I’m not sure about you but there are plenty of times in my life where I have had to just do the thing, whatever it is, in spite of how scary it feels or sounds. I don’t want to kick off the project. I’m scared to have the critical conversation with a friend. My toes tingle when I think about going into a new situation and ‘mingling’ or ‘networking’. I feel underprepared and prone to mistakes all the time. Usually though, I do it, I just don’t want to do it. That is how I define courage. Doing the thing even when it feels scary. Sometimes though I need to be pushed. I need someone who is going to stand right there and say do that. Did you do that? You need to do that.. Work is good for that. I mean, very rarely do people force you to do things you’re unsure of in your personal life. They will suggest, recommend, and try to support you doing new things but you won’t get pushed out onto the ledge. At work though, the show must go on and if you won’t take on the big new scary thing, they will find someone who will. For that reason, I can (and do) take on much more and grow more quickly professionally then I do personally. There just always seems to be someone there pushing me up to the edge so that I will take the last step to jump in.
To be honest I don’t even really need that much pushing anymore. I have the confidence to know that even if I don’t know what I’m doing I have the ability to figure it out. I have strengths and a foundation that I can look back at and say yup, I’ve got this, even when this is something I’ve never done before. I can listen to understand what the audience needs to hear, communicate effectively, and align with the strategy. Those are three pretty simple things that have taken me very far. When there is a new project, presentation, problem to solve (or other issue that doesn’t start with P) I can typically rely on listening and linking the key strategy with the needs of the audience to move forward. Knowing that about myself gives me the confidence to take on any number of things.
I want to convert some of that courage, convert some of that confidence in my abilities, into my personal life. So what do I do? What I typically do, look to my kids for my inspiration. Recently, we took our boys to the lake. It is a place they are familiar with and have boated, tubed, and swam in countless times before, the big ones have at least. Our littlest man always seems to take a little longer to warm up at the lake than the big guys ever have. His first couple summers he gradually warmed up on land but in the water, Mom had to hold him. This summer he was rocking it. He was all over the place, talked to all the people, and had no problem on the boat. When it came time to swim though, he wanted someone to hold him. I thought this was progress because it didn’t have to be me but still, at this point, if you have your life vest on and are board in the boat because you refuse to come out unless you’re held, you can stay on the boat (yes, I’m that mom). Finally a woman who is part of the group but he did not know went to sit with him. She did her best to get him in the water while he did his best to ignore her and yell to Mom to come get him. Finally, she won. Whether she convinced him or he was just trying to get away from her we’ll never know but he got in the water. Once he was in, you couldn’t get him out. He swam all over the sandbar, shot squirt guns at his brothers, floated among the adults, and discovered he could even touch the bottom in spots. His go to line when people tried to help him or turn him around, ‘My got this’. He would grin and swim all over repeating again and again, ‘My got this Mommy. My got this.’
We moved to the other side of the lake where the water is 20-30 feet deep so all of us adults could just float. The kids, of course still in life vests, were jumping in as well. Little man asked a lot of questions on the way to our swimming spot. ‘Can Mommy touch there? How do we float? Can I swim there?’ I was sure we’d be back to Mom holding him as soon as he saw that all of the adults had to actually swim or have floaties of their own but I was wrong. Once he was in the water he cruised everywhere. When an adult came to ‘save’ him from getting too far out he’d shoo them away repeating again, ‘My got this.’
So what can I take from this? What can we take from this? As typical, life (particularly kid’s lives) is not so different from corporate America. My little man had someone in his life that day that was willing to push him to the edge and encourage him to jump in. Once he did, he had confidence in just a few things that made him confident on the whole. He could rely on his life vest to keep him afloat. He could have confidence that someone would redirect him if he got off course. By the end he had confidence in his own ability to up his game (from 3 foot water to 20) because of jumping in an trying. I guess personally and professionally we need someone to push us to the edge and the skill to see our strengths and abilities to build on what we are confident in.