Why do we fear the unknown? Isn’t the unknown just the future version of the new normal?
In 2003, my wife gave birth to twin boys. They were premature and spent four weeks in the hospital gaining weight and stabilizing. So, our first four weeks of parenting were backed up with round the clock nursing care. I recall the fear I felt as I drove home from work the first day that our babies were home with us after we left the hospital. They were our responsibility now. No nurses to do the job when we felt overwhelmed. Just Sara and I. Over thirteen years later, we’ve added two more boys to the mix and I can imagine nothing else than a house full of kids. It’s the new normal. In July of 2009, I paced the parking lot of an East Tulsa hotel. The gravity of the move I was about to make hit me hard. I was about to move my family from a stable life we knew well in Pennsylvania to a completely new, and unknown, life in Oklahoma. The fear inherent in all the questions hit me hard that night. What if this new endeavor we’re jumping into in Tulsa fails? What if this experience hurts or even scars my kids for life? What if this puts a strain on our marriage that we can’t recover from? Is this something a responsible – or even sane – man does? We moved in December of 2009. Over seven years later, we love living here and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. It’s the new normal.
Change is usually scary, but not often fatal. In time, the things you may fear the most become your new normal. The mistake we often make is to run from the fear at the decision point. If we do that, we never know what could have been. If we can find the fortitude to lean into that fear, the thing we feared the most becomes the new normal . . . in a surprisingly short period of time. Is there a decision or move you should make, but fear is holding you back? Of course, I’m talking about a decision where the cost has been counted and you’re convinced it’s a good and right decision, not a flippant gut-level decision. If you’ve done your homework, and you are truly convinced it’s right, lean into your fear. Isn’t the unknown just the future version of the new normal?
I’d love to hear your story, as it relates to this topic. Will you share it?
I’ve been privileged to operate in the world of organizational leadership for over twenty years now. Some days I feel old, but whether I feel old or just seasoned, the reality is that I’ve seen a lot of leadership decisions made and executed. Some have been brilliant. Some have been disasters.
Over all those years and through all those decisions, I’ve seen a common theme. Most of the brilliant decisions were backed up by data and most of the disasters have been gut-level decisions. I’ve sat around many tables and heard phrases like, “my gut tells me we ought to do this” or “I’m just feeling led to go here”. Look, I’m not discounting God’s voice speaking to a man or woman in leadership. It happens and needs to be heeded. But don’t we just get lazy sometimes and just want to make the decision without doing the work it requires?
About ten years ago I was serving at a church that was out of space. We were full and knew we needed to expand. We all sat around the table and talked about the scope of the facility expansion project we wanted to undertake. In our gut, we all agreed that we could probably take on a project in the neighborhood of $3M. Thankfully, there was a voice of reason in the group who said we ought to hire a consulting firm to vet our ideas with hard questions and crunch some real numbers for us. We did. And after the conversations were had and the numbers were crunched, we were disappointed to find out that our church could probably handle a project no larger than $1.1M. Wow, our gut would have led us into a $2M mistake. Do you know what a $2M mistake does to a church that size? It kills it. I’m so thankful we made a decision based on data, not our gut feelings.
If the decision is what to order at a restaurant, go with your gut. No big deal. But, when you're making real decisions that have real implications for you and those who depend on you, remember this. Decisions made with real data are almost always better decisions. If you know some leaders who are gut-level decision makers, share this with them and challenge their method. You’ll be doing them a favor. And if you're that gut-level decision maker, don't dismiss this quickly. Perspective before planning brings success. The truth is your friend.