“There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”
Living, learning, growing, and improving means expanding your horizons. That, unfortunately, can scare the living daylights out of people. If you’re feeling “stuck” in your career,* have a closer look. Maybe you have a possible next move, but you’re putting it off because you’re afraid. Heading into unfamiliar territory is always scary, but it’s in unfamiliar territory that you’ll find all the neat stuff you couldn’t find before.
First, let me give you a virtual hug. Next, let me try to convince you to take your career or project to the next level. Your next step could be as massively huge as moving to another country, or it could be as simple as cold calling a potential investor, but in any case, your fear is likely the fear of the unknown. That means it’s only scary the first time. If you have to do something big and scary a thousand times, that means nine hundred and ninety nine of those times it will be No Big Deal. Doing something that scares you is like unlocking a new area in a game; it takes one accomplishment and then a whole new world opens up to you.
Alongside this fear is the fear of humiliating yourself. This can be combatted by doing your homework. Learn as much as you can about the business, technology, and anything else you need to know for the project. When you’re prepared in terms of information, practice making your case. Then, once you’re relatively comfortable talking the talk, go ahead and pick up the phone. Afterwards, review what happened and learn from it. What did you explain well? What do you need to practice more? Also, be nice to yourself – understand that you’re not going to be perfectly polished the first time you do your pitch. Keep moving forwards, though. You get better as you go.
Finally, if nothing else will encourage you to take the next step, please understand that sometimes inaction is the greatest risk. Let me tell you a story about a startup of which I used to be a part. Someone involved was responsible for contacting investors. We had put together a sales pitch, and then this person went off to a networking event. The idea was that this person should collect phone numbers and email addresses, contact the investors the next day, and then set a date for us all do our pitch together. However, weeks and months went by without anyone approaching us.
“How come no one’s returning your phone calls?” I asked the person.
Then it came to the surface that our networking person had yet to contact a single investor on the list. They had their excuses about being busy and how it was awkward and so on, and finally it came to the point where it fell on me to make the calls instead.
So I made the calls. They were awkward phone calls and I was nervous, but after the first few, it got easier. Now I’m not afraid of cold calling at all.** We may not have gotten any money, but we got meetings. I had gotten our business one step further because I had forced myself to be brave and make those calls.*** Had no one in our startup stepped forward to accept the task, we’d still be one pace behind.
In other words, if you don’t rise to the challenge, your project stagnates and dies. It’s slow and painful and sometimes costly for everyone involved. It’s much better to just take the risk and turn that question mark into a solid “yes” or “no.” Even if it’s a “no,” at least you can move on.
I don’t deny for a second that there’s a lot of scary stuff you have to do to get/create your dream career. You may have to travel to an unfamiliar part of town, or talk to new people in a formal context, or learn about economic rules that seem rather intimidating. Although these tasks are quite daunting, I have no doubt that you are capable of doing them.
*Or anywhere in your life, really.
**Takeaway = if you hide behind your buddies, nothing happens, but if you step forwards to take initiative, you gain new skills.
***Yes, it took bravery. I am teh awkwardz.