Holy terror of creation

Smoking cigars and drinking heavily into the early hours of New Year’s last week I was in the company of some high achievers: an international journalist, a published author, a chief executive of a 2,000-person company and a top level health manager. The talk was your typical, reflective New Year’s Eve crap, so I ventured a change in direction, asking:

“Does anyone feel the terror when they awake?”

I meant night terrors, involving judgment by an angry God, incomplete tax returns, overcharged credit cards, stupid comments that can’t be retracted, awful hair cuts worn on big occasions. I also meant the terror that accompanies me in the daytime – the white knuckling fear of an editorial deadline, the certain knowledge that one day I will fail spectacularly at something public and costly or be involved in helping one of my employees be “let go” (whoever made up that stupid expression?).

I thought that I was rather special in this experience. I even have a name for it - the Holy Terror, because it’s so very protestant. Probably Calvinist.

Turns out I’m not special at all. Everyone that night nodded sadly that the Holy Terror lives with them too. They had different names for it but, essentially, the beast that drives me out of bed at ungodly times lives in their bed too. Or in their heads, to be exact.

So here’s an experiment: as I said, all those present were highly motivated, hard working, creative achievers. Is the Holy Terror common to these folk? My thesis is that not everyone has it. I don’t believe, for example, that people who lack ambition, who are satisfied with their lot live with the HT. I also wonder whether the super high achievers, like Olympic gold medallists or the super entrepreneurial live with the HT. Super high achievers often lack the inner critic that voices its fear of failure.

I’d welcome any suggestions about how to live with the HT. And maybe overcome it. Although, I doubt I ever will and maybe deep down I don’t want to. Dissatisfaction and fear are great motivators.

The point of my blog will be track the course of the HT in its various forms and to reflect on how I’m winning the battle over it. Or maybe using it. Or maybe losing it.  As an entrepreneur in the rather risky area of publishing I will have plenty of experiences to generate thoughts and lessons. And I hope you’ll respond in kind.

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).