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inSANity by Lawrence San

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About San


inSANity columns:

I Don't Get No Respect

What's Money For?

The Better You Are,
The Longer It Takes

Nothing Is Possible

When The Bastards
Criticize You

The Theory Of
The Hairy Arm

Always Ready To Walk

Ugly Brides and Other Temptations

Under Fire By The VP of X

Waiting For Aliens

Will The Real Freaks Please Raise Their Hands?

Putting Your Stamp On It

Junkyard Creativity

Two Kinds of Fear?

How To Blow An Interview

Season's Growlings

Booted from the Womb

Rules for Rule Breaking

The Fine Art of Kicking Yourself

Fresh Eyes and Feedback Loops

Little Shop of... Freedoms


Two Kinds of Fear?

Now that I've become a famous online columnist (I hear retching sounds from my staff -- Hey you! Shut the hell up!) lots of people write to me expressing the desire to ditch their crummy bosses and go freelance. Soloing used to be a freaky thing, but now it's becoming a hip thing, so all these wage slaves are crawling out of the woodwork with their desires hanging out. But they keep expressing fear. What is this fear? Could be lots of things. Fear of not being able to make a living. (A reasonable fear, but you can get your feet wet on the side while wage slaving by day; or you can make a high-fiduciary spousal acquisition -- I mean marry somebody rich; or you can follow conventional wisdom and save up six months' living expenses before you jump in -- yeah, right). Fear of one's own procrastination or lack of discipline. (A problem, but when you break through that and come out on the other side it feels spectacular.) General fear of the unknown. Fear of confronting your own inadequacies.

Are these really different from the fears people experience in non-business contexts? For example, your typical guy is afraid to talk to a strange woman in a bar. (Unless she's really strange, I suppose, in which case her rejection of him can be explained away by her weirdness.) Is that so different from being rejected by potential clients? I'm not afraid of prospective clients anymore, but I still don't approach strangers in bars. (On the other hand, I don't go into bars much in the first place -- they're usually so noisy that I can't hear anyone talk, so I just know what people look like, not whether they'd be interesting to me. It seems like an absurd way to meet people, and I'm too old for superficial crap like that.) By contrast, approaching businesspeople I don't know -- there's structure implied by the business context, they expect to be approached, you can hear people talk, and it's not so personal.

What gives me confidence with prospective clients is that I really know my stuff -- I mean I know technically and aesthetically how to add value to a client's project. I learned my chops on my own time and premises (nothing to fear there). Once I'd racked up lots of outside verification that I was actually good and not just kidding myself, my fear kind of evaporated. Ever since then, if prospects reject me, it just means I'm wrong for that client or project, or maybe that they're making a mistake. It's not me, you know what I mean? Competence gives me confidence when I talk to the Outside World.

I think I could handle the bar thing now if I chose. Which implies that the fears are similar, that if you overcome the business kind of fear you've mostly overcome the social kind too. Or vice-versa. Maybe it's even the same fear. Maybe I'll start a quiet bar for independent professionals -- perhaps for women only. I'm the only guy allowed in. Does that sound like a business plan or what?

San was the founding editor of 1099 Magazine, serving as its first editor-in-chief and creative director. He's now back in the boss-free world as a freelance writer and illustrator. In addition to the inSANity column on 1099, San's other writings and cartoons are at www.sanstudio.com.

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