You have to find the translation of comic book heroes into popular movies fascinating. Characters from childhood fantasies have been reimagined to fit every real life concern, from the complication of terrorism that underscores Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy to teen angst represented by The Amazing Spiderman.
It makes one wonder what does it take to be truly fearless in real life.
Michael Carroll seems to believe he has the answer, at least for how we work. Thirty seven years of Buddhist training infuses his career as a human resources executive and professional coach. The thoughts are profoundly captured in his book Fearless at Work: Timeless Teaching For Awakening Confidence Resilence and Creativity in the Face of Life’s Demands . I discovered the book through NetGalley and requested a copy.
Carroll organizes 38 principles based on Tibetan practices (He explains the practices further in an appendix). The principles are eye-opening words for contemplation. Five sections organize the principles to be easy to find:
- The five primary slogans, meant to be spiritual facts of life.
- Exploring the ironies of cowardice – learning to admit fear.
- Taming the mind.
- Establishing a fearless presence.
- Living a skillful life.
You can read them sequentially, each building on each other. You can also read in your own order, useful for reminders, though Carroll recommends to read the 5 primary slogans. These are meant to help us engage life on our terms, instead of feeling out of control:
- Face the Fierce Facts of Life
- No Delight No Courage
- Recognize Fear
- Discover the Jewel of Fearless Abundance
- Command Gracefully
The principles support any journaling you choose to do in developing one’s avocation. Each principle ends with a brief summary paragraph.
When digging deeper into the text, be prepared for startling phrases – not sure I would think of myself as a coward, for example, but it’s the word Carroll uses to get to the heart of vulnerability. It supports the facts of life outline in the primary slogans, so I appreciated the point the author makes – to appreciate a full aware of my life.
Acceptance is a hallmark of the first pages, beginning with a listing of ideas supporting the first term, Face the Fierce Facts of Life:
To be human hurts – at times unbearably so. Anything can and does happen. Each of us is alone. We are born alone and we die alone.
Now this is a heavy thought, for sure, but Carroll wisely explains each listing and expand the thought carefully so that jolt from the phrases connects to professional thoughts that everyone has mostly likely entertained in their career:
The slogan “Be a flagpole” reminds us that leadership is not always moving forward, getting it done, and driving results. Sometimes it requires us to stop ad simply be – often in the midst of the most difficult circumstances.
I felt the most applicable thoughts to a reader who owns a small business is Living a Skillful Life. I thought the section spoke to connecting skills to ambitions through a spiritual conversation.
Ever met a small business owner who believed so much in their skills or product offering? I’m sure you have. Everyone has. And in every case these small businesses truly believe in their business, in some ways similar to an evangelist believing in the life calling.
Many segments address behavior to account one’s self for undertaking an action. For example, Don’t Kick The Dog. I had to brace myself for that phrase. It means do not do something needless to alert people of a superior position you have, a petty action. If you kick the dog, it will bark, which leads to other dogs in the neighborhood barking along.
Here’s a better explanation of it:
The slogan Don’t Kick The Dog reminds us that we can pay a heavy price when we chose emotional victories over fearlessness….such emotional victories can seem satisfying in the moment, but it inevitably leads to wider “barking” and useless emotionality.
You have to read the chapter to learn a how the phrase came to be. Regardless, in simple language, when you are petty, others will know and “bark”…er, relay.
You’ll remember the emotional speedbumps that can impede fearlessness, and as a result, impede productivity and teamwork. Taking a vejra view of aggression – the fluid nature of underlying feelings – shows how to draw upon assertiveness without improper bullying, while part three, Taming the Mind, notes mindful awareness and meditation in establishing a fearless presence.
Another segment, Just Slow Down, is a reminder of good judgment not being rushed.
Carroll wrote this book, along with Awake at Work, and Mindful Leader, to address what it is people really are striving to be personally and professionally – happy, stress-free, fulfilled. Fearless at Work is not meant to provide organizational process, but is a good journal for applying self-introspection in the middle of small business chaos. Like books such as Switch,  Drive,  and Adaptability , Fearless at Work does not tell try to interpret situations, but merely provide an overarching viewpoint that you can apply during your daily activities. Once you do, you’ll feel more like a superhero instead of looking for a hero.