About 95% of the business people I know struggle horribly with pressures at work AND home; the challenge of making payroll, worries about what the big and small competitors are doing to their futures, difficulties in properly balancing work and family, and in the process, managing NOT to act like a maniacal demon to everyone around them.
A few years ago, when I was still a CPA, I attended a conference with one of my clients who struggled like that. After one of the sessions, he encountered a group of electricians gathered together and he thought he would join them to see if he might learn some of their secrets to success.
One particular man started talking about something called “Fear Junction” and his daily struggle with it.
What? “Fear Junction”?
We were totally baffled and thought maybe he’d gotten hold of a live wire for too long and his brain had been cooked a bit by the voltage. But the longer he talked, the more sense he made, and the more profound were his words.
He explained that Fear Junction can be thought of as a yellow road sign, with a large black “Y” intersection ahead. It is a very important place, and we go by it every day.
Fear Junction is the place where we must make a decision to turn either left or right. To the left is the wrong choice; to the right is the correct choice, but when we’re standing there trying to decide which way to go, the choice is not always so clear.
We might be considering decisions that seem very small and inconsequential. For example, someone consistently does something that annoys you or creates an inconvenient situation for you, but to avoid confrontation, you don’t say anything about it.
Or you ask yourself questions you know the answer to… Should I go to that party/ business function? Should I make that sales call, or not? Should I talk to the person who is creating problems?
And you give yourself the answer you know you shouldn’t give…
Nah, I’m not gonna go, it wouldn’t be fun, anyway. Nah, I’ll make that call tomorrow. Nah, he/she wouldn’t listen, anyway.
Or maybe you need to talk to an employee, to coach them. Maybe you really need to face the fact that this person is not the right person, or not in the right seat. Maybe you’re avoiding an important and much-needed discussion with your partner, your lawyer, your CPA, or even your spouse.
When we arrive at Fear Junction, the vast majority of us go left almost every time because it’s easier. It feels like the natural thing to do, especially when we’re too tired/stressed/busy, and don’t want to do anything that is more complicated than we feel like dealing with. It’s easier to turn left, not make waves, and stay comfortable.
But we don’t really stay comfortable.
If you trace the permutations of what happens as a result of such decisions, you’ll find that turning left at Fear Junction takes you around a circle that puts you right back in the same place again and again. It’s like being stuck in a kind of Twilight Zone loop of repeating déjà vu.
Turning right at Fear Junction is damn hard to do. It is uncomfortable. It always requires work, sometimes confrontation, perhaps time and a great deal of patience. It seems to be risky, too, because you can’t see very far down the road, and what you can see looks a little scary.
Listening to this electrician explain this, I became aware of how many times I had blown past Fear Junction myself, heading left at the fork. I was taking the left turn about 90% of the time, and I saw that it was true: the road always loops back around to the same place. And then sometime later, I would have to deal with the situation yet again because I didn’t address the root cause of the problem, or I only delayed dealing with it.
I realized that taking that left turn so frequently was really making my life more difficult.
Or at the very least, holding me back. So, I asked the electrician, “How do you gather the strength to take the right turn?”
“Ah, you have discerned the secret of it all,” he said. “Making the right turn at Fear Junction requires a certain amount of confidence and a certain inner dialog to get you to do it.”
“You have to put the mental picture of something precious at Fear Junction. Something you value greatly, something you strive for – maybe your spouse and family, maybe your child, possibly your God. Maybe it is a higher income, your hoped-for condo at the beach, a bigger home, a more relaxed lifestyle, a special friend or mentor… whatever you are really fighting for. Something or someone that is precious to you.”
“You must learn to recognize when you are at Fear Junction,” he continued, “And when you do, you stare at your precious person or thing, and tell them you’re going to turn right for them.”
And the electrician stopped talking.
What? That’s it? Are you kidding? “Use the Force, Luke!”?
Well, I thought about this conversation for months afterward, and I began to recognize my approach to Fear Junction each day. I still went left many more times than right, but the more I envisioned something precious at Fear Junction, the more right turns I took each day. And the more times I turned right, the easier it became to do!
It was a life-changing practice. I literally cannot believe the success I’ve seen as a result, and will be eternally grateful for this little secret that so inspired me to bite the bullet and make wise decisions.