I recently read a great article by Leo Babauta: Develop resiliency: How to move towards your fears and suddenly a lot became clear about why so many highly talented people in Big 4 firms and other large professional service firms become a brake on their own career development.

What was the premise of the article?

In the article, Leo reasoned that:

One of the things we tend to do habitually is move away from things we’re afraid of. How very human, how very loving, to protect ourselves!
Unfortunately that tendency to avoid fears is exactly what limits us.
We avoid our fear of pain, humiliation, anxiety, looking stupid, failing … and we develop all kinds of ways to protect ourselves, from walling ourselves off from danger and being overwhelmed, to avoiding difficult conversations, difficult projects, and any situations where we might flop on our faces.

Leo then went onto argue:

How can we learn anything if we look for certainty and avoid uncertainty? You can’t learn chess (for example) without playing a bunch of games and losing them … so we avoid real learning and just read about it. Real learning is postponed while we shirk from uncertainty.

What’s the ‘so what’ for you?

After reading this article, a huge amount resonated with my own personal circumstances with my own business. My own business is going through a radical change as my business partner for the last 7 or so years steps down to enjoy semi-retirement.

We often become frightened of our own success so we keep ourselves in our comfort zone to protect ourselves. As a result we question our own ambition, or put in barriers which are really not there.

I was talking with a high achiever from a big 4 firm a few months back. She told me that if I had spoken to her a year ago I would have heard her saying that she was fully gunning for partnership, 100%. But 12 months on she was having some strong doubts. I asked her where these doubts were coming from. She confirmed that part of the doubts were her minds way of protecting her from working her ass off (her words not mine) for a year or so just to get rejected when on partner track.

In the article, Leo reasoned that any time we feel fear, this is our cue to go towards it, rather than away from it. As going towards our fear is when we will truly develop ourselves and be in a place of learning.

After all, nothing good career progression wise ever came from being in our comfort zone. So as the saying goes, feel the fear and do it anyway!