I’ve been a chronic paranoid worrier most of my life and this week I discovered a couple of things I want to share with you about combating worry, fear, and anxiety.
On Saturday, we moved our Oracle e-Business Suite (hardware, software, and data) from our corporate server room to a data center thirty miles away. We dismounted 5 high-end HP Linux servers and an HP SAN, put them in my van, drove them thirty miles, and reassembled them in the new data center. The VP of Information Services made the decision to move our Oracle instances to the new data center because it has multiple power sources, sits on several fat bandwidth pipes, and has state of the art security and fire protection. It was a great decision that added value to our company.
But putting millions of dollars worth of data, software, and hardware in my van and hurling it down the freeway at sixty miles per hour seemed like a huge risk. In the days preceding the move – I had the feeling I get just before I speak to a large group, the sweaty palms, the shakes, and a knotted stomach. I imagined different disaster scenarios: Car accidents, fires, theft, etc.
I repeatedly told myself, “Don’t be silly. Nothing will happen. Everything will be fine”, but those thoughts didn’t relieve my worry and anxiety.
Then I thought, “Sure an accident may happen, but we have verified backups so we can recover from a disaster. It might take a couple of days, but we can recover.” This thought didn’t help either; the anxiety was still there.
Then this thought occurred to me – I drive my family around in the van without fear, worry, or anxiety. An accident could kill or maim any one of us. Then I asked myself this question – If I am not afraid of losing my family, why am I afraid of losing a bunch of hardware, software, and data that can easily be replaced?
I pondered that question for a few days and an answer came to me – three hundred employees, the executives, my boss, and the shareholders are counting on us to get this right. If something goes wrong, they may think I am an incompetent boob and that would be a shameful embarrassment. I wasn’t afraid of losing the hardware or software, I was afraid of what people would think if I lost it.
Fear of public shame or embarrassment is at the root of many of our disabling irrational fears. Fear of public speaking is the most obvious.
Identifying the root of my worry helped. During the move, I was free from fear and we executed flawlessly. During the planning process, I somehow convinced my sub-conscious that I had nothing to fear, but I don’t know exactly how.
The reason I write this stuff is – I intend to transcend fear and I intend for you to transcend fear as well.
Steve Jobs has some good advice:
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
– Steve Jobs at Stanford 2005