I met a good friend and kind mentor for coffee several weeks ago, and she made a comment that has stuck with me. One I've thought about countless times since. But let me first share a bit of backstory first.
You see, my friend made a huge career change during the spring of 2021 when she decided to leave her current job and wholly invest in her consulting company. At the time, it was a BIG step with little security if things didn’t work out. Think about that--leaving a steady, good (enough) paying job to launch a start-up? That takes guts! I knew she’d be successful, but I was also really anxious for her.
Fast forward to today and things are taking off and her client list grows daily. Her name is getting out into the community and clients are seeking her out for her expertise! I’ve learned a lot from her over the last year, but it was during our last coffee chat where she said something that struck me.
“Mike, it was scary getting started. I didn’t know if this was going to work. But I’ve learned that there is no way to become successful without first being vulnerable.”
I thought (silently), “surely that’s an oversimplification. You don’t HAVE to be vulnerable, no matter what you're doing, to be successful...right?”
But each scenario I came up with led to the same conclusion. 'Success' is subjective, but I thought about what success looks like in my own life. I'm proud to have earned a Ph.D., to have a respectable job, and to be in a position to hopefully impact the lives of others. Along my career path, I've had to do things that were uncomfortable and, at times, downright scary. But its been worth it. And its been incredibly rewarding.
At some point, regardless of our work ethic, career goals, or passion, we need to put ourselves out there and move past whatever wall is holding us back. Whether trying something new, starting a conversation that we normally would avoid, or immersing ourselves in a new environment, we must do things that stretch our comfort zone and challenge us in a way we haven’t previously been.
Consider, for a moment, your own career path and all you’ve achieved up until today. Impressive, right??? Now, when on this path have you been vulnerable? Was it when you first stepped foot onto a college campus despite not knowing what you were pursuing? What about when you agreed to take on that large project you really weren’t fully prepared to lead but did so anyway? Or that time you applied for a new job with a better title and pay even if it meant leaving something much more comfortable?
Or, like my friend, started your own venture from scratch.
It can be scary starting something new, asking for more responsibility, or stretching our comfort zone, but that’s what helps us grow, become better leaders, and ultimately achieve greater success.
Over the next day or so, I implore you to consider the opportunities sitting in front of you and to ask yourself, “what’s holding me back?” Make a list if you need to but be honest with yourself—that means no excuses! If fear of what others will think or fear of failure is keeping you where you’re at, then what will ever change?
Maybe its best we block out those thoughts; they’re a waste of our time and energy anyway. Instead, let's allow ourselves to be vulnerable and just go for it. We never know what lies on the other side of that wall. It just might be what we’re looking for.
We're in this together.