By Scott Westerman
The biggest impediment to forward progress has nothing to do with education, skill or experience. It’s fear.
I spent the past week in Dallas with 1,700 writers, only about 15% of whom have ever published a book. Despite the depressing data about the decline in sales of both print and digital books, there is still a huge, insatiable market for great stories out there. The demand is much greater than the supply of excellent prose.
So why aren’t more writers becoming authors?
I heard dozens of excuses but it didn’t take long to peel away the rationalizations and see what was really holding people back. They were afraid.
“I’m afraid I won’t get an agent”
“I’m afraid that no publisher will be interested in my work.”
“I’m afraid that nobody will want to read it.”
“I’m afraid of putting in all this effort and failing.”
Fear is almost always a factor, no matter what our endeavor.
INC Magazine, listed the top four fears that keep CEOS up at night. I’ll paraphrase:
4. Fear of screwing up.
3. Fear of letting people down.
2. Fear of losing control.
1. Fear of failure.
Can you hear your mind whispering these to you? Here’s mine. I’m afraid that I will fail so totally and miserably that I won’t be able to find gainful employment and those I’m responsible for will starve.
That soundbite is so prevalent and so powerful that people stay in jobs they hate, avoid risk and try to dull the discomfort that comes with fear with unproductive, tension relieving habits. We stay inside self constructed boxes that constrict our creativity and are terrified of trying anything that hasn’t been thoroughly tested and guaranteed.
Life isn’t like that.
The real excitement lives at the edge of convention.
Innovating in your current role or inventing a gig that has never existed is how to get rich, both financially and intrinsically. One only has to look back a quarter of a century to remember a time when telephones hung on our kitchen walls, data speeds were less than one megabyte and you had to pay big bucks to get anything by mail in less than a couple of weeks.
Everything we enjoy today, from smart homes to Amazon Prime are the direct result of someone feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
I asked that question to the husband of a colleague recently. He painted a vivid picture of his ideal job and the lifestyle that came with it. As he described it, the gig wasn’t that much different than what he was doing now. So I asked him..
What’s stopping you?
It was fear.
I’m not suggesting taking unreasonable risks. Don’t walk into a busy intersection or touch a hot stove.
Just look at what is and imagine what it could be. Then, take action.
That action might be researching what has been done to address a problem or serve a niche market. It could be dipping your toes into the water through a side-hustle. If you’ve got the guts, it could be spending a year planning how you will jump into the life you envision and then taking the leap.
When I decided to become a full time author, I knew the realities of the market place and what the trends appeared to be. But I’ve been learning about the things that are contributing to the current situation and imagining creative ways to address them. If all goes as planned, you’ll see the first fruits of my efforts sometime in 2020. If not, I’m going to keep pushing until I get there.
What is the “safest” way to begin to put fear in its box?
Knowledge is power, so gain as much as you possibly can.
Dedicate one hour and twenty minutes per day to focus completely on taking steps in the direction of your dreams (Scott’s 10% rule). This is a common trait of world’s great innovators.
Test drive ideas in a sandbox. Just as software developers use a technological sandbox to try out new code, you can find ways to experiment and even fail without the the disastrous consequences your mind is always trying to sell you.
Begin now to act as the person you intend to become. The law of cause and effect will take over and you will become that person.
Fear is sometimes a powerful ally to help you think twice before putting your self in true danger. But more often than not, it’s nothing more than “False evidence appearing real.” Knowing the difference can unshackle you from an unfulfilling current reality.
The truth is that the impediments you think you see can be overcome. The vast majority of us give up when we encounter the first obstacle. Those who find those fulfilling careers we envy, felt the fear and plowed over, under, around or through every barrier, making course corrections based on what they learned from failures and setbacks.
In every economic situation, in every field, in every community, there is always abundance for those who can feel the fear and do it anyway.
Why not you? Why not now?