Introduction

Right as I was getting my start in the corporate world, I landed a job at a Fortune 500 tech company. I was fresh out of college, filled with ambitious ideas, creativity popping out of my seams, and a burning desire to make my mark.

I worked long hours, came up with revolutionary ideas, and stayed true to my innovative self. Yet, every time I stepped into a management review, my ideas were met with condescending chuckles or flat-out rejected. They deemed my thinking ‘too radical’, ‘untested’, and ‘not in line with the company’s philosophy’. The rejection wasn’t what stung – it was the fact that no one was even willing to take a chance on new ideas.

I started questioning myself. Was I too inexperienced? Was my creativity misplaced? Slowly, I began to tone down my innovation, and in doing so, I was conforming to the established norms. That was my first encounter with what I now understand to be the ‘lizard brain’ – the primal part of our brain that urges us towards safety, compliance, and averting risk.

Understanding the ‘lizard brain’, as odd as it sounds, can be a game-changer for creatives and entrepreneurs alike. So, what’s this ‘lizard brain’ business about? It’s an evolutionary remnant, the part of our brain that’s all about self-preservation. It’s the voice in your head that whispers, “Better safe than sorry,” when you’re about to put forward a ground-breaking idea, or “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea,” when you’re about to take a business risk.

This primal instinct was useful when we were running around with sabertooth tigers on our tails, but in the boardroom or the artist’s studio? Not so much. It’s this part of our mind that instills fear, doubt, and pushes us to conform. It’s what keeps us playing small, sticking to the rules, and it’s what keeps our creativity and entrepreneurial spirit locked away in a vault.

The purpose of this piece? To help you, my fellow creatives, to overcome this inherent impulse to conform. To empower you to understand, manage, and eventually break free from the ‘lizard brain’ that is holding you back. To inspire you to embrace your creativity and uniqueness, and not just step out of the box, but to dismantle it completely.

In the following sections, we’ll dive deeper into understanding the ‘lizard brain’, its impact on creativity, the risks of conformity, and how to tap into your inner ‘Linchpin’. Buckle up and get ready for a mind-bending ride.

The Anatomy of Fear

The ‘lizard brain’, also known as the amygdala, isn’t just a catchy phrase; it’s rooted deep in our evolutionary biology. The term harks back to our prehistoric ancestors who relied heavily on this part of the brain for their very survival. Its main job? To instill fear when faced with danger. A rustling in the bushes could mean a predator, so the ‘lizard brain’ would send adrenaline coursing through the body, preparing it for fight or flight.

Fast forward a few millennia and here we are, living in a complex world that demands creativity, innovation, and courage to take risks. Yet, we’re still lugging around this prehistoric part of our brain that equates standing out and taking risks with getting eaten by a predator. A potential client might be a tough cookie to crack, but they surely aren’t going to have us for lunch!

In our professional lives, this manifests as an overwhelming fear of risk. Think of it like this: you’re a web designer and you’ve got a revolutionary design concept that could turn the industry on its head. But your ‘lizard brain’ sees this uncharted territory as a threat to your safety. So, what do you do? You sideline your revolutionary idea, and instead opt for something that’s already out there, something ‘safe’.

It’s funny when you think about it. We are no longer running from sabertooth tigers, but our ‘lizard brain’ makes us feel like we are. It confuses professional risks with life-threatening dangers. But here’s the kicker – fear isn’t always a sign of danger, sometimes it’s a sign of growth. Because let’s face it, growth isn’t comfortable. Growth means stepping into the unknown, and that’s scary!

There’s a common misconception that feeling fear means you’re on the wrong path. We’re taught to avoid fear, to stay in our comfort zone. But let me tell you, comfort zones are creativity’s worst enemy. If you’re not scared, you’re not growing. If you’re not scared, you’re not innovating. If you’re not scared, you’re not pushing boundaries.

Fear isn’t the enemy here, it’s our response to fear. Do we let fear paralyze us and hold us back from realizing our potential? Or do we acknowledge it, understand its root cause, and use it as a catalyst for growth?

As creatives and entrepreneurs, it’s important to learn how to differentiate between healthy fear that keeps us from harm, and the irrational fear that our ‘lizard brain’ conjures up when we’re about to do something remarkable.

Our task isn’t to eliminate fear but to understand it, respect it, and then tell it to take the backseat while we take the wheel and steer towards uncharted territories. Because let’s face it, the view is always better when you venture off the beaten path.

The Curse of Conformity

Pop quiz: What do a high school cafeteria and your average corporate office have in common? Answer: A strong, underlying current of conformity. In school, it was about blending in with the ‘cool’ kids, dressing a certain way, talking a certain way, liking certain things. Flash forward to our professional lives and not much has changed. We’re told to follow the industry trends, stick to the ‘proven’ methods, and to not rock the boat. We’re encouraged to assimilate, to become part of the homogeneous corporate landscape.

