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Make Fear Your Friend

About a month ago, I read this great blog by Peter Shankman on Embracing Fear.  It is one of those rare blogs that has stayed with me and really made me think. Peter talks about the beginnings of mankind and how fear kept man alive. Fear of the saber-toothed tiger, being on high alert, kept the race going. He then talks about how, in modern day, fear has been transformed into something to avoid. Specifically, "Taking the safe job, for the safe paycheck" or not saying too much or putting yourself out there in fear of what others might say about you. This is followed by a personal story of his where he describes a blog he wrote and the backlash he received from another blogger who chastised him for his thinking. He names the individual and creates a moniker for the action using this person's name. Peter says, "I believe that the fear we have of getting Laermered, whether by an angry old man, or even a real media outlet, holds us back from achieving the greatness that’s ingrained inside most all of us. I believe that the fear of getting Laermered holds us back as a people, as a country, and even as the human race. It’s time to change that."

Now it is true that I may feel a greater kinship to Peter and this story and that is why it stuck with me. My past history with the world's largest retailer created quite a stir, and even today I read Tweets (as recent as yesterday) about someone who wants to judge, criticize, and demean me without ever having had the opportunity to know the true facts, much less me. I admit that when I read what the more negative people write from time to time, it bothers me. I am human. But, call it stupidity, fearlessness, or just plain survival, I keep going and do my best not to let it bother me, knowing that I do the best I can and try never to hurt others in the process. I know too that I am not alone. People who are brave enough, or just plain naive enough, to put themselves out there in some way, shape, or form deserve something more than our judgment and endless criticism. It is far easier to be a critic than an idea generator afterall.

When we think about this in the context of our world, it brings to mind that old Apple ad, "Think Different" , sometimes also called, "The Crazy Ones." The ad itself highlights some of the most innovative people of our time and also highlights the fact that many of these people were vilified along the way. What would our world be like without people like these? And when I look at an old Apple ad I can't help but think about the Super Bowl, since it was Apple that changed the game from being merely a gridiron match-up to an ad extravaganza with "1984." The game is just around the corner and there are stories abounding about the increased number of ads and ad minutes this year. While many may say that advertising on TV doesn't require a brave marketer, I would beg to differ. The Super Bowl ad for a marketer is the equivalent of walking on a stage of your peers, naked. It is a statement that you believe that your brand and your work are worthy of the worlds largest TV stage and that you are putting yourself out there for all to see.

In the same way, the start-up entrepreneurs who take risks every day by not just putting an idea out there for all of us to see, but also putting their livelihoods at risk, are the lifeblood of our future. It is this set of fearless creators that will someday populate the next generation "Crazy Ones" ad. So, as we read the blogs, watch the ads, review the latest media idea, be constructive in your thoughts. It may be a reaction to the shootings in Arizona, but I believe that in the marketing world, we can do more to help, support, and offer constructive criticism rather than work to win or gain the spotlight by tearing others down. With that I will leave you with Peter's recommendations for making fear your friend.

1. Embrace Fear

2. Calculated risks are the rocket fuel of our society

3. Eat your fear. It tastes good and will make you stronger.

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” -Albert Einstein.

5. If you don’t first believe in yourself, don’t expect anyone else to believe in you, either.

6. The only voice you have to listen to without fail is the one inside.

7. Pain is just weakness leaving the body. (I actually own a USMC shirt with this statement)

8. Living a public life is more dangerous than staying private, but much, much more rewarding. - Bloggers - this includes you!

9. If you’re not getting "Laermered" every once in a while, perhaps you’re not reaching your full potential.

Julie Roehm is SVP Marketing, "Chief Storyteller" at SAP. Formerly, as a Marketing Strategy Consultant she served companies in all industries, of all sizes. Her client list includes, Credit Suisse, Time Inc., BIAP, Acxiom, ad agencies, and...

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