We think of boredom as that benign, uneasy feeling we have while waiting in line. But there is more.

Boredom is distraction. Our boredom pushes us to surf the web when we ought to be working on an important project or studying for a test.

Boredom is fear. It is the fear we have of being with our thoughts, our feelings and our selves. It is our aversion to our own mundane existance.

Boredom is a withdrawal symptom of our addiction to stimulation. Fleeing boredom is a Faustian bargain. It drives us to trade creation for recreation, focus for procrastination, and meaning for pleasure.

To deal with boredom, embrace it. On the other side of boredom, you will find focus, creativity and inner-peace.

Respect or fear?

People comply with laws either because they respect them, or because they fear them.

Respect is intrinsic – I might not like a law, but if I respect it, I comply with it and even protect it.

Fear is extrinsic – I follow a law because I fear the consequences of breaking it. Once these consequences disappear, so does my compliance.

Of the two, respect is more efficient, robust and decentralized. Sustaining fear requires violence, propaganda and continual effort. Fear is unstable, for it might backfire is unexpected ways. Fear also crowds out and undermines respect.

As leaders, fear is what we default to. Respect is what we must strive towards.

The barrier between strangers

Let’s say it is your birthday, and you are seated at a restaurant table with your friends and a little party cap on your head. A stranger walks up to your table and wishes you happy birthday. How do you feel?

Given such a generous act leaves both people feeling good – the wisher and the wishee – it is then worth wondering why such a gesture is rare. What prevents people from walking up to the desk and wishing a stranger?

Well, there is a small chance that this gesture could lead to an awkward moment. Their wish might not be received with warmth. They might be rebuked or treated coldly. It fear of this awkwardness that holds us back from such an act.

In many situations, our fear holds us back from making a contribution. Because we are afraid, how much generosity do we leave on the table?

Hiding in a group

As a child, I have sung in public several times as part of a group, and never faced a problem.

And then, I signed up for a solo performance. As I sat down on the stage, I noticed myself welling up with fear. Midway through my performance, my mind blanked out on the words of the song. A few seconds of awkward silence later, I apologized to the audience and left the stage with tears in my eyes.

It is much easier to sing among a group of singers. However, such group performances are never extraordinary, for there is plenty of room for mediocrity to hide. Every member of the group only needs to be better than the worst singer. And everybody in the group thinks somebody else is the worst singer.

To sing alone is to live upto the crowd’s and your own expectation – there is no room to hide. It is frightful to sing alone. Yet, facing this fear is the key to an extraordinary performance.

‘I don’t need to negotiate my salary’

Most employees don’t negotiate their own salary. Several think think their work ought to speak for itself.

Yet, in most cases, your manager isn’t aware of all the work you do. They only receive a weekly or monthly update of your work. Besides, they keep track of several things that crowd out your contributions in their minds. Therefore, there is always a gap between what you have really achieved, and what they think you have achieved. A good salary negotiation merely aims to bridge this gap.

The real reason most people don’t negotatiate their salary is because negotiation is difficult. It requires us to have difficult conversations and face the fear of failure. Most people evade this fear by not negotiating. At the same time, however, they expect their managers to fulfil their demands. Oftentimes, this demand isn’t fulfilled and they are left frustrated.

Ask, and you shall receive. To negotiate is to ask elegantly. To not negotiate is to expect to receive something without asking for it.