We Fear What We Cannot Control

February / 2021
Author: Fran Racioppi


We fear what we cannot control. What we cannot control increases our risk of failure. We as people are wired by default to run away and avoid failure. Everyone. Every leader. Every employee. If someone tells you they don’t fear failure, they are lying.

People react to fear and uncertainty in different ways. Fear and uncertainty cripple some. Many in fact. Others embrace fear and uncertainty. They accept it, identify ways to combat it, and find a path to success. The difference between those who crumble and fail and those who succeed is knowledge and experience.

All leaders go through a phase when they think they must control all facets of their organization, team, industry, or environment. Young leaders, middle management, senior executives all feel this at some point. Type A people seek opportunities to increase this control. Regardless of what we think we control, the reality is that we can only control the things that we have direct authority over. We can influence things that are supporting or augmenting that which we have direct control over. There is nothing we can do about outside factors that will affect our life, business, operations, teams, people, etc. 

To manage fear of the uncertainty we need four key characteristics:

  • Adaptability: the ability to adjust our behavior to the situation 
  • Resiliency: perseverance in the face of challenges 
  • Effective Intelligence: apply our experience and knowledge to the situation
  • Emotional Strength: emotional control in stressful situations to bring calm to chaos


So where do we start?

  • Understand our role, what we bring to the organization, and what we are expected to do. Often as leaders we believe we have to solve every challenge and fill every function. We forget that we may actually just fill a specific function. 
  • Once we know our role we have to define our core tasks. Then list all the factors we must be proficient in to achieve our core tasks.
  • Determine what internal and external stressors or factors are going to be placed on us while conducting these core tasks, such as the composition of our team, timelines, operating environment, goals of leadership, quality of product.
  • Identify what we have direct authority over, what we can influence because it touches our efforts, and what is outside of our realm and is therefore uncontrollable. 
  • With our uncontrollable now defined, we can start our planning and preparation by focusing first to become as proficient as possible on what we can directly control. The better we are at what we can control, the more focus we can spend on overcoming what we cannot. Our core tasks must become routine muscle memory where precision execution is the norm. Less mental, physical and emotional effort spent to complete what you can control, will free up mental, physical and emotional bandwidth to handle what you did not expect, cannot influence, and cannot control.



Francis Racioppi, CPP, CBCP, most recently led Genius Fund as the Chief Executive and Chief Operating Officer, a vertically integrated cannabis company in Los Angeles, CA leading operations in cultivation, manufacturing, production, sales, retail, delivery, as well as cannabis and hemp derived brands of consumer packaged goods. Prior to Genius, Fran served as the Director of Global Security for Snapchat where he was recruited to professionalize and scale the security organization across the globe and among all business units. Fran served 13 years in the United States Army as a Green Beret, deploying three times to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. In 2013, he deployed to Djibouti, Africa in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, where he coordinated Special Operations combating Al-Shabab throughout East Africa. In 2014, he planned and coordinated the Special Forces response to Boko Haram in West Africa, as well as oversaw the operations of Special Forces teams countering the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa and ISIS in North Africa.