“How does one kill fear, I wonder? How do you shoot a spectre through the heart, slash off its spectral head, take it by its spectral throat?” – Joseph Conrad (Lord Jim, 1900)

As I said yesterday, you need to be tough to get the hard work done. But what do you do if, like WWB, you don’t feel tough? How do you gird your loins and take on the tigers?

Easy answer: Do what I did when I was your age:

* Recognize your shyness.

* See it as a weakness.

* Understand how it hamstrings you.

* Allow yourself to feel ashamed.

* Admit it to others.

* Commit to reform.

It worked for me, and it should work for anyone who feels that way.

WWB has made a good start — he recognizes that he has a problem. He errs, however, when he attributes his feelings to “politeness.”

By calling shyness “politeness,” you transubstantiate something ordinary into something admirable. But there is nothing admirable about timidity in your work.

I happen to know WWB and the tasks he is charged with. He’s been asked to do the kinds of things I was afraid to do when I was his age. They are challenging tasks, but they are not rude or inhuman.

You don’t need to quash your politeness to succeed. You need to ratchet up your temerity.

Politeness is a good quality to have in business. When you are trying to get people to do things for you, it’s almost a necessity.

You need to dig down deep inside yourself and find the pluck to do your job. It may help if you break down each task into its component parts (“I pick up the phone,” “I dial a number,” “I ask to speak to Mr. Jones,” “I say to Mr. Jones …”) and then realize that each part in itself isn’t so scary.

It might help also to recognize that you’ve done tough things before and that somewhere inside you is a person who is just as good and smart and capable as the gutsy person you imagine you’re not.

Ultimately, you have to do the work — because you’re being paid to do it. You have virtues. Politeness is one of them. But honesty is another. If you’re going to accept your paycheck every two weeks, you have to do the work you’re asked to do. That’s the bottom line.