Defeating the lizard brain
“You will never have a greater or lesser dominion than that over yourself…the height of a man’s success is gauged by his self-mastery; the depth of his failure by his self-abandonment. …And this law is the expression of eternal justice. He who cannot establish dominion over himself will have no dominion over others.” Leonardo da Vinci
“Are you completely crazy?” I’m standing at a farewell morning tea. A tradition repeated thousands of times every day in Australia for staff who are leaving employment (and hopefully going on to another job). The morning tea was delightful, with a range of quiches, pastries and fruit. There was actually no tea involved but those colleagues who had planned ahead had got themselves a cafe latte from the ground floor cafe.
Yes, this was my farewell morning tea - my last supper with my current employer. I felt a mixture of guilt and disappointment. Guilt for feeling like I had wasted the time of my manager and the company for hiring me 15 months ago and disappointment that I had not achieved what I set out to achieve when I first started. I felt like my star was no longer burning so bright in the eyes of my colleagues and figured it was time to leave.
When I was contacted by a Malaysian oil company wanting me to complete a 1-month project in my specialist area, I knew it would be high risk to accept it - I had dealt with Malaysia companies before and often things didn’t work out as planned - but I still literally jumped at the chance and accepted it, signed the agreement then promptly resigned to my manager the same day. Sure enough, within 2 weeks the Malaysian company advised that they were rescheduling the start date, but by that time with only 2 weeks of employment left, I was ½ way out the door of my company and I was feeling no pain. Besides, the Malaysian company had been a short term thing and a catalyst for me leaving - my intention for some time was to launch an offshoring company in The Philippines - I’d already come up with the name, Asia Offshoring - so I figured I was all set.
Seth Godin coined the term, the ‘lizard brain,’ and describes it as that part of the brain that is about survival, safety, and the part that hates risk and change. At that farewell morning tea on my last day of work, it cried out to me to follow the safe path and not leave. It begged me to reconsider and even tried negotiation - maybe if I just stayed 1 more month… As I gave a short farewell speech, I could also see a faint glint of fear in my colleagues’ eyes - I believe there was some genuine concern for me and my future. Perhaps lizard brains sympathise with each other…
I learnt a lot from the process. To be totally honesty with yourself takes enormous strength - it had been my intention for some time to start the Philippines company, but to act on that honesty took more than strength - it took herculean courage, that is, to do something even if it means death! Hats off to those who have that displayed that sort of courage in business before.
I also learnt that nothing hurts more than regret - it had been all consuming when my father passed away and I wasn't about to let that happen again.
Most importantly, I learnt that the lizard brain is all powerful. It’s no wonder that so few people strike out and follow their dreams - In addition to being socialised to follow a stable predictable trajectory…to get a good education, get a good job, get married, have children, the lizard brain kicks in as soon as you start flirting with making change in your life. I learnt that you can’t defeat the lizard brain, but you can be true to yourself and move forward without the lizard brain’s consent. I believe doing so has given me an increased inner strength which has helped me considerably in my entrepreneurial life.