Monthly Archives: October 2013

Our air conditioning department manager convinced me to bid the heating and air conditioning work on three school additions. I was nervous about bidding the jobs because the specifications called for chilled water air conditioning—systems we had little experience installing. However, he convinced me he knew what he was doing and if we got the jobs, we could perform the work. We won the bid, installed the systems and they did not operate.

The problem resulted from chilled water not moving through the system at a high enough volume. At first we believed the lack of flow resulted from entrapped air—so we hooked garden hoses to the piping and ran the pumps continuously to remove the air. Sure enough, with the nozzle of the hose in a bucket of water, you could see huge bubbles of air belching from the pipes; but the air conditioning units still didn’t work.

The architect decided the systems were was clogged by dirt from unclean piping.  When they reported this, the school authorities threatened our contractor customers, who contacted our bonding company—the situation was getting worse.

Not understanding the intricacies of chilled water-cooling, I was afraid we had done something wrong. Day after day, I spent hours at each job site, running the pumps in hope the systems would purge themselves. During school board meetings I defended our work and avoided answering questions from the local media. We were spending thousands of dollars trying to make the systems work; we were not getting paid and our reputation was being ruined.

At my wit’s end, I decided to hire a consulting engineer to review the plans, specifications and our installation. I forwarded the documentation to the engineer and arranged for him to tour the jobs. A couple of days later he called and told me there was no need to inspect our work; that upon reviewing the plans he had determined the pumps were too small to maintain the required water flow. I forwarded his written report to our customers and the problem was solved—in fact, we were paid to change out the pumps. I made a serious error by undertaking a job that I did not understand and I compounded that error by being afraid to be wrong.

The fear of being wrong, can lead to not being able to uncover the cause of a problem and make it worse.  A decision based upon incorrect facts is bound to be an incorrect decision—before determining a course of action, make sure you have all the facts.


It is wise to direct your anger towards problems — not people; to focus your energies on answers — not excuses.” – William Arthur Ward


It is not a matter of being fearless. The fear is sometimes constant, but it’s about moving forward regardless of the fear. Courage means feeling the fear and doing it anyway.” -Gillian Anderson

Every Halloween one of my favorite videos is shown on television. Dressed as a scarecrow, a man sits on his front porch, in a rocking chair, next to a box containing trick or treat candy. When someone reached for the candy, the costumed man jumped to his feet scaring the unsuspecting trick-or-treater. The joke worked until a large man reacted by delivering a punch knocking the scarecrow to the floor.

The “Fight or Flight” syndrome describes how someone reacts when they are unexpectedly frightened.

My wife Terri and I came across a neighbor’s yard sale. The man hosting the sale told Terri he had a special memento she might be interested in. She watched as he slowly opened a box—suddenly, without warning a fake squirrel was propelled out of the box. I grabbed her arm as she began a swing at the guy’s nose. “Fight or Flight,” Terri’s instinct is to fight.

In a magazine survey, respondents were asked which golf shot they feared most. I expected the number one answer to be out of a sand trap, over water or an attempt out of deep rough. Surprisingly, the top reply was “The first shot off of the number 1 tee.”  The fear of failing in front of  people waiting to tee off gave rise the response.

The fear of failing in front of others is responsible for one of people’s greatest terrors, the fear of public speaking. The trepidation engendered from speaking in public is not limited to addressing a large audience; it prevents people from expressing their opinions in small meetings. I have  heard people say, “I wanted to speak but I was afraid someone would find my opinion to be stupid.”

I am convinced you never truly overcome a deep-seated dread. I do believe you can learn to harness and use it to drive a favorable outcome. When you recognize and accept a fear you can take actions overcome it: golf lessons, Toastmasters, the list goes on.  By working to conquer a fear, a person gains confidence that he or she will not fail.  This confidence, coupled with the adrenaline caused by the fear, creates a focus and determination that can lead to success.