40-Day Business Leadership Peak Performance Programme Day 12: Fear of Flying

How did you go yesterday? Yesterday we were talking about faulty beliefs. If you keep running into problems then guaranteed a faulty belief is at the back of it. The thing we know about faulty beliefs is they are learned at a young age. You perform some behaviour and it appears to work and the faulty belief is that it does work.

The problem with faulty beliefs is that they are usually unconscious, automatic and become your set point, default position. Your way of operating. You may not even know you are doing it. But there are clues.

I am qualified in Industrial and Organisational Psychology, I have a degree in Education, I have years and years of experience working with clients in a diverse range of industries. I have made some of my clients millions – and in one or two cases -hundreds of millions. (To be fair, they did the work but those results came out of conversations that clarified their decisions.) I’ve written books. Some are bestsellers. And I’ve won awards. Gee I’m fantastic. I know lots of stuff.

OK, what am I doing?

I’m trying to impress you, right? I went to a lot of schools and I was always the new kid. New kids always end up in fights.

So, I found that if I joked my way out of stuff I’d survive it. My version of showing off was doing stupid stunts that made people laugh. And when I was a kid I got a lot of attention from showing off. Class clown. In my mind showing off appeared to work. In my own mind I was popular. I thought I was clever, funny, charming and popular but the reality was it didn’t work. I was always in trouble.

In Grade 4, I used to get strapped every day almost. Yes, I became a playground hero – The Most Strapped Kid – which got me a lot of approval from my classmates but I got into a lot of trouble.

It appeared to work. It did when I was seven … and 15.

By late high school I discovered that showing off worked less and less. The kids I admired weren’t show-offs. They were hard working and diligent. They mastered good skills not stupid skills. They did well in exams. They won scholarships. So secretly I knew it wasn’t working. I was getting clues.

And it stopped working as an adult. I learned that lesson the hard way. I nearly crashed my car trying to impress my mates. My mates stopped being my mates because I was now too stupid – dangerous even. I slowly got the message.

When I got married I learned that my showing off upset my wife. She complained about it. I eventually listened. My mentors talked to me about it. I listened. Now it’s a faulty belief I am very aware of. My focus for most of my adult life has been to be of value to others and be recognised for contribution not disruption.

Today I am very conscious of not showing off. Recently I won an award and I didn’t tell anyone because I felt like was boasting. I felt guilty. I felt fraudulent and a fake. And that is a faulty belief, too.

The problem with faulty beliefs is you think you need to do more of the behaviour – Continue. You actually need to Stop doing that behaviour and Start something better. But its on auto so usually you can’t see it. But others around you can.

Peter thought he was being successful bullying his staff and he became defensive whenever he was accused of being a bully. And he always had some reason – an excuse – for why people needed to be treated like that.

Most people I coach in sales have a faulty belief about asking for what they want. Its rooted in people pleasing. They want approval and don’t want to upset anyone. They don’t want to be rejected. The fear of incurring displeasure is so strong it stops them from making sales calls.

If something isn’t working in your life – its a problem – it will either be real – legitimate; or made up or self-imposed.

I have a client that says there are strict guidelines set down by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) that limit what he can and can’t do as it relates to promotion and sales. Sounds real enough to me. You can’t ignore that because its imposed externally.

But he says he can’t sell meaning he doesn’t like selling. He is frightened to approach his target client – ambitious, business owners with assets of about £500,000- £1 million. “Can’t do it.” That’s made up, self imposed. And he is functionally blind to that faulty belief. He has invented the most elaborate reasons why he can’t approach his target client.

He does great work by the way and has won great referrals but the faulty belief is ‘life owes me a living’ and ‘referrals are working for me anyway’. Excuses to stay passive. To stay safe. Comfortable.

I have a client that paid £24,000 for a proven franchise BUT it requires him to walk into a retail store with his brochure and request a short five minute meeting with the business owner. Can’t do it. So that investment is doing nothing. His plan is to go to networking events and business breakfast events and hope that turns into business. It doesn’t. Walk-ins work. That’s what he needs to do for success.

Jane can’t discipline her staff. Ron can’t ask for people to pay their bills.

