Don't let Brexit spread fear and anxiety around adland

It's our duty to help our clients and industry not get caught up in the whirlwind of fretfulness that can lead to a paralysis or worse a self-sabotage behaviour, writes Wayne Deakin.

Stick around in Hawaii for long enough and chances are you’ll hear some of the locals say "Eddie would go".

Among the hardcore surfing and Polynesian community, it’s a home-grown phrase that is synonymous with a willingness to take risks, no matter what’s ahead of you.

The saying comes from the beloved and legend of a man, surfer and lifeguard Eddie Aikau. Eddie was the first official lifeguard at Waimea Bay, on Oahu's North Shore, and at the same time developed a reputation as one of the bravest and best big wave riders in the world.

Eddie surfed every major swell to come through the North Shore from 1967 to 1978 and as a lifeguard saved more than 500 people during his time on the watch.

No matter how big or scary the surf was, Eddie would risk his life to save others, inspiring the phrase "Eddie would go".

His legacy still lives on and has touched a whole new generation of surfers and lifeguards around the world who draw on his mindset to battle giant waves or rescue people when your self-preservation is telling you not to go.

So what’s this got to do with our industry? Well, just like the unpredictable waves of the North Shore we are staring into a big scary sea of uncertainty. Overnight it seems a climate of fear has started to surface. Fuelled by Brexit a sense of Atychiphobia hangs in the air.

Yes, the Brexit vote was madness and not something I believed in but let’s move on and not self-sabotage ourselves with increased anxiety as a nation. Hell, even the other day, the England Football team looked like the fear of failure had got the better of them and it lead to them losing their nerve and underperforming.

Overnight it seems a climate of fear has started to surface. Fuelled by Brexit a sense of Atychiphobia hangs in the air.

Fear and the psychology of fear is what I am banging on about here. Fear is, of course, a survival mechanism hardwired into us humans. In primitive humankind, the body’s fight or flight syndrome helped protect us from the dangers that we faced.

Today, however, fear often centres around emotions rather than any physical threats – however, our bodies can’t distinguish between the two, which obviously can put us in an uncomfortable state of mind and affect our body and behaviour.

When you are afraid, your body functions still operate as if you are facing a physical threat, and the same fight or flight system kicks in to help your body to either fight or flee.

The stress hormone cortisol, as well as your adrenaline, starts pumping so that you can react quickly to the danger. The fight or flight syndrome swamps your brain with cortisol hormones and unneeded cognition processes get bypassed so your brain can make shortcut pathways to face the situation.

Science has even mapped that sustained worry and fear can, in fact, changes your brain architecture, as well as your impulse control. So overcoming fear is a key point right now. The ability to push through fear is something that does not come naturally to most people, but we all have this power to do so.

And here’s the other watch out. Fear is contagious. I believe it’s our duty to help our clients and the industry not get caught up in the whirlwind of fretfulness that can lead to a paralysis or worse a self-sabotage behaviour.

Just like the recent England Football side example who logically where the better side but allowed fear of failure to get hold of them mentality and be outgunned by a side that embraced the moment and embraced their fear – we can’t allow fear to stop us exploring ways for our clients and the industry to innovate and grow.

Just like Eddie, who paddled into the face of monster waves and put logic aside, we can’t let fear impede us going for it. So here’s one thought to help stop the climate of fear. One feeling that lasts much longer and that is way more powerful than fear: it is regret. The "I should have...", "I wished I’d...", "If only I...". This is the behaviour we need to really dread.

The only fear we should ever embrace. If you shift your mind-set from victim to being the one who wants to achieve their destiny, we have to take action to avoid regret.

Challenges and excuses can easily be pushed through when you have your eyes on the goal and your inner self-pushing you ahead. Aimed with the power of a fear of regret, our industry can push through these difficult times and do amazing things.

So ignore the doomsayers and small-minded xenophobia people. Say no to fear and uncertainty. Don’t spread fear or anxiety.

As Heraclitus said back in the day, "The only thing constant is change itself" so embrace the unknown path in this uncertain time – set your beliefs and don’t let regrets catch you. Believe in yourself and your friends and remember, "Eddie would go".

Wayne Deakin is the executive creative director at AKQA

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