Conformity – it’s often seen as a gateway to acceptance and success. Do what’s been done before, follow the playbook, don’t ask too many questions and you’ll reach the golden pinnacle of ‘success’. But here’s the thing – this success is fleeting, it’s mundane, it lacks the luster that truly innovative success stories possess.

Consider two scenarios: In one, you’ve got a professional who has built their career around doing exactly what’s expected of them. They don’t push boundaries, they don’t challenge the norms, they just deliver what’s asked. Sure, they might climb the corporate ladder, but their journey is linear and limited.

Now, picture a maverick, a person who questions, innovates, and isn’t afraid to stand out. They don’t just climb the corporate ladder, they build their own ladder, defining their unique path to success. Their journey is dynamic, fulfilling, and boundless. They stand out, they make a difference, they bring about change.

The ‘lizard brain’ favors conformity because it’s the ‘safe’ option. But who wants to be safe and boring when you can be risky and exciting?

We’ve been fed this lie that conformity is the route to success. That to be accepted and to advance in our careers, we must blend in. But in reality, it’s a trap. Conformity breeds mediocrity. It stifles creativity, suppresses individuality, and creates a culture of sameness that hinders growth and innovation.

In the world of design, business, and entrepreneurship, it’s the disruptors, the innovators, and the non-conformists who leave a lasting impact. The ones who color outside the lines, who dare to think differently, who take the road less traveled – these are the individuals who stand out in the crowd.

The curse of conformity is that while it may provide short-term comfort, it robs us of the opportunity to make a meaningful impact. Breaking free from this curse requires courage, a pinch of rebelliousness, and a healthy disregard for the restrictive norms of ‘how things have always been done’.

Dare to be different. Dare to be you.

The Linchpin Mindset

We’ve spent some time in the jungle of our minds, gotten up close and personal with our lizard brain, and wrestled with the chains of conformity. Now, it’s time to introduce a beacon of hope: The Linchpin Mindset.

First off, let’s define the term ‘Linchpin’. No, it’s not just a tiny metal pin that holds a wheel onto its axle. It’s a metaphor for those individuals who are indispensable, who cannot be replaced because their role is just too damn unique. These are the game-changers, the ones who refuse to follow the herd, the ones who blaze their own trails.

A person with the Linchpin Mindset doesn’t just survive in the face of uncertainty, they thrive. They view the chaotic, ever-changing landscape of the professional world not as a threat, but as a playground full of possibilities. Their mantra? Embrace the chaos, baby!

Creativity is their weapon of choice. It’s not about thinking outside the box because for them, there is no box. They shatter conventional wisdom and challenge the status quo. They ask ‘why not?’ when others say ‘it can’t be done’. They don’t just dream of change, they bring it to life.

And guess what? Our scaly friend, the lizard brain, is petrified of these Linchpins. Because these individuals don’t succumb to fear or conform to expectations. They question, they challenge, they create – and in doing so, they silence the incessant whispers of the lizard brain.

The Linchpin Mindset isn’t just about being different for the sake of being different, it’s about bringing your unique perspective, your creativity, your passion to the table. It’s about making a difference, leaving your mark, and contributing something that only you can contribute.

Cultivating the Linchpin Mindset involves acknowledging and managing the lizard brain’s instinct to conform and opt for safety. It involves consciously choosing to nurture creativity, to welcome uncertainty, and to stand tall in the face of fear.

In essence, it’s a journey of breaking free from the constraints of the lizard brain and embracing the limitless potential of innovative thinking.

Taming the Lizard Brain

Welcome to the “Taming the Lizard Brain” masterclass, where we’ll learn to break the chains of fear, conformity, and the crippling need for security that our ancient pal has been enforcing on us.

Let’s kick this off by acknowledging one thing: We can’t get rid of our lizard brain. It’s part of us, like an annoyingly persistent cousin who keeps popping over uninvited. So, what do we do? We learn to manage it, to gently (or not-so-gently) remind it that while we appreciate its concern, we’ve got things under control.

Strategy numero uno: Recognize the lizard brain’s chatter. Listen for its voice when you’re pushing boundaries, when you’re considering taking a risk, when you’re standing on the precipice of creativity. It’ll be the voice urging you to step back, to play it safe, to stick to what’s familiar. Identify it, acknowledge it, and then make your decision anyway. Remember, you’re in control, not your lizard brain.

On to strategy number two: Develop your self-awareness. Understanding your own emotions, reactions, and motivations can help you spot when your lizard brain is pulling the strings. You might have to play detective, sleuthing out the moments when you’re unconsciously conforming or pulling back due to fear.

Thirdly, practice mindfulness and stress management. Your lizard brain is like a hyper-alert watchdog, always on the lookout for potential threats. Mindfulness practices like meditation can help you remain centered and calm, reducing the triggers that set off your lizard brain.

