A Floor Wax and a Dessert Topping: New 'Counterfear'

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Monday, February 8, 2016

“Sooner or later you’re going to realize just as I did… there’s a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.” - Morpheus, in The Matrix movie

One of the things about a website is that you need an “About” page.  This is tricky business for a philosopher; a person known for telling long stories and having much longer conversations.  It’s likely that this site’s yet-to-be-written “About” section, like many of the stories I tell, will be a bit complex, and also have lots of pieces and parts (which is exactly how it turned out later).

While I have been sorting that out, I thought it might be good to explain how the idea of countering fear - the idea I want to champion - also became the name of the business.  Thus the blog post title:  I can’t help but think of the classic old-school Saturday Night Live fake-commercial-sketch promoting "New ‘Shimmer’:  it’s a floor wax and a dessert topping!”

In hindsight, naming the Counterfear business after the counterfear idea is operationaly a bit confusing.  How it happened is kind of a funny story though.  If you find humour in irony and philosophy, that is... and learning to walk your talk. 

I came up with the “counterfear” idea in 2013 while I was living near Washington, DC; a place where words like counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and counterinsurgency are commonplace.  Dark words; or at least words of war and spycraft.  There is another story to be told on a different day about where the “counterfear” idea itself came from, but it’s rooted in this story.  One of the neatest things about the idea is that when I Googled it, there wasn’t much there.  It was  almost a whole new word.  White space. 

I had found this fabulous word, and it was so bright and shiny… and also available!  How cool is that?

It reminds me of a favourite quote from the movie “Roxanne,” which I quote a lot.  "What an idea...!"

I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. 

But, I did. I most definitely contained myself.  Because here’s the irony:  I got worried that someone else would think of it.  Write a book.  Build a website.  Or just do something super lame, but with such a sparkly thing.

This funny bit of paranoia went on for an entire summer.  I was careful who I told, and where.  This was Washington, DC, after all.  You never know who could be sitting at the next table over.  I told only my closest confidants, and then only after practically swearing them in.  I felt like I was sitting on Something Huge.  Plus, I was working at like the department of fear:  the US Department of Homeland Security.  You hardly want to broadcast to a department that butters its bread with security that you maybe have a different thought about emphasizing that above all else.  Security is in its name, for Pete’s sake.

One day at the end of the summer, I suddenly felt like a little bit of an idiot.  Good heavens, you can’t come up with an idea called COUNTERFEAR,” and then worry that someone else will run off and do something with the word before you can.  D’oh! 


After I saw how silly I was being sneaking around with a word, I realized I could just secure the danged thing.  Darn it:  security stuff again.  

Well, there is definitely a time and a place for security.  Part of the counterfear idea is to have lives where security is not the default stance.  Yet, security is a tool.

You’d think I might have realized when I was buying the counterfear web domains that there are lots of ways to hold space.  After all, that’s one of the things I’m here to help people with.

Prudence as a Tool

If you are going to secure something, a good place to start is in recognizing that security is an illusion.

Security isn’t something we can really get, in full.  It’s not something that can exist.  I had a fire friend who always said “the only constant is change.”  There is no way we can know what is coming.  There is no way we can protect against every contingency.  Things are going to happen. 

In reality, security is an attempt to become secure.  It is something we put in place, and then hope that it holds.  Whether it’s our retirement fund, our airport, our door lock, or our bank account - it isn’t ever really fully secure.  But, it may be more secure.  Either way, putting security measures in place is prudent.  It doesn’t necessarily mean we are living in fear.  Finding a risk balance we can live with is part of the secret to this thing called life. 

I’ll use an example I point to often.  I used to live in a neighborhood just off the freeway (the I-495 “beltway”) around the Washington, DC area.  I was on an awesome neighborhood email list. 

From time to time, a thoughtful neighbor would send an alert out to the other neighbors that some unknown ruffian had been rooting around in his or her car, and that we should all be on the lookout for criminals and mayhem.  Danger! 

Shortly after said alert, another neighbor would reply-all and ask if the panic-sender had, perchance, locked their car prior to the occurrence.  It would very often turn out that the email originator had, in fact, not locked said vehicle

There’s fear and there’s prudence… and sometimes there’s just plain common sense. 

Statistics, population density, and the proximity of an easy getaway on the nearby freeway all indicate that an expensive-looking neighborhood would be an easy - and frequent - target for criminals.  You can be afraid of it or not - but either way, you can mitigate the risk.  In this case, it’s prudent to at least lock your car, for crying out loud.  It’s also prudent to put some other basic security in place, like a club that locks your steering wheel, or an alarm or security system.  Security isn’t cheap:  sometimes it isn’t worth the cost. 

But locking your car is free.  Locking your car is a prudent and affordable way to give yourself a little security and peace of mind.  It’s also practical, fast, and really pretty effective.  Sometimes these things just make sense.  It’s prudent because it makes sense.  It doesn’t have to be based in fear.  Prudent actions can be based on simple acceptance of risk and reality.  Prudence itself is a very powerful counterfear tool.

Holding the Space

Back to business.  Counterfear – the idea – is in many ways about prudence.  There is truly nothing you can do to totally secure something as nebulous as a concept; an idea… especially since you can’t secure anything anyway.  Plus, the whole idea behind counterfear is to get the idea out there as a concept.  The mission here is to spread the word.  Literally.

I realized that I could be practical and prudent about the whole thing... and take my own advice.   Rather than trying to be sneaky and hide the idea, I could trademark it.  That notion led to another:  that a trademark is about business, and brands.  Next thing you know, I found myself dubbing my yet-to-be-named business "Counterfear LLC."

Instead of hiding, I filed not-secret-at-all paperwork with the Commonwealth of Virginia, the IRS, and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) declaring my intention to build a business, an idea, and a brand called “Counterfear.”  It was still a risk, because now I had made a declaration.  Someone could fight it, or the USPTO could declare it to be not viable in some way.  The word could get pilfered by a person with nefarious or inane purposes, and if that happened I might not be able to afford to fight for it.  While there were an array of risks, one thing was for sure:  now it would be on the Google. 

I don’t know where all of that declaring landed me, although one part of the answer is that I started getting quite a bit more junk mail.  I also know that I successfully held some space, and now I can build out from it.  Anchor and flank.

I took the first steps to launch a new consulting and coaching business on May Day, 2013.  I didn’t know then what I would call this new business, but I did know that the goal was to advance and amplify the idea of countering fear through connection, community, vision, and resilience.

It figures that my first big lesson in countering fear would be the word itself.  When I finally figured out how to counter fear in my business, it just made sense for it to be my business.

UPDATE:  Heeeheehee.  Naturally, despite this fine piece of reasoning and writing, I eventually found that it was too confusing to have the Counterfear.com space as more of a free service, with a business also named Counterfear LLC.  In March 2018, the business element was renamed Wicked Problem Wayfinding, LLC.
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WRITTEN:  2016-0208, 0030 hrs CST
EDITED:  2016-0226


2016 posts anchor & flank assess, accept, & address risk connect core resources, ideas, & tools counterfear tools (in blog) fear itself find a way forward security / homeland security / national security take action think critically & solve problems

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