Project Practitioners > The Path Is Scary

The Path Is Scary

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes


“Do one thing every day that scares you.” - Eleanor Roosevelt


What do you fear? What is the outcome you see from performing that fearful activity? Why is it stopping you from performing?

Conflict is something that evokes fear. If you say the wrong thing or present incorrect information, the outcome can be disastrous. A vendor provided a quote then spent more than the estimate. You have to approach this conflict at some point. The owner does not want to pay the difference. You are not paying the difference. Your reliable vendor wants the money.

You build this scenario of back and forth in your head. You say this, then they say that, then you come back with this and so on. Anxiety starts to build before that call is made. You have all the answers to all of the scenarios. You envision worst case.

You lay out the picture for the vendor. The vendor agrees to the original estimate, and all is well. You built this scenario in your head that turned out to be way worse than the reality. The fear of losing a vendor or losing money prevented you from making this call sooner.

The fictional play is typically worse than reality. The path is scary. Fear is holding you back. Then when push comes to shove, reality does not fit the picture you painted. Time to squash fear and embrace it.


It is Not That Scary

The thought or the idea is scarier than the reality. Being honest and presenting the facts prevents the scary monster of your nightmares from growing into a haunting demon. Often, when given the scenario, all parties understand.

Being transparent dissipates fear. Here are the numbers. Labor, materials, taxes, shipping, and so on. If there is an increase along the way, you have the numbers to back up your stance. It is not the case that you are increasing pricing for the sake of an increase. You are showing shipping costs went up, and you have to cover for that difference.

A wrong material was estimated, and the pricing for a separate cost needs approval. Being proactive and honest about these changes pushes fear to the side. You are not hiding anything. Therefore, there is rarely something to be afraid of.

The reality and how the situation plays out rarely meets the expectations of your imagination.


You Are Seeing Ghosts

Fear is realized when you start to see ghosts.

Sam Darnold, the quarterback for the New York Jets of the NFL, was mic’ed up for a primetime game. The defense was harassing him all game and causing him to make mistakes left and right. With the nation watching, he was caught saying he saw ghosts out there, meaning phantom defenders and feeling pressure that was not there.

His fear of the defense was causing him to perform subpar. He has the talent and knowledge to overcome a difficult defense, but his fear was not allowing him to tap into that. While only 11 players are allowed on the field, he felt like he saw more.

The nonexistent defenders are like deadlines that do not exist. You start to put extra pressure on yourself to get everything done instead of prioritizing. Every task becomes important when you are falling behind. You start to get anxious that your inbox is not zero. You have voicemails to listen to and meeting to attend. Everything piles up, and the three or four priority tasks start to look like eight to ten.

You have ghost tasks that are either completed, scheduled, or nonexistent. You receive an email asking for follow up about a task you completed a week ago. When you first receive it, you get nervous thinking you forgot about something. The ghosts appear real.


Receive by Giving

Handing out candy puts a smile on their faces and makes you a cool neighbor. If you hand out full-sized candy bars, you reach legend status among the kids. That is some next-level giving.

What do you receive in return? Happiness. By providing happiness to others, they return the favor. If you give a little on the front end, you will be satisfied with the back end. Not all vendors and suppliers work like this, and some do not deserve full-sized candy bars, but at least you are holding up your end of the bargain.

You give $50 away here. You install a few little things for free there. Eventually, that credit is built up enough to cash in at some point. You become easy to work with, and therefore, people want to work with you. You give full-sized candy bars, and they return a full-sized effort.



Halloween is upon us. Ghosts and goblins run the streets. Zombies and mummies take over the town. The scarier, the better this time of year.

However, that does not need to apply to your professional life. Embrace those fears. Like Roosevelt said, if you fear it, do it. In reality, it is never as bad as the drummed up scenario in your brain presented. That fear is immediately turned to confidence. The more you experience that transition, the easier it becomes to tackle fear.

Do you fear that meeting? Go. Do you fear that phone call? Make it. Do you fear that decision? Pull the trigger. The fear is where the path is.

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