Top Nav

Career Fear (And A Serious Little Fish)


Remember that serious little fish from the Dr. Seuss book, The Cat in the Hat? He was always warning people not to have too much fun because something bad might happen. I bet you have someone in your life who’s like that serious little fish – always wagging their finger and reminding you to buckle down and get real. Maybe it’s a friend or a parent or a colleague. Maybe it’s you.

Call it practicality. Call it worry. Call it prudence. It’s all the same thing — fear.

It’s natural to feel afraid in the face of change and uncertainty. In life, fear will always be a passenger. But don’t let it take the wheel.

There’s a reason people always ask that annoying “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” question. It’s actually a question worth thinking about.

If you had asked me that question a few years ago, I would have said, “Quit my PhD”. Not that I would have admitted it to anyone. In fact, a couple of people knew how miserable I was and asked me point blank, Why don’t you just quit?

This did not go over well.

If you’ve ever felt stuck in a situation and paralyzed with fear, you probably know what my reaction to that question was. I was afraid of losing all I’d worked for. I was afraid of what people would think. I was afraid of change. I had a visceral, angry, and sometimes teary reaction to that question. I would shift into defensive overdrive. I wanted to push through, stick it out, suck it up, tick the box.

Of course, quitting is exactly what I needed to do. I would rationalize and get defensive whenever anyone suggested I should quit because on some level I knew it was the truth. I just wasn’t ready for it yet.

Once I decided to let it go it was so easy and so obvious. An absolute no brainer. But it took a while. A long while. I was like that serious little fish, afraid for my future – fun was risky and what if something bad happened? But nothing bad happened. Quite the opposite. Taking that very scary leap was the best damn thing I could have done for myself. It opened all kinds of new doors for me and closed the ones that desperately needed closing. I became more me.

I want that for you, too. You deserve it. Find a way to tell that serious little fish that he’s not the boss of you. Yes, it’s risky, but the sky isn’t going to fall. You’re a smart cookie and you’ll figure this out.

As always, I’m in your corner.


Call it practicality. Call it worry. Call it prudence. It’s all the same thing — fear. tweet

Comments are closed.