By R. Christopher Haines, President and CEO
I suffer from Indirect Anxiety. I’m not even sure it’s a real thing. But I’ve got it. And you might, too. Here’s a perfect example. I’m waiting on a flight recently at an airport and a woman is talking on her phone. Nothing strange there. But what is strange is that she has laid some trash from a snack, along with her wallet, on the floor. Why she didn’t put the wallet in her purse we may never know. But as she is talking, she keeps moving around in her chair and occasionally kicking her wallet further into the aisle.
All that’s running through my mind are these overwhelming thoughts about how much trouble her trip would be in if her credit cards and ID just disappeared. Did she ever care? Do I tell her? Do I mind my own business? Then I go into all these thoughts about how screwed up my trip would be if I lost my wallet, checking my pocket, and all this other crazy stuff.
And all of a sudden everyone sitting around us is a suspect in a crime that hasn’t even been committed yet. I’m watching everyone out of the corner of my eye. By now, this wallet is basically out there for the taking. Anyone who wanted it could have it. Which of these people is going to be the one?
I’d had too much. This was more than I could deal with. So I went and walked around. How this ended, we will never know. Is anyone else like this? Do you get a pit in your stomach watching people drive at 11:00 at night with no headlights on or parents letting their kids walk on top of the monkey bars at the playground while they play on their phones?
I‘m also this way when I listen to people ignore their system issues (or potential issues). When some senior executive tells me the company’s system doesn’t need testing, is that really any of my business? When I listen to someone tell me their software vendor does the testing before they get the system and that’s enough, is that my concern? When they tell me their software implementation doesn’t need outside help, is that something I should even worry about?
The answer to all of these questions is no; but I still do. I can’t help but be concerned. It’s one thing to want to sell something to someone, but you never want to see them fail. Even if they buy what you’re selling from someone else. That’s better than what I can almost guarantee is going to happen. And for me, this gives me the same anxiety as the woman with the wallet.
In the end, I think this indirect anxiety is really just the desire for me to not see bad things happen to people. Either in life or in business.