If there’s something you struggle to do – and I’ve worked with VERY successful business leaders who always have something they can’t do – at the back of it is a faulty belief, a comfort zone issue or some form of rationalisation. 

You have to observe- no – pay acute attention to your own behaviour. You need to see where you go under pressure. What do you do?

Often faulty beliefs stop you from doing what you know you need to do.

Do you know business people who are afraid to fly in an aeroplane? The research tells us that the fear of flying starts when an executive is on a plane and flying. They are already nervous about an important meeting – not flying – how it will go in the meeting. Then something happens to the plane – like a change in the engine noise, or a sudden bump or you hit some air turbulence.

Now the executive is aware that they feel nervous. Instead of linking their fear to the meeting they link it up to aircraft and flying!

So the next time they think about flying they feel anxious!

Faulty beliefs seem to work just like this. Something happens and we decide what that situation means to us. Problem is good or bad it usually goes untested for accuracy.

Problems are therefore a great opportunity to unearth your faulty beliefs. But you need to switch out of problem mode if you can which is why we ask you to turn your problems into projects.

Here’s an example. Remember Jane? She deals with lots of interruptions. But she has another problem. Jane also has staff that habitually come late for work. The staff know Jane won’t say anything because they know Jane is a nice guy. Jane is a softie. She is all about harmony and getting along and at the heart of it she just wants to be liked. The staff just know Jane wants everyone to like her and that she will therefore avoid upsetting people even when they have done something wrong.

And Jane knows she is a nice guy and nice guying late arriving staff and she needs to speak up but she won’t speak up. Someone arrives late for a shift and Jane is consistently very understanding and forgiving and the result is she lets her staff get away with arriving late for work.They promise they will not do it again but can you guess what happens? Right, they are repeatedly late. Which is very stressful because that translates into Jane having to rearrange rosters and keep staff on duty back late and then pay over time and meetings with her boss about staff costs. Can you see how Jane’s behaviour is actually causing the very stress she is trying to avoid?


The problem is Jane’s behaviour has no context. You see, Jane works in a critical care unit in a geriatric hospital and when staff are not at work a) lives are at risk and b) there is a high risk of personal and criminal negligence when a patient dies; especially if it can be shown that there were inadequate staffing levels.

It actually gets much, much worse. If it can be shown that there was a history of staff arriving late, then the hospital can be sued; and Jane can be sued for both personal and criminal negligence.

Jane’s behaviour is not only ineffectual it is dangerous and comes with very big consequences. And she is pretending that a very real legal threat does not exist when there is a very likelihood that one day Jane’s actions will be tested in law. (This is the nature of the work I did in compliance.)

One reason she won’t or can’t assert herself is a faulty belief that had its origin in the past.

Maybe when Jane was a kid and someone was yelling at her it was easier to stay quiet and avoid further conflict. Getting along, putting up with, tolerating, saying nothing or staying silent appears to work.

As I said, the common element to all faulty beliefs is that they appear to work. The only reason you keep running a faulty belief is because at some point it was reinforced. In Jane’s mind not asserting herself appears to work.

Whether or not you can locate the incident when you learned the faulty belief is irrelevant. If you are doing something you know you shouldn’t be doing – technically called maladaptive behaviour – guaranteed there is a faulty belief, somewhere.

Whatever, it shows up as what we call non-optimum behaviour. In other works it’s a behaviour you keep doing, that seems to work but doesn’t really. It’s often easier to see in others. It’s behaviours that annoy you or behaviours that you shake your head at and think, “Not that again!”

Just like yesterday, I want you to think of someone you know and identify any obvious non-optimum behaviour. Guaranteed, there’s a faulty belief lurking in there somewhere.


And again, what about yourself? Other people might call them your bad habits or weaknesses! You KNOW what they are! Reread the session notes again and let’s talk again tomorrow.

Listen to the podcast.



Andrew Priestley is a qualified business leadership coach with clients worldwide. He is the author of The Money Chimp, Starting and How Money Flows Through Your Business. You can contact him through www.andrewpriestley.com

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It goes without saying that this is for information only and The Author  cannot be held responsible for any losses or damages that occur as a result of reading this material.

© 2017 Andrew Priestley/TCE Ltd

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