I went to a meeting and watched the fear in the room: grown men cowed and bowed down, looking for leadership from other fearful men made only slightly more confident from being near the center of the herd. I have a lot to say about a society built on fear, or a society built on corporate cultures that are built on fear. Fear of being unneeded. Fear of being unliked. Fear of too much attention or too little. Fear of the less competent or the more competent. Fear of being accused. Fear of being evaluated. Fear of being undervalued or disrespected. Fear, as a way of life. As a way of business. I have a lot to say about the order of a society that could create such fears in men, and deprive them of heart. Could even make them pretend to be afraid, just to earn a check. No doubt I will say more soon. But for now, I’ll offer these rules:
- Never fear losing what another man can freely take from you. Only fear losing what can never be taken by another man: the inviolable self. The world will present choices between the two, constantly, occasionally, or once for all. Be ready; be unafraid.
- Never be afraid of losing something given. If you’ve earned it, it’s robbery to take it away, and there’s an appropriate recourse and mourning. If it has been given, never set your heart on it in the first place.
- Never be afraid of losing a job. The only thing more demoralizing than losing a job you’re afraid to lose, is having a job you’re afraid to lose. Believe in those entirely personal qualities and skills that will always procure your survival, or else set immediately upon the path of discovering them. Be unafraid, or be finding your way out of fear.
- Money goes a long way against fear, so save money. But remember, it never goes long enough; death is coming for us all, all at once or by degrees. The real freedom from fear is freedom from the fear of death.
- When men claim not to be afraid, look at their rules, even if they pretend not to have any. Think of what they do and don’t in terms of rules. If the rules are designed for self-protection instead of self-expression, then they are fearful men.
- No one can be unafraid for you. You can look at the courageous and take heart, but some day you’ll wonder if they’re just too foolish to be terrified, or else think you can never be like them. Being courageous requires you to find your own values, but to dig even deeper and find your secret self. There is the heart of your courage, not another man’s courage. When you find it, insist that it live, guard and nurture it until it can stand on its own, and you will soon find it is the strong, fearless man you want to be.
- Freedom from fear will invariably be called arrogance. Don’t be afraid of being thought arrogant, where arrogance is simply absence of fear.