Cam McCaul flying through both fears Image © 2012
Christian Pondella/Red Bull Media House North America, Inc.
One major reason I'm passionate about gravity sports is that while riding, it's real. I don't know how else to say it. In that moment of sensation of flight, I am acutely present and committed. It's a rush, not in the adrenaline way, though in the damn-this-feels-so-good, soothing sort of way.

Sort of the way it felt when I was on a scrum team for the first time, and we hit our stride both in work and in inspecting and adapting; finding what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi termed "The State of Flow" (and there's a whole other slew of topics waiting in there!).

Progressing into that space requires a couple things:
  • honestly assessing competence against the challenge
  • practice
  • hard work
With this we expand our limits. And when we get to our edge, there is something waiting for us there, a sensation letting us know we're officially out of our comfort zone: fear.

And most often, that's all it is, it's not indicative of any real physical threat, it is, as an old friend and Teacher of mine once said "False Evidence Appearing Real." Let's call this the first fear.

When we meet this fear, the best thing we can do is give it a nod, and then carry on. We ride the line, hit the jump and heed the call to fly, or speak our truth to the team. And we learn that in fact, we haven't died, on the contrary we feel lighter. And the edge progresses; goes a little further out.

This all said, fear serves us, for it can warn of actual danger, as another friend once said "Fuck Everything And Run." Let's call this the second fear.

Continuing in the face of the first fear is a powerful route to growth. Knowingly continuing in the second ranges from slightly risky to all out reckless. And here is the critical importance of that first bullet point: honestly assessing competence in context. Alternatively this could be an accurate assessment of risk.

There is a huge difference between the two fears, though the thing is, they both feel very similar in body and mind; learning to discern can mean saving substantial bodily harm, or in the business realm, money.

Agile fits into this equation in its constant pursuit of empirical evidence, frequent inspect/adapt loops, and open communication channels. If any of these were the default operating state, we wouldn't have a suite of approaches carrying the agile moniker.

In short, agile practice requires individuals and organizations to change, sometimes drastically, which can be scary. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. The best riders in the world, talk about their fear, about how terrifying it is to stand at the top of a line before dropping in. And then they do it anyway and ride through it. As agilists, we should strive to do the same.

How do the two fears fit into your work?


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