All of us are afraid. Everyone. Throughout life, with its joy and pain but always full of scares, one has the opportunity to enjoy many kinds of fear. Fear isn’t uniform; it has different nuances, shapes, and flavors. There is gripping fear, painful, that acts like a paralyzing venom, blocking your neurons and freezing your muscles. This fear is evil, cruel, and, applied in prolonged doses, has dreadful consequences. We’ve felt it many times because we are born with fear embedded up in our heads even though we notice it down in our stomachs. For thousands of years it has fulfilled its function to perpetuate the species. No miedo: En la empresa y en la vida (No Fear: In Business and in Life), a book published by Pilar Jericó in 2006, condenses into words how to understand this feeling, dissects it into pieces to better swallow it.
I’m interested in another fear, a beneficial and possible to overcome, which functions as atavistic motor of creativity and innovation. Fear as neuronal pyrotechnics that activate the springs of creation. Fear as exorcism of the impossible or of you, particularly of you can’t. It’s what I feel every time I’m confronted by an auditorium with hundreds of executives, when giving a talk, especially if it’s new. The fear of our knotted stomachs, shrunk, broken into pieces, squeezed shut. Fear that supplies the oxytocin necessary for giving birth to the unknown, with its own energy and shining, which – like mothers with their children – we carry inside at times, in some moment.
Here fear is my friend, the agent overcomer of all evil who takes us to mythical kingdoms. The Family of Pascual Duarte, masterpiece of a brilliant yet novice Cela, has a memorable dedication: «I dedicate this book to my enemies, who have helped me so much in my career.» Adversaries, if there are any, cause fear, a lot of fear, and like nitroglycerin are the unstable and highly flammable liquid of human survival. A little more than 50 letters were enough for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1989 to shake off, with splendid irony, the terror inspired by them. Fantastic. At times, one misses worthy opponents, those that teach you well (or, better said, bad), who act as the secret ingredient in the equation of human motivation. But I suppose that for that, one must have the genius of Cela and I don’t even come close. It’s not there, nor is there hope. Oh well.
The fear that wants you to throw in the towel as a sign of your surrender and, therefore, its victory. But you, the only thing that you throw are your punches, fighting against your dread with body and nails, soul and teeth. Fear as a spring, an unequivocal sign that there always, always are alternatives. Fear as a sign of life, healthy insanity, indispensable for innovation. I hope you are afraid.