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Editorial comment

One of my favourite TED Talks is titled: ‘Instead of setting goals, define your fears’. Tim Ferriss, earlystage tech investor, best-selling author and podcaster, argues that “the hard choices – what we most fear doing, asking, saying – these are very often exactly what we most need to do”.1

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The talk, which is based on the principles of Stoicism, advocates ‘fear-setting’ in place of goal-setting. Tim recommends doing a three-part exercise where a person asks, firstly, ‘What if I…?’ and then fills in the blank with something that they fear, or something they are avoiding, or that causes them anxiety. They then must make three lists under the headings: define, prevent, repair.

Under these headings, the person writes a list ‘defining’ all the worst things they can imagine happening as a result of taking the action that scares them. Then they list under ‘prevent’ some things they could do to prevent each of those worst outcomes from happening. Finally, under ‘repair’ they list what they could do to repair the damage (or who could they ask for help and support) if the worst-case scenario happens. For part two of the exercise, they must ask themselves ‘what might be the benefits of an attempt or partial success?’ For part three: list the potential costs of inaction (emotionally, physically, financially, etc): in six months’ time, in a year’s time; and in three years’ time. Tim says: “ask yourself: if I avoid this action or decision, what might my life look like?” Tim says it’s lifechanging, and recommends doing the activity once a quarter.

It strikes me that this would be a wonderful way to address challenges in your business. Often the thing we most strenuously avoid doing is the thing we really must do. If you’re looking at the future of your business, why not try fear-setting instead of goal-setting? Of course, the pipeline industry is well-versed in planning for the worst-case: any pipeline operator will tell you that emergency response planning, incident management, safety strategies and asset integrity activities are based on the principles of risk assessment, forecasting outcomes and the application of lessons learned. Those tasked with guaranteeing safe oil and gas pipeline transportation will already use something akin to fear-setting, even if they don’t call it that.

In this month’s issue of World Pipelines, our keynote articles focus on cybersecurity and protecting the digital future of pipeline operation. Vicki Knott (Crux OCM, p. 10) offers a think piece on the future of your control room, and why it pays to take a disruptive approach to staffing your cyber department. The risk of cyber attacks is rising, and more attention is paid to hacks when they happen. Change in your control room is imperative: on p. 15, Steve Hanna (Trusted Computing Group) argues that the advanced connectivity provided by Industrial IoT (connected equipment, cloud storage, data mining, deep learning), must be complemented by increased attention to cybersecurity. If dark forces are looking to exploit our pipeline networks’ vulnerabilities, then we must define our fears and tackle them head on.

  1. Tim Ferriss – TED Talk

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