Anxiety illustrated


  • “If we define anxiety as experiencing failure in advance, we can also understand its antonym, anticipation. When you work with anticipation, you will highlight the highs. You’ll double down on the things that will delight and push yourself even harder to be bold and to create your version of art. If this is going to work, might as well build something that’s going to be truly worth building. If you work with anxiety, on the other hand, you’ll be covering the possible lost bets, you’ll be insuring against disaster and most of all, building deniability into everything you do.”

Another Seth-urday, another Seth post. This one touching on both Leadership and Management as well as embracing failure. It clearly first caught my eye by defining something in terms of ‘failure’. As it went on it appeared to discuss balancing upside (‘delight…be bold’) and downside (‘covering the possible lost bets’) with the parallel of ‘Anticipation’ (Leadership) and ‘Anxiety’ (Management).

But once again, Seth belies his Leadership bias as a modern day Norman Vincent Peale over-emphasizing the positive and too readily dismissing irksome downsides. All very nice cheerleading to inspire oft-needed positivity. Unfortunately, too little heed to downsides is a malady of our generation and his belittling of its consideration is symptomatic of the bias that plagues our times.

My son Chase had a better definition of ‘anxiety’. When he was serving at our local coffee shop, a patron learning English asked him what ‘anxiety’ meant. He replied, “You know that feeling when you are leaning back in your chair and you get to that point where if you don’t do something quick you will fall over. That’s anxiety.”

Personal relationship fully disclosed, I prefer Chase’s definition because it captures that tension of balancing between upside of leadership (a leisurely lean back) and downside aversion of management (falling over). With Chase’s revamp of Seth’s ‘Anxiety’ definition, then I do like the balancing notions of Anticipation and Anxiety.

Leaders anticipation the highlights; Managers are anxious about falling over. Both together are needed to balance the executive chair just right.