The Devil You Know…

Posted by Paul Beard on 10/31/23 8:18 AM
Paul Beard
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Halloween 2023

A Halloween Challenge

Earlier this quarter, as we were finalizing our 2024 Salary Guides, we reflected on an emerging theme among candidates – and some hiring managers: a sense of worry about next year. Maybe, they suggest, this isn’t the time to take that job they’ve always wanted, or fill that position that’s gone unfilled for months. Maybe it would be safer to stick with what they’ve got until the dust settles... and things get "back to normal.”  

Their reasons sound perfectly valid: the major – and extremely consequential – election year that looms before us, our still-unusual and unsettled economy, today’s volatile world events… the list goes on. And suddenly, all those dreams of growing, building, and doing better look less promising, more dangerous... and scary!

Now, I’m not one to discourage careful, analytical thought when making big decisions. Please take the time to evaluate, compare, and choose wisely. But before you decide to hunker with the devil you know, it might be worth also considering what you risk losing.

Scientists and psychologists tell us that fear is our friend. It helps us recognize and avoid real danger. The question is: is your reluctance to take that job or hire that near-perfect candidate based on a realistic analysis or real danger? Or is it simply a fear of change? Or a fear of failure?  

Fear of Change

In your current work situation, you know the people, the processes, the expectations for success, and the standards for social acceptance. There is comfort in knowing those things, even in a job that isn’t your dream scenario. But that’s hardly a recipe for growth or exploring opportunities with the realistic potential to be better.  There isn’t much payoff when we confuse predictability with satisfaction or happiness. Worse, when we resist change too often, we stagnate and, paradoxically, allow our fears of change to grow worse over time. But change is what forces us to bend in new directions, and stretch our imaginations, thoughts, and opinions up to their current outer limits and then beyond them. 

Fear of Failure

If you leave your safe situation behind, you risk failing in your new venture. That’s true. But not all failures do permanent damage. In fact, most failures are simply steps on the path to growth and, as Thomas Edison famously described them, opportunities to learn what doesn’t work. In her recent Forbes article, writer Caroline Castrillon suggests this simple exercise for getting a rational handle on our fear of failure:

Create four columns on one page. In the first column, write all of the worst-case scenarios that could possibly result from the failure. In the second column, write what you can do to minimize each worst-case scenario. In the third column, write how you could course-correct and get back on track after each scenario. Finally, in the fourth column, rate each scenario from 1 (not likely) to 10 (highly likely). The beauty of this exercise is that it allows us to evaluate failure as a survivable option that we might choose to embrace.

Don't let fear become your obstacle to success

As we head into winter and look forward to 2024, it’s important to remember that uncertainties are always part of the picture. If you’re afraid, go ahead, and say so. It’s okay to be afraid. But don’t let your fears grow to such a size that they hang over you, casting long, threatening shadows over your dreams. None of us control everything and, for those of us who want to grow, there most assuredly will be stumbles, disappointments, and humbling mistakes. But among them, there is also, always, the promise of doing great things.


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