Storytelling Emotion: Insecure Yet Optimistic

My Instagram feed, filled with quotes on insecurity, has done a brilliant job of equipping me with an ability to catch myself feeling negative emotions like insecurity, greed to do more, anxiety that I am not enough. I catch myself feeling those emotions and say, ” stop it, you don’t have to feel this way. ”

Interestingly though, the built awareness has not necessarily meant the frequency of these emotions felt has reduced. And many a times I credit my insecurities and lack of self assurance as key drivers behind my high levels of productivity and disciplined life style.

Is there a connection between negative emotions and high levels of performance?

My own storytelling work pointed me to a direction, in story works we have a strong emotional desire built for the listener to want to achieve the task at hand and that is why in an age of high technology and Jedi Knights, when we often overlook the need for personal involvement, stories work. Yes, it is a negative emotion in the story that becomes a strong trigger to persist to succeed.

So, when ex CEO of First National Bank, South Africa Michael Jordaan said that the biggest emotional drivers of innovation are fear, laziness and greed, I was not surprised. FNB, voted world’s most innovative bank, launched its own online currency ( ebucks), created country’s first banking app, launched a Telco, given FNB customers free bandwidth, become Africa’s largest iPad retailer – all this in a category in which most financial service clients claim it is almost impossible to truly innovate.

How was this done?

By creating a culture, and offering a considerable financial incentive too anyone inside the organisation who comes up with an innovation that makes an impact in market, the annual prize fund started as $100,000 in 2004 and which has now grown to seven times.

If you don’t have the fear of missing out, the greed to win that prize money and competitiveness to prove, you just won’t compete would you?

A 2010 study confirms the value of both negative and positive emotions. Negative emotions can help drive persistence, commitment and focus. Positive emotions help stimulate cognitive flexibility and the ability to see new kinds of connections.

Angela Lee Duckworth received a MacArthur Genius grant for discovering that what she calls grit – the ability to maintain commitment to a goal despite obstacles, adversity , or failure – turns out to be a bigger predictor of success in life that IQ. Stick- to- it – iveness is not just important, it seems, it might be the most important thing. If persistence is important and the origination of persistence is a negative emotion than why shouldn’t one let us feel them?

As Dan Wieden says, if you can remain insecure, yet optimistic, you’ve got a pretty good chance of changing the world.

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"I attended your story telling course some time back. And I've enjoyed keeping up my knowledge with your blog. You may not have realised however, that the Whole of Government is implementing Internet Seperation. Hence I'm not able to access the links to read your articles. Could I suggest including a QR code in your emails so that I can use my mobile to scan it and gain immediate access to the article? It would be most helpful"