17 June 2011

Fear of Failing; It's All About Perspective

These fears we build up into major anxiety mountains are usually unfounded. Once you have actually confronted them the fear does disappear.

So this week I took part in a radio show for a Liverpool radio station. The show’s topic that night was on bigotry and the producer had read an article I had written on the subject and invited me onto the show to talk about it. I had my reservations about this as a) I am not a human rights authority and don't want to set myself up as any sort of spokesperson and b) having my voice broadcast to around a million listeners (allegedly) is my idea of hell. But the bigotry article was written for a company I used to work for who had recently been hit by Google’s Panda and had seen a significant decrease in their site traffic and I thought that maybe promoting their site on air would help them.

The other reason I decided to do it was that I knew I was scared to, and there is a line of thought that fears should always be confronted in order to pass through them. This ‘confront your fears’ theory doesn’t always hold water. I’m scared of jumping into shark infested waters but that doesn’t mean I should don a wet suit and head out to the Great Whites’ breeding grounds. So even though my inner voice was saying, “don’t do it mate, you’re gonna’ look a nob” I said ‘what the fuck’ and agreed to talk.

I am not a spokesperson on bigotry. Yes, I’ve researched and written many articles on the likes of Nick Griffin and the BNP and I find bigotry of any kind pretty repulsive. The bullying mentality of bigots, the fear, ignorance and intolerance of anyone who does not fit into the bigot’s ‘view’ of how the world should be and what makes a ‘normal’ person is completely irrational to me. If bigots actually looked at the reasons why they act the way they do they may actually begin to question their own views.

A lot of bigoted views are handed down from parents. Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, was taken to his first National Front meeting at the age of 15 by his parents. The father of the French National Front leader Marine Le Pen is the founder of the National Front. In most cases it doesn’t take a huge leap to find out the reasons why bigots are the way they are. To me it’s not about being politically correct; a bullshit label that has just given bigots the excuse to say, “Oh it’s political correctness gone mad, you can’t say anything now.” There is a big difference between comedians such as Sarah Silverman, Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks etc making a point through humour that isn’t seen as ‘politically correct’ and a taxi driver coming out with the statement, “Hitler didn’t kill enough of them” on the subject of Polish people working in the UK.

Anyway, by the day of the radio interview my anxiety levels were set to ‘freaking out’. I had done plenty of research but I should have listened to the radio show first as this wasn’t an in-depth radio show tackling the wide range of issues that make up bigotry. The interview turned out to be a 15 minute conversation and I did have trouble answering some of the questions that I was hit with when put on the spot. These were questions about people who use the 'race card' to their own advantage. The ‘dead air’ time as I frantically searched for answers to those specific questions seemed to stretch so long that I could actually see my life flash in front of my eyes.

The interview was prerecorded and meant to sound as if I was sitting in the studio casually chatting to the presenter but my mobile phone cutting out on me repeatedly and then my asking the presenter, “Can you hear me? Are you still there?’ every few minutes soon dispelled the one on one studio interview illusion. For some reason the scene where Albert Brooks in the film Broadcast News gets inflicted with a severe case of flop sweat as he reads the news came to mind.

In the end I didn’t actually listen to the on-air interview; I couldn’t put myself through that sort of torture. I know my voice varied from sounding as slow as a weekend stoner to Mickey Mouse on helium complete with sentences that trailed off into a low rumble on a few occasions, all within 15 minutes. I don’t think the presenter was that happy either with the interview as he ended the conversation with the killer put down, “Well you’re an interesting man.” This is basically another way of saying, “Well that was a load of shit wasn’t it?” or as my friend kindly put it, “He said you were an interesting man? That means he thought you were a dick.” When the interview was over I asked, “Was that okay?” to be greeted with, “yep, fine” and then the click of the telephone being hung up on me.

The rest of the four hour radio show was supposed to be calls from listeners. I think two people phoned in on the subject of bigotry, and I’m sure one of the callers was the presenter’s friend who talked coherently, clearly and longer on the subject than I did. Someone did call in about having their unemployment benefits cut but I think they had just called in on the wrong night.

With a few days breathing space I can now say it was no big deal. I should have just went on and talked without all the in-depth preparation, there really was no need for it. I’m glad I did it for the experience alone and I now have a newfound respect for people who can go on-air live and talk calmly without any fear. These fears we build up into major anxiety mountains are usually unfounded. Once you have actually confronted them the fear does disappear. If only the bigots out there would use the same reasoning life would be a lot simpler for everyone.

If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative - Woody Allen.


askcherlock said...

I would bet that you did better than you think, Garry, but we are always our own worst critics. Some of your lines here were hysterically funny! I remember "flop sweat" from "Broadcast News", so that really made me laugh! Great post!

Mantra said...

Bravo to you! (For having the courage to figure it out).

I agree with you; that if the "Bigots" would step out and against their fears and anxiety than maybe they will realize that things are not as they assume.

However, I feel that we are often put into positions that we may not feel we are suited for and somehow..We turn out to be the best person for the job. Mainly, because of the unbiased view, and the ability to question even if afraid.

(I can't tell you something that you don't already know..but I will confirm... that..you are great. Your writing is superb and your voice needs to be heard)

Garry Crystal said...

Thanks for commenting Mantra. In the end it was worthwhile I think, even if only a few people heard it and it made them question their views or question the likes of bigoted political parties.

Viva la vida


Garry Crystal said...


I was completely worked up about this thing the whole day, no need to be at all. You are right when you say we can be our own worst enemies sometimes.

RockStories said...

Happen to have just watched a really excellent Kenneth Roberts TED talk on encouraging creativity in students shortly before reading this--one of his key points was that by making it not okay to fail, we make it not okay to be creative, as any experimentation or innovation carries with it the chance of failure. Saying "Yeah, why not...I'll give it a shot" is the precursor to all great new things. Some not-so-great, too, but how else do you get there?

Garry Crystal said...

Thanks for commenting. That's true, you have to give it a shot at least. There is nothing wrong with failing, and sometimes even though personally you may think you have failed it may actually be the opposite, you might never know until later or you may never find out. But at least trying can make you fear failure less, if you see what I mean. Break down those little fears one by one and you will soon realise that usually there is nothing to fear whatsoever and that could lead to something great.

Unknown said...

I went ziplining high among the treetops in beautiful Costa Rica a few years ago. Heights make me nervous. I was terrified and exhilarated and I'm glad I did it. I'm glad you did the interview. 20, 30 years from now you'll look back and laugh. Oh, wait you've already done that. I figure, if I fall on my face, I'll have one more story to dine out on. Or write a post about, as you did. :D

Garry Crystal said...

Melody - now that must have been a kick, sounds like a great thing to do, great memory. Yeah the looking back and laughing always comes later, worth it for that alone.