What are you afraid of? Chances are, whatever it is, it’s holding you back from your next career step. And it may be deeply held, a holdover from childhood. If so, maybe you can let it go now that you’re all grown up. Psychologists study the behavior of young children for clues to adult behavior. Average, well-adjusted young children are sort of pure humans – they seldom display any of the filters, fears, or neuroses that adults do. If they feel it, they say it or act it out. It’s a way of learning about their environment. An important part of play for children is the idea of testing situations where they feel fearful. Pushing through the fear in play situations, over and over, is one way children build confidence. It probably won’t surprise you that boys do this more and better than most girls do. Watch any group of young boys in action; you’ll see them climb high onto monkey bars and dare each other to jump off. They’ll dare each other to pick up snakes or step into the grumpy neighbor’s yard to steal a piece of fruit. They’ll take bigger and bigger risks as their strength, skill and confidence grow over the years. By the time men get to a business environment as adults, they’ll have experienced, and pushed through, fear in hundreds of ways. Competition in sports, fights on the playground, asking a cute girl on a date, and surviving any number of pranks or stunts all produced the same kind of fear in the pit of his stomach. But men know that if they push through the fear, the reward (the trophy, the win, or the girl) will be worth the effort. They also know that backing down because you’re afraid can have much worse consequences than a black eye or loss on the field. Boys can be brutal on boys who back away from a challenge or a fight. Girls tend to circle the wagons and hug you. But that was then, and this is now. So what are you afraid of? And how can you push through? If you’re afraid of rejection, it can be hard to get out and network. This is a very primal emotion; we’re hard wired to fear and distrust strangers, and some of us have a hard time getting over it. Especially if you’re hard on yourself – you begin to imagine that other people are thinking the same harsh things you are. Check your inner dialogue; turn down the volume on your inner critique. Drown out the voice by asking yourself three simple questions: What’s the worst that can happen if I try and fail? You may not get a call back, or you may not get a meeting. But you will almost never get punched or ridiculed. That’s an important difference between the playground and a Chamber event. Most people are really nice, and the mean girls from high school are all now in pharmaceutical sales; they LOVE meeting new people. What’s the biggest upside if I try and succeed? You MIGHT get a call back, you might get a lead, and you might make a new friend. From here on in, it’s simple math. Still need a pep talk? Get one from a future life coach here.