Another potent weapon against the lizard brain is repetition. Remember that dance move you couldn’t get right the first hundred times? But you kept at it and eventually, you didn’t even have to think about it. The same principle applies here. Regularly pushing against the lizard brain’s instincts, choosing creativity and innovation over safety and conformity, will, over time, make it easier to do so.

Let’s round this up with a final strategy: foster a supportive environment. Surround yourself with other Linchpins, with people who embrace creativity and shun conformity. Their mindset can help strengthen your own, and together, you can form a sort of anti-lizard-brain alliance.

These are not quick fixes or instant solutions. They’re tools that, when used consistently over time, can help reduce the lizard brain’s influence and free up more space for creative thinking and innovative problem-solving. So, let’s roll up our sleeves, grab these strategies, and get ready to show our lizard brain who’s boss!

Embracing Risk: The Linchpin’s Superpower

Alright, friends, buckle up because we’re diving headfirst into the exhilarating, roller-coaster realm of RISK.

See, your lizard brain views risk like a cat views water – a big, scary nope! But here’s the kicker: without risk, there’s no innovation, no creativity, no breakthroughs. If Edison feared failure (read: risk), we’d still be fumbling around in the dark. If the Wright brothers feared the unknown (again, risk), our holidays would still involve long, tiresome train journeys.

It’s time we recalibrate our perception of risk. Think of risk as an investment, a seed you sow today for a potential harvest tomorrow. Yes, not all seeds sprout, and not all risks pay off. But those that do? They can change your life, your career, your world!

Let’s confront a popular myth head-on. Taking risks doesn’t mean tossing caution to the wind and making reckless decisions. Nope, that’s not risk-taking, that’s just plain foolishness. Embracing risk is about making calculated decisions. It’s about weighing the potential rewards against the potential consequences and deciding that the possibility of success is worth the chance of failure.

Now that we’re clear on that, how do we actually go about embracing risk?

First off, get comfortable with the possibility of failure. This is key. Not all your risks will pan out. Some will lead to failures, and that’s okay. Remember, failure is just feedback. It’s an opportunity to learn, adjust, and try again.

Next, start small. You don’t have to risk it all on a single grand endeavor. Take small, manageable risks that push your boundaries without leaving you exposed to catastrophic failure.

Then, develop a risk evaluation strategy. Analyze potential risks carefully. Consider the best, worst, and most likely outcomes. Make sure the potential upside is worth the possible downside.

Lastly, cultivate resilience. Resilience is what allows you to dust yourself off and get back on the horse after a failure. It’s the unsung hero in the entrepreneur’s toolkit and, when coupled with the ability to take calculated risks, it becomes an unbeatable combo.

As you embrace risk, remember to keep your lizard brain in check. Remind it that you’re not recklessly endangering yourself, but strategically taking chances that could lead to significant rewards.

Risk is the crucible in which success is forged, and fear of risk is the shackle that keeps us from reaching our true potential. So let’s break those chains, and embrace the transformative power of risk.

Conclusion: From Lizard to Linchpin

Well, we’ve come a long way, haven’t we? From being stuck in the lizard brain’s fear-induced chokehold to standing on the precipice of becoming true Linchpins. It’s been one heck of a journey, right?

We’ve traveled through the labyrinth of fear, dissecting its roots, and understanding how it impacts our creativity, our spirit of innovation, and our entrepreneurial drive. We’ve unpacked the baggage of conformity, seen how it can be a creativity-strangling noose around our necks, and how to cut loose from its bindings.

We’ve ventured into the realm of the Linchpin, those rare, invaluable individuals who dare to think differently, who dare to challenge the status quo, and who make a habit of dancing with uncertainty. We’ve looked at what sets them apart, how they tame their lizard brains and give it a front-row seat to the show, instead of letting it call the shots.

We’ve armed ourselves with an arsenal of strategies to keep that lizard brain in check. And we’ve seen the transformative power of embracing risk – not as a danger to be avoided, but as a challenge to be tackled, a stepping stone towards innovation and a badge of honor to be worn with pride.

Now, it’s time to bring it all home. Here’s the deal, my creative comrades, my entrepreneurial enthusiasts, my risk-taking radicals – you have the power to shift from being controlled by your lizard brain to becoming a bona fide Linchpin. You can break free from the fear, silence the voice that urges you to stick with the status quo, and step into a world brimming with creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurial success.

No, it’s not going to be easy. Yes, there will be times when your lizard brain screams louder than ever. And yeah, there might be moments when you stumble and fall. But remember, it’s all part of the process. And with every step you take, every risk you embrace, and every stereotype you shatter, you’ll be one step closer to your Linchpin destiny.

And with that, we draw the curtains on our deep dive into taming the lizard and becoming a linchpin. Just remember, it’s your journey. Own it, embrace it, and let that lizard know who’s boss.

About the Author: Geoffrey Byers
Geoffrey is one of the world's foremost Designers. He is also a Serial Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, and Mad Scientist. Hypothesis-Driven experimentation is his love language.