” You feel exposed, all your imperfections on display. you sometimes question your own ability to pull it off. She was anxious about a project we were working on — the first thing she’d been really excited about in months.
How could anyone question your right to do what you’re doing? She wrote: Ackkk, I started thinking, who the hell am I to think I could be doing this?
Don’t they know how many times you’ve asked that of yourself? Here’s the thing: you’re crazy passionate about your work. I know I’m really good at what I do — my clients have been telling me this for 25 years — but I don’t ‘follow the book,’ and I haven’t read any of the industry literature for years. I was extremely self-conscious growing up, because I was much taller than everyone else my age — taller than all the girls, taller than all the boys, and as I kept growing, taller than many of the grownups.
Don’t they know how hard you’ve worked to get here? I’m afraid of being ‘out there.’ I’m afraid of success. I’m afraid we’ll spend all this time on something I won’t actually be able to go through with. Everyone noticed me, and most people, even polite people, thought commenting was okay. ” “If you fall down, you’ll be half way home.” I wondered if I could remark about how fat or bald they were, but I concentrated on making myself invisible instead. But try as I might to get by unnoticed, they saw me.
I recently got a late-night email from a coaching client.
They expected a lot of me because I was so visible. Or, you could be doing fabulous things in the dark, and not putting yourself out there enough, not letting enough people know about it.
But being tall didn’t mean I could do anything well, or do things the right way — whether it was schoolwork or dunking a basketball. What I did was run a successful, profitable business for a long time, keep excellent, engaged employees for a long time, and keep happy clients who valued our work for a long time. But it turns out that the people who think that way are not the people I want to work with, and they’re not my audience. Your business is probably doing something you’re great at just because you love to do it. Even though you might not follow the book, exactly, either. You’re not sure what the “experts” or gurus would think of your method.
Today, the things I’m doing have people looking at me again. I also took regular vacations, a month off in the summer, and didn’t work weekends. Who made her an authority, teaching business to business owners without a business degree? That may be what the media portrays as the entrepreneur — the social media platform founder or high tech whiz kid with financial backers in Silicon Valley — but most small business people are not like that. You don’t raise venture capital; you do it out of your savings and on a shoestring, or you work a second job. You feel more comfortable playing in a smaller space, where not so many people will look. You probably think everyone but you has it together. So many business owners are teetering on the fence, terrified to put themselves out there, and asking themselves, “What makes me think I know what I’m doing?
I never did figure out how to do what I want to do and be invisible at the same time. And other business owners kept asking me how I managed to do all that. She doesn’t even teach about start-ups and raising venture capital and going public. You just want to support yourself and your family doing something you love. Where you can make mistakes quietly, and no one will know. ” If you step out, find your voice, and do it anyway, your audience will applaud you, not look down on you.
I had to get comfortable sticking my neck out, and letting people look if they wanted to. I’ve never taken a business class and I don’t really know what they teach in business school. So I decided to stop worrying about who was looking at me (and if I was doing it right) and I started sharing what I’d learned over those 25 years. Even if you make mistakes (and you will), even if you fall flat on your face (and you will), you’ll show you have the guts to be seen — and the force of character to show what you’re worth.
It bothers me sometimes, because, like my fearful client, I don’t do things the right way. If your work is as good as you think it is, there are people out there who need you.
Your job is to find them and to help them find you. And while you’re gathering this information, stop for a moment and think about your part in these successes.