What is Holding You Back?

Dean Paarman
October 19, 2020

Depression. Anxiety. Obesity. Unproductive with a lack of satisfaction in all areas of life. Neck and back ache from endless hours on office chairs. Driven by status. Controlled by social media.

So much of what we suffer from in modern life is because of the human zoo we live in. Humanity has caged and put itself on display for slow decay. To most of us, it feels like conformity is our only option. Go with the flow and society will eventually correct itself or crash and burn, anyway. I’ve learned that this is not true. There is a different world beyond your enclosure. 

The door to your cage is open.

All you have to do is step out. Once you see it all from the outside, you can live a life free of self-bound limitations. Free of procrastination. Free of crippling fear.

This was the key message instilled in us at ikario. We must be the people that step out of our cages. Show others it is possible, because...

We were procrastinators too.

I won’t lie, it was difficult taking those first steps. Ignorance and fear encumbered us. We were lacking two major elements.

One, the full acknowledgement of our own shortcomings,
without fear or shame.

Two, the skills to overcome our problems and thrive
in the new-world, that we see before us now.

In this article I would like to share my experience of how the ikario team overcame the first of these two processes. 

I'm held back because of...

First, you need to know what is holding you back. This is not always a straightforward thing to recognise. Many of us will point a finger at the symptoms.

Depression, anxiety, obesity, body pain, procrastination (and many more) are all symptoms of the human zoo. They are not the cause of it. The cause of your suffering lies on a deeper level.

Without introspection we can ignore the causes, focus on the symptoms instead and endlessly wonder why we are not getting better despite our best efforts.

If you are unsure of what is holding you back, looking around you is a good way to start. For example, you can have a look at the ikario team and see if you can identify with any of us.

The ikaro Team: putting our problems on display

Early on in our venture, we decided to enforce some unique team culture strategies. For example, instead of hiding what bothers us, we were encouraged to bring it to the foreground. Bad moods. Doubts. Failures. Losses. Anything, even if it was from our personal lives.

Ryan Blankers
Oliver Portrait
Jonas Portrait
Tim Portrait
Abhi Chand

This was most unusual, as there are so many stigmas entrenched in us, like:

 "Never bring your problems to work."  &  "Always be strong, never vulnerable."

By throwing ideas like these on their head, we were able to erode old ways of thinking and experiment with a new team culture dynamic. We put our problems on display.

Uncovering what lies beneath

I set off on a mission to get to know my colleagues problems even better. I wanted to identify what it was, that was holding each of us back from leaving our cages. I first sent out a questionnaire to ask the following questions:

  • What is your biggest fear?
  • Write ONE Word / Phrase of your biggest pain point in life?
  • Tell me more about what is holding you back from achieving greatness?

Based on the questionnaire results I sent out a brief asking them to submit a short "before" video describing their problems. This was the result.

It turns out that we are all quite different from each other.

Each of us came forward with a unique underlying issue. I wanted to dig on each of these issues even further, and so the next step was conducting a series of interviews.

Again each narrative developed in a unique direction, highlighting a different root problem for each person. 


We could pinpoint our shortcomings. I was astonished to hear that we all described such a different set of problems. You'd think that at least two of us wold have said the same thing is bothering us. Instead, six people, with six different stories.

It begs the question: What is your story?

Identifying your primary problem

This is a good starting point for you to do some self-discovery. You can either do it by yourself or join our process.

Do you relate to anyone on the team?

Step 1. Fill in this questionnaire.
Step 2. Make a short video with your phone describing your problem.
Step 3. Write down your story.

For the team, it was important to identify our individual problems. It gave us the ability to look at them and work on them in isolation. Perfectionism, bright shiny object syndrome, limiting beliefs, being overly self-critical, people pleasing and even ignorance are problems one can train away. Each one has a skill at its opposite end, that will help you overcome it.

Before isolating the primary problem, most of us were overwhelmed by a series of underlying issues that we needed to work through. This made it hard to know where to begin. An easy gap for procrastination to slip in.

