Fear of Other People’s Opinion (FOPO)

by | Nov 13, 2020

When talking about personal growth in any form, including leadership, I think about it in the context of mechanics and dynamics, roughly described as ‘head and heart’.

We tend to focus on mechanics. They are more accessible and less personal and therefore more comfortable to talk about. The systems and processes, essential when seeking to change and progress.

Dynamics are tough. The need to go deep to go forward, requiring an understanding of self. It takes work, and the idea of ‘FOPO’ is ever-present.

The Fear of Other People’s Opinions. The expectations of others, versus our own truth.

What makes you…you.

As an AFL CEO, I often felt like a square peg in a round hole, and there were periods when I couldn’t shake FOPO, and the possibility of my fears being amplified on the back page of the Herald-Sun.

Part of letting something go is acknowledging it exists within you. You need the tools to make it happen. A system.

I learned there are few things you have real control over, except how you think, react and respond to a situation and context. But you can work at it. Figure it out.

It is likely to be inelegant, slow, mistakes everywhere.

And you cannot do it alone.

It is your stories, their understanding and consequences that provide insight.

Sharing your stories invites people into your world. The help you need.

It creates a space for people to step into.

A few decades ago, my wife Cecily stepped into my story.

Everything changed.

I was like an out-of-tune piano, played every day, not realising how out-of-tune I was.

But tuning a piano isn’t a one-off event. It is a consistent effort, and there are all sorts of reasons why it goes out of tune.

Find your story.


‘System of story’.

Turn off all distractions. Do what you need to do to still the mind.

Grab that Blackwing pencil and Moleskine notebook I talked about a few weeks back, number 1-5 down the page. Now, write down the five most important events that have shaped you, as if they were chapter titles in the book of your life.

Then start writing about one of the stories, ‘stream of conscious’ writing, and go as long as the moment allows. But no less than twenty minutes. I find if you get past that milestone, you will be able to stay in the moment.

It is not about writing well. Do not edit as you go. Write badly, misspell, just get it on the page.

I like to play music from the era I am writing about. If I am a young child and reflecting on my family, it is Neil Diamond and Hot August Night. My own recollections of childhood it might be Suzi Quatro and 48 Crash or The Sweet and Fox on the Run. My teen years it was The Beatles, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. My guilty pleasure is KISS Alive! and Destroyer.

You get the drift. Be that age again. Think about all the senses. The smells, tastes and sounds, as well as the sights. Recreate the dialogue, even though you will not remember, but you understand the conversations you were having. Describe, in detail, what it felt like to be you, at that moment, with that person (or on your own).

If you are struggling for a theme, I find the stories come into three categories:

  • The ‘gut it out’ story. You faced into something confronting, uncertain, perilous, or challenged yourself to go much further than you would typically go, and you prevailed. You found a way and learnt a lot about yourself in the process.
  • The ‘offbeat’ story. You tried something very different from what you would typically do, experimented, and it changed you, and you have never been the same.
  • The ‘transitional’ story. A life-changing event. It might be a story of personal loss or ordeal that disrupts your life, such that it can never be the same. The kind of story that could go either way for you. The stories that return to you in your quiet times. The moments that never leave you.

I tend to favour the transitional story. “I was that, and I am now this” as a result of the event I am now writing about.

Often it is a trial of some kind, but there are also those amazingly positive transitional stories. Meeting your life-partner (Cecily), parenting, being part of an extraordinary group of people that achieve beyond your wildest expectations, or producing something that decades later still evokes the most profound sense of pride.

This is a process of what I call ‘mining’ your stories, and then in the telling, should you wish to share, you are ‘harvesting’ your stories each time you tell it.


Despair is the time in which we both endure and heal, even when we have not yet found the new form of hope.  

David Whyte 

Again…from his book Consolations


Music is a proven way of changing mood, and never underestimate your mood in terms of getting going and a precursor to getting stuff done.  

I have a Spotify playlist titled “Mood changers when I’m feeling f**ked 

It starts with Suzi Quatro singing 48 Crash as this is the first song I heard and thought two important things.  

Firstly, ‘Rock & Roll is cool’, and secondly ‘girls are good’.  

It then moves into a playlist which has grown and evolved. Here is the Spotify Link

If you don’t like my ‘highly sophisticated’ tunes, set up your own playlist.  

…and a timeless song lyric:

A wonderful Australian storyteller...

Paul Kelly – How to make Gravy


And later in the evening, I can just imagine

You’ll put on Junior Murvin and push the tables back

And you’ll dance with Rita, I know you really like her

Just don’t hold her too close

Oh brother please don’t stab me in the back

I didn’t mean to say that, it’s just my mind it plays up

Multiplies each matter, turns imagination into fact

You know I love her badly, she’s the one to save me

I’m gonna make some gravy, I’m gonna taste the fat

Tell her that I’m sorry, yeah I love her badly

Tell ’em all I’m sorry

And kiss the sleepy children for me

You know one of these days, I’ll be making gravy

I’ll be making plenty, I’m gonna pay ’em all back



Cameron Schwab
CEO & Founder


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