Pick Something and Back It With Your Life
You are the number one obstacle in the way of your success.
Your thoughts — fear of failure, resistance, “who am I to do this?” — are what’s keeping you from your success and joy: from writing the book, from applying for that dream job, from creating the business of your dreams…
I’m fully aware of my inner voices’ resistance and yet I still get in my own way. I notice myself in a fog: there are so many thoughts that they’re clouding my vision. They’re the voices of the parts of me who are afraid: who feel that the risk is too great, who would rather die than be rejected. These parts of me see “failure” as an indication of my worth.
But I am the grown up in the room. The eight-year-old version of me doesn’t get to be in charge. And I know that in order to make or do something great, I need practice and that means I’m likely going to suck at the thing before I create or do something brilliant.
I know that I am the harshest critic of my own work. I know that other people aren’t paying as much attention to me as I might think or hope they are. I have the freedom to do mediocre work, to try out new things unsuccessfully, to make the art, write the book, tell the story, create the product that fails. Because that failure is an important step on the pathway to success.
When I was 20 years old, I spent a semester living abroad in Australia. I started writing a novel: it was loosely based on my own life. I didn’t get very far. I spent far too much time worrying about how good it was and whether people would like it, rather than simply writing what came through.
There are many projects like that one in my life: ideas excited me and so I briefly gave them my attention, got to work, and then… either distracted by something else, or simply afraid of committing, I moved on. Rather than recognizing that I needed to commit and take action regardless of the outcome, I focused my thoughts and energy on what the outcome might be, and it created a fog and paralyzed me.
You have to choose and commit. That’s how people achieve and create amazing things.
For the younger me, picking something and backing it with my life felt impossible. I didn’t have the courage to put that stake in the ground. I didn’t have the courage to say “I am doing this, and even if I fail, at least I will have put my all into it“.
The people who write books write until they have a complete manuscript. They edit until they are satisfied. They throw themselves into the task. And they learn so much in the process.
People who build world-changing organizations dedicate themselves to bringing together the right team, to identifying their vision and mission, to choosing the tactics they will use to bring that vision to life. And they learn so much in the process.
Through the ups and downs, as they navigate the murky waters of all of the things they could never have expected, what enables those creators, leaders and organizations to thrive is focus, determination, curiosity and the conviction that what they are doing is worthwhile.
Is what you are doing worthwhile? And if it’s not, are you willing to pick something and back it with your life?
If you find that you wake up in the morning dreading going to work, ask yourself “Is this really how I want to spend my finite time on this planet?”
If the answer is “Hell, no!”, then it’s clear. There’s something else that will be more fulfilling. Find it. Choose it. Commit.
If you’re not sure, it’s also possible that you’ve made something you are passionate about into “work“ — you are relating to work as necessarily hard or stressful — and therefore, it’s not fun or fulfilling any more. You can change how you relate to it or you can find something else to do.
The truth is, a lot of us have limiting beliefs about what work is — which directly impacts how we feel about what we do. This is why — even if you choose your profession or work based on your passion — it can quickly turn it into a grind. When the only way you’ve ever experienced work is as “hard” or “something you do for money”, it’s unsurprising that you can even transform your favourite activities — or your own business — into a struggle if you label it as work. I know I did.
I realized a few years ago that while I had chosen writing, while I had chosen to be a Writer, I was not writing about the things that light me up. The reason I became a writer was because I wanted to change people’s minds; I wanted to help people to see that there are other ways to approach life, to see the world. I wanted to remind people of the beauty in the world. I wanted to tell great stories. But somewhere, along the way, I lost connection with that dream. I believed that I needed to earn money as a writer to be a Writer, and so I became a writer who simply wrote, mechanically, for businesses, so that I could earn money and hopefully get to a place at some point when I’d be able to write those stories… when I wasn’t so tired.
I was drained and bored. I was sleepwalking through my life.
When I realized that the work I was doing felt empty — and worse, was actually draining me — it became clear that I needed to change the way I related to it. It was not that the work itself was bad: it was that I was doing it for approval and security. Rather than setting my heart on fire, my writing work was dousing my inner flame.
I saw three choices: accept my situation and keep going; create a new way of working or a new role for myself within the organization; or take a risk and go out on my own to do the things I love in a way that sets my heart on fire.
I chose the latter.
It took courage to walk away from a secure, high profile job, but I knew I needed to do it to find my own path.
Do you have the courage to pick your path? It certainly takes courage to have ideas and put them into action. But that is what makes being a human so sweet. We have the ability to take ideas and make them real. Through our insights and our action we can not only shape our lives, but also shape the lives of others, and the world.
What an incredible gift that is. A gift worth nurturing.
Imagine how incredible the world would be if each person nurtured their gifts and shared them with others. This is the world I want to be a part of. I bet you do too.
All it takes, is the courage to pick something and go for it. Fear will be along for the ride, and that’s okay. You don’t have to overcome fear to be brave. You can do the hard things that feel important. Your life and the lives of others will be so much sweeter for it.