How a Four Letter Word Can Stop You From Turning Your Passion Into Profits

March 13, 2014

So many aspire to turn their passion into a business but so few actually do. Why?
It is not lack of passion.
It is not lack of ideas.
It is not lack of customers.
It is fear.
Only a four letter word.

How can this little word be so powerful?

The purpose of fear is to protect us from danger but 99% of the time we are not in real danger. So why are we afraid?
We all have the so-called lizard brain, a term coined by Seth Godin: “The lizard is a physical part of your brain, the pre-historic lump near the brain stem that is responsible for fear and rage and reproductive drive.”

Here is my theory on the lizard brain

In the cave days when we had to hunt for our food the lizard brain had a real function. When we experienced fear we were actually 99% of the time in real danger. In modern times the lizard brain doesn’t need to protect us from danger any more so it became instead the negative voice in our head.
This is the voice that

  • tells us to stay in bed when we know we should get up
  • makes us procrastinate on our projects again and again
  • voices concerns about our abilities and credentials
  • pulls us back when we know we should push
  • makes us stick to old habits instead of learning better ones
  • tells us that we are not good enough for anything

This is the voice that stops us from following our dreams.

Sigrun and Carlos Ghosn June 2008

In June 2008 I decided not to listen to my lizard brain and approached Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan and Renault and famous turnaround expert, at a cocktail party at London Business School. I quickly told him I had worked on couple of turnarounds and he wanted to know more, gave me his business card and 2 months later offered me to become the managing director of Nissan in Sweden. By not listening to your lizard brain amazing things can happen. Don’t let fear stop you from seizing opportunities and opening new doors. This is your life!

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How can we gain control over this little word?

1. The first step is to realize that this is not your brain speaking, it is the lizard brain.
2. The second step is to start to recognize what it is really saying. I recommend doing the following exercise for one week. Put a timer on your phone on top of every 2nd hour of the day and when it rings then you immediately write down in a notebook or record a voice memo on your phone on what the lizard brain was telling you in this exact moment. You will not remember later on what it said so it is crucial to use a timer and write the negative thoughts down instantly. Doing this for one week is extremely powerful. You start to see a pattern and  it is a scary pattern. The lizard brain is a mean machine that does you more harm then any outside influences can do to you. What you will notice doing this exercise is that the lizard brain becomes a bit more quiet. It notices that you are listening and will become less aggressive if you follow through on the exercise.
3. The third step is to start to ignore the lizard brain. You can start with simple tasks like getting up earlier in the morning or pushing through on a project today that the lizard brain tells you to work on tomorrow. Doing this a number of times takes power away from the lizard brain and you start to hear less of the negative voice. This empowers you to step up your game and work on new habits and feel better about yourself.
4. The fourth step is facing your fears. When you want to follow your dreams the lizard brain will put in fifth gear and try anything to hold you back. It will show its ugly face and wiggle its horrific tail in order to keep you in your spot. Now it is the time for you to pull yourself together and show courage. The more fear you feel the more right your dream is and the more important it is for you to follow through.
5. The fifth step is to know that the lizard brain is not going anywhere. It is here to stay and it is up to you learn how to live with it without letting it stop you.

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