4 More Silent Killers of Would-Be Innovators

Most of us have great ideas.  Too bad we won’t turn these lofty ideas into reality.

‘Silent killers’ are powerful human fears and anxieties that derail our dreams of becoming future innovators and respected leaders.

In my last post, I introduced a few silent killers, and this week I discuss four more, pernicious silent killers that can stop would-be innovators dead in their tracks: fear of making big decisions; fear of being vulnerable; fear of isolation; and the ultimate – fear of going crazy! 

Fear of decision making. 

All human beings make tough decisions in life and in business. But why are some of us more afraid than others to make these choices? Because each decision we make has costs. Each decision cuts off all other possibilities of what we could have done, of what we could have decided, of the path we could have chosen. Sometimes there is no turning back, and the pressure of that finality causes anxiety. 

Many of us start analyzing all the risks, all the points where we might fail, and we look so far down the road we lose sight of the first step.  Ultimately, we get overwhelmed and end up frozen in a state of analysis paralysis. Sometimes our defense mechanisms kick in and we start to deny or displace responsibility for decision-making entirely. This is the death knell for any innovator or leader. 

Teams and organizations rely on your point of view. You must decide what to do, and equally important, what not to do. Decision making is the essence of business judgment and strategic thinking. All leaders and creators – from Hollywood movie directors to Fortune 500 CEOs to a first-time entrepreneur opening a yoga studio – can only move their idea towards reality by making a serious of tough decisions, some of which are irreversible.

Fear of being vulnerable. 

Most of us are trained at a very early age to think of vulnerability as a sign of weakness. As Brené Brown of TED Talk fame said, “vulnerability is the first thing we look for in others, but the last thing we look for in ourselves.” Yet such openness is a prerequisite for effective leadership and innovation. We must continuously inspire others that our vision is worthy of their support. Accomplishing that goal requires leaders to make authentic connections with a wide variety of diverse constituents, and this in turn requires that we show everyone our humanity, including our inherent flaws, style, and vulnerability.

Fear of being alone. 

Disruptors don’t like the status quo. Innovators seek to inject originality into the world. It’s a noble ambition, but it comes with a deep psychological cost that can sneak up on the innovator. When they take these risks, they often feel alone, and indeed they are in the sense that they are stepping out into uncharted territory. Because they’re alone it feels as if the ground beneath them is constantly moving. It’s a deeply unsettling feeling. Most of us, whether we realize it or not, seek structure, authority, grand designs, and even an “ultimate rescuer” to save us when things go wrong. These feelings are hardwired into our DNA. 

Yet innovators operate in a world where the rules don’t yet exist, much less structure and support.  Not to get too psychological, but this ‘aloneness’ is a common complaint of would-be-innovators. If not tended to, it can create an almost existential gulf between the innovators and everybody else. Often times they may feel misunderstood or removed from the rest of the world. But in much the same way disruptors handle the burden of responsibility, they must also create a support mechanism to handle this constant, and sometimes terrifying, isolation.  

Support groups are of paramount importance. Sharing thoughts, concerns, and fears – and listening to others – is a powerful way for the innovator to recognize he or she isn’t alone after all. Many others have the exact same feelings, and some have solved them in creative and practical ways.

Fear of mental health stress. 

Innovators must be cognizant of mental health challenges that will rear their ugly heads, usually at the worst possible time. There’s a lot to contend with – loss of sleep, isolation, ridicule, false starts, and of course failure. My advice is not to sweep these any of these fears under the proverbial rug. Be proactive and get ready – right now – to deal with each one of these silent killers. The future favors the bold, and the prepared. Join support groups. Keep a diary. Reflect. Try new things. Be open and honest about your concerns and especially your fears. 

I’m sure I’ve missed some things! How are you combating the seven silent killers in your personal or professional life, send me a private note.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

Newsletter Signup

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter below and never miss the latest news.