Seth Godin |CIO Learning Interview– “I have never overcome my fear and that is what I am arguing here…”

Seth GoodinThere are some gems that I unpacked from an interview with Seth Godin that I initially read from the web site Brain Pickings. Debbie Millman interviewed Seth Godin. Debbie is a powerful accomplished business woman in her own right. I learned about Debbie Millman while watching a great interview she did with Jonathan Fields – Soundcloud and Goodlife project.

Seth, unquestionably is one of the most influential business thinkers on the planet now. He answers some of Debbie’s questions with depth and insight that I want to share because I think that it directly hits to the heart of the CBIO – Chief Business Information officer problem today.

There is an unusually big gap for most Chief Business Information Officers now between being perceived as a ‘plumbing only’ CIO versus a CIO that adds value to the business beyond just keeping the email and critical systems running. I think there is a pervasive fear which exist for Technology Leadership that your job is constantly on the line.

The pace of technology change and expectations required from tech leaders is extraordinary. There is so much to learn and manage in the IT plumbing from an IT infrastructure, security, and disaster recovery perspective. A CBIO unlike a plumbing CIO takes a step back and learns finance, sales, marketing and really dives into how her skills can help and serve the business. This is frightening because you have to apply time, creativity and leadership to a business that is not used to this before. Innovative thinking and creative planning and execution of ideas comes from a different part of our brain and if we don’t realize this we will not access our full potential as a CBIO.

Seth talks about how he handles fear in this interview and I believe it applies very much to the current state of affairs for technology leaders. At 48:51 of this interview he shares how he personally handles the fear brain and offers suggestions to people that can help them. He briefly educates the audience about the fear brain as a specific part of the brain called the amygdala, the unconscious mind, and also the lizard brain. All of which affect us in business and life. Wiki

Question: Do you have a discipline or practice that helps you continually reference and learn about your own unconscious and what would you recommend us to do?

Seth 48:19 – “the thing to understand about the amygdale is that it is a blunt instrument. It only has a couple of chemicals to flood your brain with. It is not what teaches you to play the piano. When we are afraid of falling off a cliff, a roller coaster, telling our spouse the truth it is exactly the same feeling in the body.” 48:19

When you are concerned and afraid about an issue that impacts your ability to deal with the pain of a situation at work, in regards to your personal ability to handle a situation, it triggers the amygdala. The amygdala floods your body with chemicals that trigger ancient fight or flight responses. This part of our brain kept our ancestors alive in a very predatory environment from the past. In some areas of the world this part of our brain is still of service. However, for the developed world and in the west this part of our brain needs to be not taken as seriously. It needs to be danced with versus you believing what it is saying as soon as it speaks.

When you need creative insight, management reasoning, personal power, creativity you need to access a different part of your brain. When the fear brain raises it’s terrible head Seth further explains his process.

Seth 48:38: the first response step is to know when it comes and what it means when it is there. The conscious brain at least for me says, ‘I got it’, you have just given me a compass. ….For most people their compass says, ‘go the other way’. “

It can be easy to miss the meaning of the next sentence but at it’s heart is where the rubber meets the road. It is the sentence that offers a way of thinking that you can emulate.

Seth 49:10 – to his fear thought he says, “thank you for showing me that this is where I need to go next. You may still test the mind’s thinking …..but if you can learn to welcome the thought and fear then something magical has just happened with your career because you can bring it when you want it. It is telling you where the dangerous place lives. This is what people will pay for.”

Now, this is important because if it is true then this is what employers will pay for from you the CBIO/CIO. By approaching issues that are most career threatening and are most threatening for growing the business you may be the catalyst and spark that the business needs.

Seth –“…..people will ask you to do dangerous stuff that they are not willing to do.……..I have never overcome my fear and that is what I am arguing here. One of the easiest things that I can propose is that there are lots of things we think we have to do…..The key is how to create a (have to) around your art.”

I might add (have to) translates certainly to business but also to health, wealth, relationships, etc. He further offers practical advice around specific habits and disciplines.

Seth – 52:06 “ In my case I blog every day. Not three times per day and not zero times per day, but one time per day. After doing this 5000 plus times my subconscious gets it. There is another blog post due and it finds it for you. This habit of doing something today that I have never done before really pays off. Another idea is to form a group of 6 people and meet 1 time per week. You have to show these people one thing that you have never done before. You will be more afraid of letting these people down than doing the work.

In my next post I am going to share two ideas on how you can build your idea generating muscle so that you are an idea machine for your company as the CBIO.