Friday, April 12, 2013

Reinvent Yourself: Acknowledge the Lizard Brain (4/7)

Art is risky! When you create something original, you are taking the risk that people may not like it. People may laugh at you behind your back and in your face. Your art may even ‘fail’ – but we’ll talk about that later. What is important now is to remember that we can only be rewarded when we take these risks.

Now let’s talk about the ‘lizard brain’.


I was General Secretary of UJCM (in OAU) for over a year. During that period, I regularly spoke to crowds of over a thousand people (six-seven thousand during special programs). One would expect me to get ‘used’ to it – but I never did! Going upstage on my very last Sunday – I was nearly as uneasy as I had been on the first! Such uneasy feelings before public appearances only subsided after I started to acknowledge the ‘lizard brain’.

What is this ‘lizard brain’? The ‘lizard brain’ is that prehistoric brain-stem that all of us must contend with. The ‘lizard brain’ does not like being laughed out – so it shuts down our art and encourages conformity! After all, people are less likely to laugh at you when you look like them, act like them, and expect the same things from life as they do! BUT, no one makes a difference by being like everyone else…

So what do we do? We acknowledge the ‘lizard brain’ – and move on!

Before my public appearances in Ife, my ‘lizard brain’ would give me reasons why I should either ‘conform’ to expected norms or avoid the stage! I would be reminded that I was wearing polo shirts and jeans where shirts and ties were expected; I would be reminded that I was prone to saying “nothing do you” as opposed to “Bless you brother”…and I would become uneasy! I had set out to be different, but my ‘lizard brain’ was afraid people would condemn me for it! I still did well, however, because my anxiety would disappear once I started to speak.

Those feelings are common to all of us. We feel them as we catwalk onto the stage – afraid that we might fall and people will have a good laugh at our expense! We feel them as we sit waiting for a meeting with a potential business sponsor – afraid that they might laugh at our brilliant idea! We feel them as we wonder silently whether people will actually pay for our disruptive product or service – afraid that everyone will laugh when our business fails!

Today, I pre-empt the ‘lizard brain’. That is what we must do, or anxiety and nerves will keep us from doing anything! We must acknowledge the lizard brain. We stand up, hear its voice – then walk to the podium and do the work. We acknowledge the lizard so that we can ignore it.

Stay with me… I will tie everything up over the next (and final) three posts.


PS: Excerpts and paraphrases from Seth Godin's manifesto are reproduced in Bold print.

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