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Defending Your Life

Everyone knows about fear. Because the word itself has some negative connotations, some prefer to call it anxiety, apprehension, discomfort, dread or trepidation in order to make the emotions more manageable. What started out as instinctual or subconscious “fight or flight” syndrome in early creatures, this is an emotion that is so vast in its cause and effects, that it is impossible to know where it starts and ends.

The topic has no shortage of discussion when it comes to personal and professional behavior. So many ideas about how to deal with it, deny it, understand it, embrace it or fight it are commonplace, but often provide little relief. We all know what the various forms feel like, but does that help anyone understand how it really affects our performance in any of the many roles we all have to fill every day and week?

Different Angles for Business

One of the most popular approaches in the business world are the concepts presented in the book “Who Moved My Cheese” when Haw asked himself “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”. Only when Haw began to understand the implications of the answer was he able to mobilize himself and realize his potential for action.

If the book is good, is the movie better?

Perhaps a different approach gives another perspective. In the movie “Defending Your Life”, Albert Brooks has recently died in a head-on crash, and has been sent to an afterlife (Judgment City) where he must demonstrate how he has overcome his fears  in a court that will decide if he is now worthy of advancement in the Universe or not. In this clip, his Defense Attorney explains the Big Picture about fear.

Watch the clip and then ask yourself:

What should I start doing different right now?

  1. Michael Stancato
    01/20/2010 at 3:10 AM

    Fear is one primitive obstacle. But the larger obstacle is that most don’t know why they are here in the first place. For my version of the complete picture check this out:


    Here’s an excerpt.

    … most human activity is trivial & redundant, yielding a higher likelihood for a meaningless human experience for many, but not all. Those who are fulfilling the basic tenants of evolution are pursuing the leading edge of information and making new applications with novel perspectives while at the same time extending the possibility for others to pursue the same leading edge of information building on information. Factoring in figures on overpopulation, over-consumption and existing advancements the bar is now set very high for most people.

    • Fred
      01/20/2010 at 10:16 PM

      Yes, fear is primitive and instinctual. The one advantage that humans have in dealing with it is that they can exercise a cognitive thought process and make decisions before they react. This is only true though for those individuals that can recognize when they are about to unconsiously react instead of thinking. In the business world it usually boils down to emotional discipline, or at least being prepared for those situations where we anticipate risk, confrontation or other threats.

  2. Michael Stancato
    01/21/2010 at 12:26 AM

    I’m glad more your are referencing recent brain science and fMRI findings. From the optimistic view, all this insight is less than a decade old, and has not been put to good use. Right now business, politics and individuals are using this information to manipulate rather than inform. If this new understanding is socially adopted we might have a society that can evolve using the full reasoning power of our Neocortex rather than our irrational Mammalian Brain or our hoarding and aggressive Reptile Brain.

    “Who’s in control — me, or what I’m thinking?”


    The elephant in the room is first overpopulation then over-consumption. Two-thirds of you should not exist.
    UN statistics say the earth can only sustain 1.5 to 2 billion people. We are now at 6 to 6.5 billion people.

    “One child born in the United States adds more to consumption and pollution over his or her lifetime than do thirty to fifty children in developing countries.”
    Source: Too Much For Our Own Good, The
    Consumeritis Epidemic and Good Movies by
    Harrison Sheppard and Alex Aris © 2006.

    I think those in denial of these figures are merely interested in winning the proverbial high school popularity contest.

  3. Michael Stancato
    01/21/2010 at 12:33 AM

    Correction: “Two-thirds of US” should not exist. That would include me also.

    Does this forum have a edit button once you hit the submit button? Improvements in forum design are giving participants greater flexibility and control. Myself and others will be less likely to participate if we can’t fine-tune our comments. This comes from my experience with usability design and cognitive science.

  4. Michael Stancato
    01/21/2010 at 6:28 AM

    Yesterday there was an option to edit or delete. Right? Please put it back. Why? Because I’m the first person I know of redefining evolution and economics in such a way. I’m on the bleeding edge and it’s controversial. I think there are scientists gathering evidence to support views like mine but since they have their academic careers at stake they much more careful to publish. To a lesser degree, I’ve got to modulate this progress and live day to day alongside a raft of people who don’t get it or have vested interests to defend.

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