One of the things I love about the work I do is the opportunity to converse with students in my courses, and the people I meet as I speak around the world.
The excitement I hear in their voice as they share their ideas with me gives me energy!
But I’m a bit pushy…
So I often ask the question, “Have you given that talk?” Or, “Have you shipped your idea?”
Some have and continue to tell me about it with the same level of enthusiasm in their voice they had before I asked the question.
“Yes I just gave a talk two weeks ago, and it was tough, but I’m glad I did it!”
“I launched my product a month ago. It was challenging, but the customer feedback has been eye-opening.”
While others haven’t, and they aren’t planning to any time soon.
How do I know?
Because of the excuses I hear with no inkling of a deadline.
It would be easy for me to tell them, “Just suck it up and get it out there!”
But I’ve learned that you don’t yell at someone who comes to you for help 😉
Over the years I’ve noticed that what separates those who put their ideas out into the world, and those that hold back is confidence.
It’s hard to feel confident, when you think you don’t have the brains, beauty, or birthright to put your ideas out there.
It also doesn’t help if you’ve been criticized, rejected, or failed before.
It makes you risk averse, because you don’t want to be cast out.
So what can you do?
Some people would tell you to ignore criticizing comments.
Others would say, push past the rejection.
And then there’s that old Silicon Valley adage #failfast.
But it’s HARD to push past criticism, overcome rejection, and embrace failure. Every time we are criticized, rejected, have failed or think we’ve failed, it becomes a part of our DNA.
I like to call it the holding back gene.
I too have a holding back gene, and to fight it everyday I have to take a slightly different approach.
Whenever I find my gene active, I asked myself two simple questions:
- What is the worst thing that can happen?
- Am I OK with the worst thing happening?
I’ve done this at critical points in my life like:
- In college, I had to take out a student loan when my dad lost his job my freshman year, and take on additional work to make ends meet. Then I had the bright idea of switching into into the engineering college my junior year. The engineering dean at the time was highly skeptical, and their skepticism started to rub off on me. So I took a moment to imagine the worst thing that could have happened to me: failing out and defaulting on my student loan. I soon realized the contradiction I had created in my mind. If I was motivated enough to pursue engineering, then I’d only fail out if I did a whole lotta nothing.
- Striking out on my own to start a company, I knew I’d have to invest my own personal savings to get it off the ground. The worst things that could happen were not making any money, then losing all my savings, and of course people thinking I was a loser. Knowing the worst-case scenario caused me to learn how to charge for my products and services.
Of course there are times where an unexpected situation happens… After my team and I had launched our second product at BizeeBee, we discovered that we had become a money-laundering front. We had to shut down the product to avoid facing additional charges. It was a tough call to make. But it had to be done, and I figured out a way to pay back the money we owed.
Or the time I was hit by a car, and was fortunate to walk away with minor bruises.
It’s easy to imagine the worst-case scenario. What’s harder is imagining the best-case scenario.
Whether we realize it our not, putting our ideas out there does lead to good in the world, for ourselves and others.
It gives us a sense of purpose. While the act of creating can put us in a state of flow.
Others derive a benefit from our ideas being out there. Maybe not everyone, but even a few is a great place to start.
While writing and self-publishing my first book I had skeptics who thought I was wasting my time, they’d say, “This book already exists!”
My response, “Sometimes it’s worth saying the same thing twice, but with a slightly different angle, story, and tone.” I also strongly believed that one author’s voice wasn’t enough. People need to learn from multiple authors.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that your idea has to be new or novel, but that’s just the holding back gene hard at work.
So if you’re DNA has morphed over time, and you now have the holding back gene, take a moment to think through the worst-case scenario and more importantly the best-case scenario.
Then put it out there, and see what happens!