(with apologies to Ultravox).
Lately, I have been re-reading Seth Godin’s books and blogs. If you have never read him, do yourself a favour and do so. And if you have read him before, revisit these. Always educational, entertaining and worthwhile.
Seth talks a lot about “dancing with fear”, basically moving past our fears and doing the work that is important and needs to be done.
It got me thinking about my greatest fears (and here I am not talking about the creepy clown under my bed). Basically, the fears that have the potential to stop me in my tracks, or make me defer my project or make me wait until I am inspired, or a myriad of other excuses as to why I am not doing it now.
I have four fears:
I am an impostor – and the follow through question – will I be found out? I had a great career, plenty of challenges, travel, upward mobility. I worked hard, I did well and was rewarded. I always considered myself very lucky to have ended up in my industry but at times, I considered myself even more lucky that I was not found out. Found out? Yes, that I was a fraud. After all, did I really know everything my bosses and clients thought I knew? Did I really understand it all? Did I have any right to provide advice and insight if I doubted myself? Could I really be this lucky for so long? And what about now? When will I be found out?
What am I going to do – I changed careers. Impostor syndrome aside, my role was so specialised that I walked out of there thinking, what exactly can I do? I really have no specific skills to offer. And my experience is so narrow. Does this limit my potential to another role in the same career stream? Was I too senior in my previous life and this will limit my opportunities? Would I hire “me”? Do I have the potential to move to something completely different? What if I can’t get anything? Is it too late for me to reinvent myself?
This won’t work – so many ideas, so many things to do, so much time and money to invest into it. Will people buy it? Is it really solving somebody’s problem? Is it a problem big enough that they will pay to get it solved? What if I can’t sell it? What if I price it too high? Would I pay that? What if I price it too low? What if it does not work? Is it too narrow a field? Is it scalable? Who else do I need to enlist? And how do I pay them? Again, what if it does not work? Can I pivot? Into what? This feels quite challenging and a lot of work. Will it be worth it?
This will work – Wow! It works! Who would have thought?
We all have fears and we need to learn how to convert these fears into tension, or paraphrasing Seth, the intersection of “this may work, this may not work.” Because when we are able to attract that tension, we move away from the concept that our fear will become a reality. When we are able to attract this tension, we introduce the notion that this could work. When we are able to attract this tension, we have no choice but to do the work that matters, today, not when I am inspired or ready.
Re-examining my fears, I realise a few things:
I am not an impostor. I put in the work, I learned, I formed a view, I discussed that view, I took things onboard and refined my views, I talked to a lot of people. I did this over and over again, because that is what I had to do and what I wanted to do. And all along, I lived with the tension of “this may work, this may not work.”
If I repeat this way of being, there is plenty out there for me to do and it can be anything I want it to be. Sure, some things will be more difficult than others but put in the work because it matters to me and to others. “This may work, this may not work” but there is a lot for you to do.
And if it doesn’t work? Ask yourself two questions – Who is it for and What is it for? The answer to the first one is, not for everybody. Find those that matter to you and that you matter to them and put the work in. That’s Who it is for. And What is it for? Peel that onion, layer after layer to work out exactly What you are doing for those that matter, those that value you and your contribution. “This may work, this may not work” but knowing What you are doing for Who is important.
But here is the interesting one – this will work. Thinking about it, this is my only true fear. And Marianne Williamson articulated this so well when she says “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
Why has it taken me so long to do it?
What are your fears? How can you convert these into tension? Why is it taking you so long to do it?