Fear of the unknown

by Patrick Gachau

Imagine you were not afraid of anything. Nothing scared you and you were certain that you would succeed in whatever you did. Imagine you were not afraid of failing. Imagine you had never failed. What would you be right now? A police woman, bus driver, pilot, model, teacher?

Sadly, fear is part of human nature. Napoleon Hill in his book Think and Grow Rich lists seven types of fears: poverty, old age, criticism, loss of love, ill health and death. He is not specifically an authority in this subject but he does have a point.

I read a book about change by Spencer Johnson titled Who Moved My Cheese? In this story of two little people and two little mice, fear of change resounds as a dominant theme. The reason most people do not want to change is because they are afraid. Afraid of the unknown! Yet change is the only constant thing in society. Change comes with mistakes… and also with great rewards too.

Over and above this, Johnson advises people to discover new ways of doing things; new ways to love the people we love. This message is an echo of what St Josemaría one said in his little book called The Way.

Amazingly, we keep doing things the same way and still expect different results.

All this was triggered by a discussion I had over a lunch with my brother. It was about the importance of education. He mentioned that there was not the slightest chance of a person being ‘successful’ in this world by studying one subject area, and worse still if that subject is arts-based.

So we started defining ‘success’ and it boiled down to earning a few pennies, owning a big home and driving a big car. Material in short. His only route to this lay in the science-based subjects, not in the arts. Roads are being constructed, technology is advancing and everything is pretty much digital. So, how will your dancing skills put bread on the table in today’s world? I sincerely didn’t have a convincing answer to this. Nonetheless, it was as clear as day that he felt confident with his actuarial science degree. It hadn’t earned him a job yet but even then was ‘better off’ than me with my communications degree. I don’t work either.

He was more suited in this world than I was. He was more ‘useful’ than I was. A developer came to my aid stating advertising had become core to all companies now. However, it was seen as a secondary cost compared to production. You can only sell what you have in the first place!

This is a personal and isolated example, but the guy in front of me had all the skills necessary for a successful public speaker. He is sanguine as it can get and is comfortable with attention. He did not think it was going to be sustainable. So, what was he afraid of? The unknown! He doesn’t even want to try. He might be wasting precious time which otherwise would be used enhancing his mathematical skills. Is he going to be successful with his mathematics? I bet you he will.

Then what’s all the fuss about? I was of the opinion he is not happiest there. He had another skill he was turning his back on. He was more suited elsewhere. The path might be slow and painful but he would be happier and eventually successful, material and otherwise.

Are you like my friend? In campus, I had the option of specializing in communication or to double major. I wanted to double major. I was of the maxim ‘do not put all your eggs in one basket.’ Then suddenly I met Martyn and he asked ‘why?’ I explained that this is called ‘diversification.’ Then he said something I will remember for the rest of my life: “Do communication, you are cut out for it. About not making it: you cannot not make it.”

The writer is a Bachelor of Arts student at the University of Nairobi

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