Addiction to Insecurity

A fear that we’ve overlooked something

This is a normal tendency, even though the root of it is often an unfounded insecurity—a fear that you’ve overlooked something or that something will ultimately fail. While we all have different insecurities, most of us share a common approach to dealing with them: we seek information to make our anxiety go away. For some, this amounts to countless hours spent reviewing traffic reports for Web sites, scrutinizing bank balances and every transaction in your business, reviewing Twitter search feeds for your business, getting daily e-mails with every piece of data you can imagine—the list goes on.

Basking in the data makes us feel better. These daily (and in some cases hourly!) habits should be thought of as “Insecurity Work.” It’s the stuff you do that has no intended outcome, does not move the ball forward in any way, and is quick enough that you can do it multiple times a day without realizing how much time is being wasted. While all of these actions are important once in a while, there is no rational reason to perform them so often.

  • Insecurity Work is a trap that plagues many creative leaders. Your constant need for assurance becomes a shackle on your productivity.

To cure ourselves of the addiction to Insecurity Work, we must employ a combination of awareness, self-discipline, and delegation tactics. The first step is to recognize what you do in your everyday life that is, in fact, Insecurity Work. Whether it is checking the same search terms again and again or constantly watching your e-mail in-box as if it were a boiling pot of water, pay attention to where your Focus wanders when you’re distracted from the project at hand. By consciously labeling your Insecurity Work as such, you will become self-aware.

The second step is to establish some guidelines and rituals for yourself. Allow yourself a thirty-minute period at the end of every day (or, if you dare, every week) during which you can go through the list of things you’re curious about. Perhaps make all of these things bookmarks in a browser that you don’t normally use—and open it only when allowed! Weaning yourself off Insecurity Work is akin to reducing your reliance on an addictive substance. You may find yourself craving the data (and self-assurance) that you are missing. And so, you will want to wean yourself slowly.

  • The humbling truth is that ideas are not made to happen through solitary genius or ingenuity.