Fear is the dark currency of all dealmaking: the best negotiators know its value and cash it out in the real world for money, options, and just about everything else. Mastering your own fears is the first and most key skill of negotiation. Once you’ve conquered fear, you will learn not only how best to prevent others from exploiting your fear— you’ll understand how to exploit the fear of your opponents! It is with these goals in mind that I am pleased to share with you an excerpt from my new book The Dealmaker’s Ten Commandments: Ten Essential Tools for Business Forged in the Trenches of Hollywood.
Warhol’s Lost Masterpiece: The Two Little Words That Destroy Fear
“There are more things, Lucilius, that frighten us than injure us, and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.”
What are you afraid of? What keeps you up at night? Money fears? Health fears? Relationship fears? Afraid you’re going to be a failure just like your old man? Afraid she’ll never love you if she knows the truth? Afraid you’re going to die alone?
Take 15 minutes. Get real, get dark. Ask yourself, “What am I most afraid of?” Write down your answers. (Note: Be sure to destroy the evidence after the exercise. This info is for your eyes only, and you should feel completely unfettered from the judgment of others. I’m not paranoid; I’m prepared.)
Your enemies are going to attempt to use your fears to their advantage, so it’s best to head them off at the pass. Knowing your fears and controlling them empowers you and disempowers the opposition. You can’t think straight if you’re scared.
How to control our fears? I’ve found a marvelously effective technique used by Andy Warhol.
I know that sounds odd, but hang with me. Warhol grew up as an extremely sickly child in a working-class neighborhood in Pittsburg. He was often bedridden and developed skin pigmentation blotchiness as a complication from scarlet fever. He became a hypochondriac. As a young man he was extremely self-conscious of his appearance and was isolated because of his awkward manner and sexual orientation. He was afraid. Afraid of being rejected by his crushes. Afraid of his art being rejected by his contemporaries. Eventually, Warhol devised a truly elegant solution to manage these debilitating fears:
“Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, ‘so what?’ That’s one of my favorite things to say. ‘So what?’ . . . I don’t know how I made it through all the years before I learned how to do that trick. It took me a long time for me to learn it, but once you do, you never forget.”
Take another 15 minutes and go through your list of fears one by one. Ask yourself, if this happened, “So what?” Would you still survive? Would you be put in jail for life? Would you starve to death? Would you never find anyone who would want to go to the movies with you?
Of course, we must be responsible for our fate and take all appropriate actions to prevent bad things from happening. But, it is counterproductive and a tremendous waste of energy to be a slave to the fear that those bad things might occur. They don’t pay you to worry. Next time you’re afraid that something bad might happen or if something troubling actually does happen, ask yourself “So what?” You may find that asking that little question defangs your fears, disables your foes and helps you get some sleep at night.