Never let your fear decide your future.
My birthday was this week and I always use this time of year to reflect on where I am now and where I want to go next. I also always love hearing comments from people around this time, even if they don’t know it’s my birthday. The birthday just provides me with a different perspective to listen from.
Where am I now? It’s pretty amazing, actually. After working solo for 5 years to get Work2Live off the ground, I’d made good progress in building our framework, delivering quality services and in building a firm foundation. But I had gone as far as I could go on my own. There are, after all, only so many hours in a day. Inviting others to join me in my adventure was a little scary. I’d worked really hard to get things where they were, but I was only responsible for me up to that point. If I failed, it would only affect me. But adding staff was a whole new level of commitment and responsibility. There’d be no just walking away now. It was about more than just me. Despite these fears, my instincts told me “just do it.” So I did. And what a blessing! Thanks to such a great team, we have what is turning out to be a great online coaching certification program, this podcast, a regular blog, hundreds of workshop presentations, lots of clients, several projects in the mix and we’ve now launched an online book club and our first animated video is up on YouTube. It’s all fantastic from a business perspective, but more importantly, it’s miraculous from a personal perspective.
Just a little over 10 years ago, I was a business consultant and accountant. I didn’t like my life very much. It wasn’t that it was horrible or anything, but I felt somewhat disappointed. I started thinking, is this all there is? Get up, go client to client doing pretty much the same thing every day, go home, eat, watch tv, go to bed. I didn’t even choose business or accounting as a career. I’m sure there are business consultants and accountants out there that chose those careers and love them. But I just got a job because I needed money, happened to do it well, kept getting promoted or better jobs in that field, and somehow ended up with a career I didn’t choose for almost 30 years. And I’m probably not alone.
Then one day, I started learning what I now teach and thought, just do it. The Nike commercials had been out for many years, so I don’t think I was hearing Nike in my head. I think I had just hit the proverbial wall. So I started designing what a life I would love would look like. It was very scary to give up a financially comfortable situation, very scary to think if I failed I might end up homeless and destitute, very scary to be judged by many people who had previously respected me and thought I was having some sort of mid-life crisis, and the most terrifying of all, to give up something I knew I was good at to venture into a space where I was sure I had no idea what I was doing.
But “just do it” became my mantra. Terror of public speaking? Absolutely, but just do it! I was so nervous the first time, I thought I’d pass out, but I just ran that mantra through my head the whole time. Just do it. And honestly, a second one that said, “it will be over soon.” Of course, once I’d done it the first time, it got easier and easier. Coach a person with a major challenge? Who was I to do this? But just do it. Create and deliver a workshop, just do it. Speak at a mental health conference, just do it. Produce a podcast, even though I’d never done anything like that and had no idea about microphones and sound editing and interfaces and… just do it.
I share this with you because I think lots of people have lots of fears, just like me, but they don’t always hear that voice saying just do it, or they ignore it because it’s too scary. But here’s the deal. The fear isn’t real. No physical harm could come to me from making a bad recording. Or a bad video. I’ve done both and I’m still here. I knew that even if I didn’t do a great job in my first coaching sessions, I wouldn’t cause harm because I’m a caring person. And now I have a thriving coaching practice. Screw up a presentation in front of 200 professionals? Been there, done that. And guess what? I’m still asked to speak at conferences.
So what’s the real fear? It’s just the ego and the ego doesn’t serve us very well most of the time. The ego wants us to do everything perfectly, but how can we do anything even well if we don’t practice first? Michael Jordan has a video that we use in one of our workshops where he apologizes to young athletes for making it look easy. He describes how hard he had to work and practice before he got it right, which of course no one remembers. We seem to be hardwired to fail before we succeed. Look at any baby trying to learn to walk. Failure after failure after failure. And then, whether it’s the 50th time or the thousandth time, we make it. We teeter across a floor to our parents’ squeals and walk. The only difference between us as babies and us as adults is that babies aren’t aware of their egos. When we override the ego and just do it, we enter an entirely new world. It’s exciting and fun and yes, even scary, but scary like riding a roller coaster, not like literally jumping off a cliff.
When you just do it, you discover what you really love and what you really don’t like. That allows you not do the things you really don’t like again. But more importantly, gives you the freedom to not only do the things you find out you love, but the freedom to try pretty much anything. That’s really living! That’s thriving!
I’m sure some of you are saying, “but it took you ten years. I don’t want to invest 10 years in changing.” Well, first of all, it didn’t take me ten years to do anything. It’s not about the destination, but the journey and I’ll be on this journey until I die, so that’s a lot longer than 10 years. Second, those 10 years will pass regardless of what we’re doing, so why not be doing something we’re enjoying, where we’re learning and growing, and where we’re happier? And finally, with the first three months perhaps being the exception because I had no income and was getting pretty nervous, I started feeling the changes and seeing results pretty quickly. That’s motivating and that’s the way it works. Once you start just doing it, you start feeling empowered and courageous and hopeful.
I mentioned in the beginning of this that I also pay extra attention to what people say as the clock is turning another year and I was surprised and delighted with two comments in particular in the last two weeks, from two different people. In my 1.0 version, people described me as hard-working, sensible, rational and perfect (which I took pride in at the time, but which is such a terrible label). I had more than one person refer to me as a “tough old bird,” even in my 20’s. This week, enjoying my 2.0 version, one person watching one of my videos said, “It’s like watching Mr. Rogers. It’s so calming and reassuring.” Another person said I was like Mary Poppins. That’s a transformation that could only come about by just doing it! Over and over. Pushing through the fear and dipping into a discomfort zone - that your ego tells you will kill you, but in fact is absolutely safe. The sky doesn’t fall. The embarrassment passes. The learning value is tremendous. And your confidence, which is not the same as ego, soars. Which of course allows you to do it again. Over and over, in the direction you want your life to go.
We talked about self-limiting beliefs in the last episode and how to begin to overcome them, but what if you took it a step further? What’s one thing that you’ve been afraid to try? It doesn’t matter if it’s big or small, whether anyone else will ever know you did it or everyone will know instantly because it’s online. Just think of one thing you’ve always been afraid to try. When you think about the fear, what are you really afraid of? Is it what other people will think? Is it what you will think of yourself? What’s the worst that could happen, outside of being embarrassed or failing? Being embarrassed is feeding into a system of only doing what you think others will approve of. But they aren’t living your life, you are. Failing is something that every successful person will tell you is a necessity to succeed.
Life is short. We can play small and never reach our potential or we can play big and sometimes stumble. Actually, we will stumble. It’s the only way we learn. But it only hurts our ego. Otherwise, you’ll find you’re just fine. What’s something you want to try but are afraid to? Picture it.
Now just do it! It’s the main difference between surviving and thriving and I promise, thriving is much more meaningful and fulfilling! So really, just do it!