Seeing our primary problem in isolation was a way to make it manageable. Less scary to take head on. The first step on our way out of the human zoo.

It was also easier to talk about how it affected our lives. Putting our problems on display became easier. 

And, then a pattern emerged.

I was pleased with the results from this inquiry. It was nice to box us into our problems and say off you go, work on that. But I was missing something important.

It was only when I had written about each person’s story, that I could see how interconnected all of our problems are, after all.

After dissecting each person’s interview, I could see that we all suffered from the same root problem: procrastination.

We described it differently.

We experienced it differently.

I then labeled it differently.

The common thread was that we were all procrastinating on making our lives better. Our focus was a blur or misguided. The actions we were taking were often wrong, useless or needlessly slow to see results.

We all knew we had potential to be better, but didn't do what needed to be done to get there.

An example of how we all suffered from the same stuff:

Jonas suffered from bright shiny object syndrome on the primary level. He kept skipping projects to start new ones, leaving the old ones unfinished. This happened because of limiting beliefs that the old project would not match the standards of perfectionism he had set for himself. He was overly self critical.

Although I was people pleasing as a way to avoid confrontation, it was based on limiting beliefs that I could not hold on to my own standards of perfectionism. I acted out by saying yes to anything that looked better: bright shiny object syndrome.

Like Tim I believed I was a failed entrepreneur.

Like Abhi I was needlessly hard on myself.

Like Oliver I left things to the last minute.

Like Ryan, I didn't think I had what I needed to be successful.

We were all either not delivering, underdelivering, last minute working and suffering from an overall feeling of failure, because of the procrastination web.

The procrastination web:

And just before you think it's only you and me afflicted by the procrastination web, the captain of our ship was too.

Shane was affected too

When I interviewed Shane at the end of my research, I saw the bigger picture more clearly. Shane also suffered from most of the problems we mentioned.

He had bright shiny object syndrome; he is still a perfectionist, but a controlled one and he also felt limiting beliefs. 

Contrary to popular belief, like us, he suffered from all of it.

Learning to acknowledge your fear and shortcomings is the first step towards the cage's door. Learning to overcome or manage your weakest points in life is the key to stepping out of the zoo completely. 

Skill development will make it possible.

But knowing which skill to tackle first can be as challenging as finding your primary problem. This is something I will look at in the next article.

Please share your story with us in the comments section below. What is your greatest fear? What is holding you back from escaping the human zoo?

Dean Paarman

About the author

Dean is an eternal optimist. Enthusiastic, easily motivated and passionate about people and creative projects. His hunger for skill diversification has often lead him off the path, but he always finds his way back, with an upper hand.

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  • Amazing post Dean and thanks lads for being so candid in your interviews. Was also heartening to hear that even Shane struggled with these issues in the past. I can relate to all six points on the web and probably identify with Tim and Dean’s stories the most (not finishing projects and avoiding confrontation)
    P.S. Shane should definitely write his first book on this subject.. he’s a natural at it and the world needs these insights more than ever. Cheers, Gerry

    • Dean Paarman says:

      Thank you Gerry. There is something very liberating about acknowledging one’s challenges. I’m also looking forward to a book by Shane. Cheers

  • Dean,

    Thank you for exposing me and writing a great article. Here is my video. https://drive.google.com/file/d/11raw7MjrX8BICCuB80IRi59nhv7–YIe/view?usp=sharing
    I blamed alcoholism for a lot of stuff…until I got sober for a while and realised there are other things to work out.

    Procrastination for me is easy and everything else that takes effort and concentration is rewarding. So being addicted to procrastination has brought me here and I can hardly wait to try living without it.

    It feels just like getting off drugs.

    • Dean Paarman says:

      You quite right Michael, it does feel like getting off drugs. Thank you very much for sharing your video. Takes courage. Wishing you all the best on the journey ahead.

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