We all have life fears. They are often around things that will change us in some way, that will take us down an uncertain road. I have some experience with the realisation of fear, but I also know that it is possible to come out the other side.
When I was about 30, I was involved in a small start up company. My wife and I knew it was a risk and we were concerned about it, but we have always tried to live a life where you don’t have to wonder about what could have been, and so we went for it. There were four of us involved in the company, the start up was a new business being underwritten by a parent company out of Sydney, and we had all left well paying jobs to take the plunge. It was a calculated risk.
Amid the excitement of starting I will admit that we held fears of failing, but 12 months into it we were doing well. We had developed great interest in the market and had progressed a number of clients to the early stage of buying. We were talking to people in Australia, Singapore and Malaysia in industries with traditionally long sales processes and everything was exciting and on the cusp of being realised.
Then a month before my son was born I got a call from our CEO. “Jon, we have lost our investor and I know you understand what that means. We have dropped the $4M that we were relying on, and we can’t continue without that cash flow. I’m sorry to tell you but I think we are done.” And we were.
The company was folded and within weeks all four of us had received our last pay check. The parent company picked up the work we’d done and eventually got a lot of the contracts through, but they came through too late to save our start up. A real fear that we had held for 12 months had suddenly been realised and we were all out of work.
I heard a quote the other day that talked about how long it takes to recover when a life fear like this eventuates. I can’t find the reference, but they said that they had conducted a study and for everything other than losing a loved one, had found that over 95% of people were able to return to a state of equilibrium within 3 months. That is, a state of happiness and a level of anxiety that was equal to or better than what they had felt before the event took place.
I immediately started looking for work. It was an uncomfortable place to be, and there was a lot of uncertainty. After applying for almost 50 jobs in four weeks, I landed one six weeks after the start up went under. I stayed there for the next 6 months, finished the work and then moved on to my next role, and we were back on track.
I think 3 months was right when I look back on it, we had returned to a good place in that timeframe. While it was happening we didn’t know when the end would arrive though and that in itself created a lot of anxiety and fear.
Whenever I think of my life fears now, I find it easier to put them in perspective. 3 months is such a short period of time and I wonder if the effort that we all put into worrying about what can happen, sometimes outweighs the reality of it. When I think about my fears in this frame, it gives me courage to try new things and take the risks that I know will make my life richer. It helps me to remember that if something doesn’t quite go to plan, that I will come out the other side eventually.
I have worked in and around the oil and gas industry for the last 12 years now and in the current climate, I know that many of my friends fear losing their jobs. Many of them are senior and all are very competent, but the low oil price is hitting everywhere. I talk to them about how things are going and often hear an undertone of fear about an uncertain future, and I feel for them.
I also have a lot of friends that have had that fear realised in the last 12 months, and have had to deal with the repercussions of moving on. What I have seen is the recovery of most of them has happened within this 3 month timeframe. Some faster, some a little slower, but I have seen them reach an equilibrium that at least supports the idea. In some cases, the place that they have landed is much better than where they were, they just didn’t see what could happen while they were in the thick of it all.
I know that the fear is real and it is very natural for uncertainty to create anxiety. When you think about an uncertain future though, have faith in your own ability – you were able to get where you are and you will be able to get back there for the same reasons. Take precautions where you can of course, but also realise that most of these shifts in life are transitory and that further down the track you will be able to see it with a bit more distance, and put it into its true perspective.
I still see my old CEO from the start up and I really value the connection. After we shared our latest coffee he wrote in an email “…good to catch up indeed!” and I agree. The friends you make when things are tough, are usually the ones that last. I don’t regret jumping on board that start up, or anything else that happened afterwards. In fact, I think it gives me confidence about going forward and taking the risks that make life more interesting, and I certainly gained a lot from the experience.
Author: Jon Jordans
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