What is your biggest fear in life?
Author: Le Nguyen Phuong Thuy, Asset Guardian Director, Mekong Capital
Mar 20th, 2023
It was a beautiful night several years ago when I joined several close friends for a card game. It was a game where you picked a random card with a rather personal question and answered it if you chose to do so. It was my turn to pick up a card, and the question was “What is your biggest fear in life?”.
That was one of the rare moments when I experienced being overwhelmed in my life. I knew exactly what my biggest fear was, yet the fear just felt so enormous – to the point where I thought my brain would crack just thinking about it. I swallowed hard and mumbled out scattered words. I knew the fear was so big that I couldn’t say it out loud. It just stuck in my throat.
I grew up as the first-born daughter in a family of four. My family is super close to each other, and they are my whole world. I don’t even know, since when a fear developed inside of me that I will lose them someday. That fear has been with me for as long as I can remember. The thought of it alone makes my world tremble, and I am not even sure how I can live without them. I carry that subtle fear inside of me through the days, hiding it carefully and hoping that it will never see the light of day.
It was November 2022 when I decided to join Landmark Forum to achieve the personal breakthrough I wanted for myself. It was to really drop the fear I was experiencing and to feel whole and complete.
On the first day of the program, when Ms. Dieu Le, our partner, checked in with me, that overwhelming feeling recurred again, and I could not clearly express my fear and burst into tears. After many years of hiding, the fear was still there and even felt stronger.
On the second day of the forum, when the topic of fear was brought up and how we, as human beings, created a lot of interpretations around what really happened, it was an AHA moment for me. I had been carrying the fear with me for all these years, which had drained my energy, affected how I showed up at work and at home and prevented me from feeling whole and complete. It dawned on me that in my early years at work, I always showed up as an extremely closed-off person. I was unapproachable and preferred to stay in my own oasis. I was not willing to open up to anyone because I just didn’t want to bear the pains of losing them if I was emotionally invested. I realized it impacted my work as an effective mentor because my mentees couldn’t relate to me as someone who was committed to their success in Mekong Capital, but as a mere cold and hard task manager. There was no room for listening when there was a cold wall between us from the beginning.
This moment of discovery immediately made me realize I did not want to live like that, so this time I will let go of that fear for real. A tsunami of freedom and relief happened inside of me. It just felt like a giant mountain was lifted from my body. I felt light, whole, and complete. From the break onwards, I shared my fear out loud with some people when I had the opportunity to do so. It was like magical that the more I shared out loud, the less power the fear had over me. No overwhelming feeling, no extreme feeling, everything just felt calm and neutral. The fear just became smaller and smaller while I became bigger and bigger.
Walking out of Landmark Forum, I chose a new possibility for myself: to be vulnerable, as it is precious to be a living human being. I felt open to sharing authentically with people, including my mentees, about my experience, my fear, and how I discovered for myself the power that fear had on me all these years. After each sharing, I discovered that sharing from my own experience was such a powerful enrollment conversation, much more effective than “know-it-all”/ “giving advice”/ “telling them what should be done” in the past. A new space for listening opened up, and I felt so much more related to whom I was talking with. This was a gateway for me to have a more effective coaching conversation with my mentee, where I could have full listening, where I could share my vulnerabilities and struggles as well, and where we could be partners to discover new possibilities together.
Fears, no matter how minor or subtle, are like an application that just runs silently in the background. You won’t be able to see it, but it is consuming your phone battery until it drains out. I have discovered the power of putting my fears in the daylight and dealing with them so that they will lose their power. When I feel whole and complete, a new realm of possibilities opens up brightly in front of me.
Click below to subscribe to Mekong Capital’s quarterly newsletter.
Mekong Capital makes investments in consumer-driven businesses and adds substantial value to those companies based on its proven framework called Vision Driven Investing. Our investee companies are typically among the fastest-growing companies in Vietnam’s consumer sectors.
In January 2022, Mekong Capital founder Chris Freund published Crab Hotpot, a story about a bunch of crabs who found themselves stuck in a boiling pot. The colorful cover of “Crab Hot Pot,” complete with expressive cartoon crustaceans, looks like a children’s tale at first glance. But as one continues reading, it becomes clear that the work has an important message about organizational transformation, leadership and focusing on a clear vision for the future.