Every time I publish a piece, my heart wriggles up to my throat in a panic.
It’s scary. My writing was rejected for years before writing platforms were a thing, and despite knowing how normal that is in this line of work, it’s left a mark on my psyche. Putting my work out there to be judged and executed is still incredibly uncomfortable.
It’s awkward. It’s mentally, emotionally — sometimes even financially — terrifying. Whether you’re publishing your writing or starting a business, you’re taking a flying leap off of the comfortable, safe ledge you propped yourself on and into the deep, dark depths of the unknown.
It’s a discomfort that you never really get used to no matter how many times you leap or how many times you fall.
And you have to do it anyway because not taking that flying leap of faith means that you’re just staying still; you’re pulling the blankets over your head. You’re giving in to the comfort of what is known.
And that kind of comfy stagnation? It’s the surest way to fail.
Be scared and do it anyway
Inaction is scarier than risk-taking when you consider the harm inaction can cause. The global inaction at the start of the Covid pandemic is a great example of how scary it can be. Inaction, when your country is the target of a terrorist attack, is another example.
There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction. — John F. Kennedy
If you Google “quotes about risk” you’ll find page after page of quotes encouraging you to take risks. You won’t find a single quote that warns you not to; why?
Because not taking risks means you’re not making any moves. You’re not changing your life or trying for more. You’re making butt cheek imprints into your couch and settling. You’re settling.
How extraordinarily dull.
Scary things are usually worth doing — if they weren’t, we wouldn’t have half the incredible inventions or discoveries that we do today. Without insane (or insanely smart) people doing insane things, we’d have never discovered electricity or understood the intricacies of physics.
We wouldn’t have Facebook. Think about that.
The comfort and stagnation of routine
My toddler thrives on his routine.
He knows his “awake” time is after seven in the morning. He knows that he has just a bit of time after dinner to play before his bedtime stuff starts happening. He knows all of this because of the routine I’ve kept him on throughout his life.
Some people (like my husband, for example) might find a routine like that too controlling, but studies show that toddlers and small children do best on a routine — I would (and do) argue that teenagers, too, are more stable while following a routine.
Toddlers, however, are not adults.
Sure; adults like routine, too. Maybe a little too much in some cases. But success for adults is marred by too much of the mundane. Without risk, and the potential and likelihood of at least some failure, you will miss out on your full potential — even if you see some success in life.
Routine on the other hand makes you feel in control and like you’re handling the life you’ve chosen, and that often proves to be true — if you routinely pay your credit card bills on time every month, you’ll routinely see a healthy credit rating. That is by no means a bad thing.
But routinely going to the office every day, sitting in a cubicle next to a colleague you hate, tapping away at a computer you hate all while doing a job you hate? That kind of routine makes Jack a dull boy, and I think we’ve all seen the end of that movie.
The current online world provides us all with an opportunity to stretch our entrepreneurial legs, and we should take that chance. Break out of your routine and do something daring for a change.
Risk-takers are smarter
Ever wonder why people do crazy things like skydiving or skiing in remote, dangerous places?
I mean, jeepers. I just had to watch one video of a snowboarder getting stuck in a tree well in the literal middle of nowhere and I was good to never, ever do that, ever.
As it happens, there’s a very good reason these people are crazy enough to do the kinds of crazy they do, and it’s more than the release of dopamine. Risk-takers are faster learners and better at coping than those who are less certain of their choices, so they’re already primed for new experiences and are more likely to try new things than their less-risky counterparts.
Furthermore, risk-takers tend to choose activities that challenge their understanding of their own worlds; they choose activities that are likely to teach them something new and exciting.
People who take risks are open and primed for personal and developmental growth.
If you aren’t a risk-taker, like me, there are ways to manage your discomfort surrounding taking risks. One is to clear your head and determine what is making you uncomfortable in the first place. Is it fear? A phobia, maybe? Or is it just the discomfort of change or uncertainty in and of itself?
Fear of change is normal — a debilitating fear of change is a problem. True personal growth is experiencing that fear and doing the dang thing anyway. Doing so will free up valuable real estate inside your brain, and will help you enjoy the thrill that keeps those snowboarders going.
“Underqualified” is a lame excuse
I remember applying for a job once that I knew I was technically unqualified for.
I knew how to do the job in question — it’s not like I was applying for a surgeon’s position or anything. The work was simple and I had been doing it already in the position I held at the time.
The only thing that kept me back was the degree requirement.
My education wasn’t a good fit for the position, but my experience was bang on. That was so frustrating that I knew I had to apply anyway. As someone with experience in HR, I assumed that my resume would be filtered out due to my education, but I had to try.
I never did get an interview. But that’s not the point.
Once I applied for that job, I was no longer deterred by any that were just like it. I continued to apply for jobs that I knew I could do and even got a few interviews, and in the end, I landed a job that I was technically under-educated for.
The point is, not applying for a job because you fear you’ll be laughed out of an interview room is a crappy reason not to try. Feeling unqualified to do something you really want to do — like writing online, for instance — is one thing, but allowing that negative self-talk deter you from ever trying?
Apply for the damned job. Ask that guy out. Jump out of the airplane. Share your writing online. Just do the thing that scares you.
What’s the worst that could happen? Feeling underqualified is a lame excuse — and you know it.
Change = growth
If you don’t change a few things about your life, you’ll never grow.
If you don’t move into your own apartment one day, you’ll never learn to live alone. If you don’t try out for the football team, you’ll never learn that you might actually be the next big player at your college. If you never ask the girl to marry you, she’ll probably marry someone else.
Change can bring so much discomfort, but it can also bring so much goodness.
And you might fail — good. Failure is the only way to find true success, anyway. You have to fail — a lot — before you really succeed and that’s how our strange little lives are meant to be. That’s how we adorably flawed humans operate.
It’s all good, because change equals growth. Failure equals growth.
I’m often reminded of one of my favourite authors these days, Mark Tufo. Tufo was an ex-military man with a family, working a white-collar job he hated when he got laid off.
But it was the best thing in the world for Tufo. He sat down and finally wrote the book he’d put off due to a lack of time and inclination, and threw it up on Amazon.
Skip forward to dozens of books later, and he’s a millionaire.
. . .
I still feel nervous when I publish a new piece. Will this one flop? I think. Will this one be read by someone who needed to read it?
I’m starting to learn to sit with that discomfort though, because what is the alternative? Not writing online? Not sharing my work?
Seems like a sure way to fail, if you ask me.
Every single successful person you know didn’t start out successful. Zuckerberg made mistakes. Bezos has been through the ringer a few times, too.
Musk dated Amber Heard for a spell, for goodness sake.
People make mistakes, and that’s good. That’s how we learn. The only way to make those mistakes is to try. The only way to make those mistakes is to do the things that scare us the most.
But you have to. You have to take that leap — to jump out of the airplane. Experience that awkward discomfort, because not experiencing that means you’re standing still.
And that’s just plain boring.
This post was previously published on Lauren Hall’s blog.
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