“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt, March 4, 1933
President Roosevelt spoke those words nine decades ago last month in his first inaugural address to a frightened and beaten down America. Some believe the President’s advisors, now called speechwriters, reworded a quote from Sir Francis Bacon, and English Philosopher who wrote 300 years earlier: “Nothing is terrible except fear itself,” for Roosevelt’s oft quoted line.
One of the President’s advisors working in the White House in 1933 was thirty-nine-year-old Napoleon Hill who, at the time, was writing what would become his bestselling book, “Think and Grow Rich”, published in 1937, a year after he left the White House. It was startling to me how many of the same fears Hill detailed exist today in the most prosperous country in the world, and in many ways provide a glimpse of the troubles we experience in our business and personal lives.
Hill identified six basic fears: the fears of poverty, criticism, ill health, loss of love or affection, old age, and death. He talks about indecision and doubt being the seedling of all fears, which slowly crystalizes into the paralyzing tranquilizer called worry.
Let’s look at some of the symptoms of these fears Hill articulated and see how they may create limitations on our ability to reach full potential:
Hill refers to the fear of death as the cruelest of all fears. He says leaders of sectarianism ply their trade by crying out: “Come into my tent, embrace my faith, accept my dogmas, and I will give you a ticket that will admit you straightaway when you die; remain out of my tent, and may the devil take you and burn you throughout eternity.” It creates in people the worry of dying rather than living with purpose.
In the end, fear becomes the wedge of discouragement that keeps many people from reaching their full potential. Don’t be afraid to be great.
Patrick Burke is the managing principal of Burke Group, a Rochester-based retirement plan consulting & administration, actuarial services and compensation consulting firm. Contact him at [email protected].