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Top of Mind: Cliff's Edge Empowers

06:38AM Oct 01, 2014
iStock Crops and Clouds

It’s a terrible situation to grow the best crop in years and suffer lower commodity prices. Peering over a fiscal cliff is no fun for anyone; just ask former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

One of my favorite philosophers, Soren Kierkegaard, has written extensively on that feeling of peering over a cliff, of decision anxiety, which he suggests is really “unfocused fear.” 

Kierkegaard uses an example of a man standing on the edge of a tall building. When the man looks over the edge, he experiences a focused fear of falling. At the same time, he feels a terrifying impulse to throw himself off the edge. The experience causes anxiety because of our complete freedom to choose. The mere fact that one has the freedom to act even on a terrifying impulse triggers dread. Kierkegaard called this our “dizziness of freedom.”

Yet Kierkegaard suggests anxiety also has the power to save humanity. Anxiety informs us of our choices and brings us to a state of self-conscious reflection. 

Manage Your Fears. Think about this in terms of farming. How many of you have waited to pull the trigger on grain sales because of fear? Could you instead use that anxiety as a catalyst to educate yourself on better marketing decisions? The same concept applies to any decision in farming, including buying equipment and leasing more land. If you feel anxious, recognize the feeling and arm yourself with information to make a better decision.

The pages of Top Producer are chock-full of information to help you make solid business decisions. Additional tools are available on our sister website, , which just relaunched with a format that is more user-friendly and features marketing and business information front and center.

An Exercise. Here is an easy exercise an executive coach once taught me: Make a list of business fears, writing as fast as you can to block the internal censor. Include every fear, however irrational. Then read them aloud, suspending judgment. Allow yourself to feel the fear. Notice that being afraid does not have to mean falling, or even failing. 

If it feels comfortable, share your list with a peer. Explain that you simply want a witness, that you want to feel what it’s like to acknowledge fears without being pulled off the ledge.

Remember you always have a choice about how to respond to fear and deal with it. You can cave into it, struggle with it, accept it or work around it. Embrace the dizziness of freedom.