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Are You Scared at Work? Look for the 'Third Door'

Updated: Jan 18


Earlier this week while attending the World Millwork Alliance Conference, I heard Alex Banayan, American history's youngest best-selling business author speak. He wrote The Third Door, which chronicles his journey as an 18-year-old college freshman who envisioned creating a book chronicling the stories of some of the most successful people in the United States today, asking them to share their stories of how they launched their careers. During this journey, he faced many setbacks, disappointments, and a massive fear of failure. From Lady Gaga to Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and other icons, his mission was to unlock the codes of their success. During his journey, he had doors closed to him at every turn, made many mistakes, and turned all of that into a best-selling book.

He repeatedly had to ask himself, "Fear, what will I do with you?" He battled on, facing debilitating self-doubt. Listening to him speak, I began thinking about my experiences with fear and its impact on my career.

I have battled fear at every step up the ladder in my career. I have walked into situations where others have told me success would either be very difficult or impossible, and I battled fear and used it as a form of motivation. It galvanized me to rise to the challenge and to win.

One such career move was especially challenging. After serving on a trade association board for many years, I was asked to step in and lead the organization as its EVP.

The association was 125 years old, and past leadership had run the company for more than 30 years. It needed a complete overhaul.

I knew nothing about running this type of organization, but I knew how to build things, people, companies, and cultures.  It was a daunting task, stripping down the organization and re-creating its operating infrastructure. But with much advice from my long-tenured association peers—whom I affectionately refer to as "The Gang of Six"—I grew the wings needed to accomplish the impossible. 

I spent many nights, especially within the first few months of my tenure there, wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into. Battling the fear was real, and it sometimes threatened to paralyze me. But, as Alex mentioned during his session, there is always a "third door”; another option, path, or road to solve the challenge. The key is battling back fear enough to find that door.

Society has convinced us that there are only two doors – one for the “regular folks” and one for the people of privilege. Embracing fear can help us find the alternate door.

Within a year, the association had returned to profitability, offered new programs, and was a viable and sustainable group. I had found that “third door” when I  harnessed the brilliance and experience of the Gang of Six. 

Fear is a powerful natural emotion hardwired into our brains over millions of years of evolution. It's a survival mechanism that alerts us to potential dangers and prepares our bodies to respond. But what happens when we extend this emotion beyond immediate threats and challenges? Is it possible to harness fear rather than be controlled by it? I say yes.

We need to understand that fear is not a weakness but a natural and essential part of the human experience. It's a fundamental element of the journey toward self-improvement and career advancement. Fear is a powerful force that can hold us back or propel us forward. In career development, putting fear to work for us can open doors to new opportunities and personal transformation. Think of fear as a call to action, signaling that you are on the cusp of something significant.

In the context of career development, fear can be a stepping stone or a stumbling block. Many individuals avoid career-changing opportunities because they fear the unknown or failure. The fear of change and its potential consequences can be paralyzing, preventing individuals from advancing in their careers. In career development, embracing fear can open doors to new opportunities and personal transformation.

Live fearlessly,


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