Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself

Why opportunities that scare you the most are the very ones you can’t afford to pass up.
A near-vertical climb from base camp (seen far below) to the peak of Triglav.
Photo credit: Gregor Lahajnar

When is the last time you felt fear? Not anxiety, apprehension, annoyance, or any of its minor cousins which are far more common in our comfortable, modern world but good-old fight-or-flight, dog-in-a-thunderstorm fear?

For me, it was last month, while climbing to the 9,400-foot peak of Slovenia’s Triglav (translation three headed) mountain. This location is a point of pride for the country’s two million plus citizens, so much so that you’re not considered a true Slovenian until you’ve reached the summit.

To be clear, Triglav is no Everest. But people can and do die climbing it, as evidenced by its hundred-foot drop-offs, rickety iron stake handholds, and the multiple memorial plaques you pass along the way.

Though I try to stay active, I’m more X-Box than X-treme on the best of days. That, combined with a lifelong fear of heights, and I’m probably one of the last people you’d normally find scooting along treacherous mountain pathways.

Yet too much comfort can be crippling, as can the regret that comes from missing out on something truly great in life for no other reason than fear. So when my wife and I were presented with a chance to finally take on Triglav alongside some brave members of her family, we forced ourselves to say yes.

As a credit union, you’re likely often presented with your own opportunities to either stick with the comfortable, known routine or try something scary, new, and yes even a little dangerous.

In many financial scenarios, risk is considered the enemy, something to be negated into as close to nonexistence as possible. Yet this worldview also overlooks the fact that no evolution, personal or professional, happens without some introduction of the unknown.

Such is the case in our Anatomy of Mazuma Credit Union, which revamped its employee culture and, more recently, its headquarters with an emphasis on fun as well as function. This transformation was a big gamble for incoming CEO Brandon Michaels, but so far, all evidence points to the fact that happier employees have made for a happier membership, which is leading to a happier balance sheet.

Preparation is a huge part of attempting any daring feat, which is why Our Ideas In Action section looks at ways to tackle the major changes currently occurring in the mortgage business head on. From a post-TRID employee gut check to the use of real estate agent rebates and niche products like construction loans, we’ve got peer-verified best practices that will leave you confident no matter what you encounter out there in the wild.

Our Technology@CU section focuses on newly emerging but, by all accounts, highly effective marketing strategies for the electronic age. And even Diversions has a little extra kick to it this quarter, with lessons from up-and-coming barbecue masters Old Virginia Smoke.

Like everything in life, even fear has a function. Use your head, your heart, and the good information provided in this quarter’s edition of Strategy & Performance and you too can embrace fear, successfully grow as an organization, and still walk away unscathed.

August 1, 2015

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