He avoided it at all costs. He even died on Thursday, April 12, 1945, refusing to travel to the hereafter on Friday the 13th.

So don’t pretend away your fears, but don’t let them rule you either.

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