Written by Karen D. Swim
For the past week I have been working on a low cost information product for job seekers. I have ghostwritten two books and a manual on career marketing and management for clients, in addition to my own work in the field. I have spent four years successfuly helping job seekers search for and obtain new positions. I have coached clients on interviewing and salary negotiation and have written hundreds of high impact resumes and bios. Yet, with 65% of my product complete, I was gripped with doubt.
I was sitting at my desk working away. It was Saturday and I had chosen to work because I was excited about the product. I had it on my 2008 list and kept pushing it aside but here I was finally doing it. It was snowing outside and the perfect day to write. The peaceful silence was interrupted by an old familiar voice, “What if this is a big flop?” My stomach quivered as I considered the question. “Oh god, what if it is a flop, I’ll be a total failure and everyone will know, what am I thinking, I’m not as smart as…”My thoughts raced ahead to me being the BIG FAT LAUGHING STOCK of the internet. People would tweet about my failure and the virtual tomatoes would fly in my direction.
The voice taunted me, telling me I wasn’t smart enough, good enough or ready enough to complete this project. My shoulders began to sag as the joy dissipated from my heart. It was then another voice, softer but bolder declared, “And?’ One word but the meaning was crystal clear, “and so what?” I straightened my shoulders and listened to that voice.
I could try and possibly fail or never try and fail for sure.
We are all vulnerable to moments of self doubt. In less than 10 minutes I had gone from a happy, reasonably confident woman to a quivering mass of insecurity. This time I had stared fear in the face but I am ashamed to admit that at other times fear has been the victor.
If you are 100% comfortable and confident you are probably not taking a risk. Taking on new challenges, stepping outside of our “tried and true” is scary. Too often we allow fear to direct our footsteps. Yes, there are times that danger is ahead, but that voice is a confident voice of warning not a voice of self-doubt and negative self talk.
Instead of waiting for fear to leave, invite it on the journey. Let faith drive the car and shove fear in the back seat, or better yet, leave it by the side of the road.
As for me, I am scared but I am also excited. I might blow it big time but there’s also the chance that I might get it right. Of course there are people who know more than me, but if I wait to be the smartest, fastest, or best I’ll die never having tried, and I have decided that would be a far greater tragedy than failing.
How do you overcome fear? Have you ever allowed fear to prevent you from doing something you really wanted?
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Karen Swim says
@Melissa, if you need a buddy, I’m here! Together we can cheer each other forward! 🙂
Melissa Donovan says
I’m way late to this post after being offline for the better part of a week but I still wanted to commend you for pushing through the doubt. Reading this made me realize that one of my goals this year is to take more risks and I thank you for that Karen.
Melissa Donovan´s last blog post..Why Proofreading Matters
The “and?” and the “and so?” were powerful words said to me once as well when I was going on and on about all my life concerns. It really alleviates a lot of needless worry.
ScreenwritingforHollywood´s last blog post..Golden Globe Awards Winners 2009
Karen Swim says
@Andrew, I think it’s so wonderful that you are not willing to take the easy route. You have a contract, you have comfort and yet you are taking the path to keep challenging yourself. Any ideas about where you may go next? I am very excited for you!
Karen Swim says
@Bill, I am so glad you shared your feelings as it validates how even after success, that little voice still comes. I hope that you will let me know when #4 is published so I can buy and spread the word. You are a writer and by sharing your feelings, you have helped those of us who are on the journey to publish that first book. Thanks Bill! 🙂
Moving to Korea was certainly a rewarding experience, and I am glad that I did it.
But whilst it was a wonderful growth experience for me in the first couple of years, Nevertheless, after three and a half years, I have been ‘comfortable’ in Korea for a couple of years now, and I feel that I am now in something of a ‘comfort rut’ again.
This is one of the reasons why I don’t think I will renew my contract again when it comes up for renewal later this year. By that time, I will have lived in Korea for four (good) years, and I feel that it will be time for me to move on and grow in a new challenge.
Andrew´s last blog post..Employee rights and responsibilities part 8 – No one should be held in slavery
Bill Welter says
I’ve written three books and still fell like I’m not a “real” writer. You cemented my intention for a fourth. Gotta go and write.
Roland Hesz says
Karen, if the voice ever comes your way, just send it to me. 🙂
I have experienced your skills first hand and I will tell of the voice anytime. 🙂
And yes, fear should not hold you back – although, sometimes you should take time and assess risk, like before you confidently step on the rotten bridge that arches over a 300m deep chasm in the Andes.
Our mind is very risk-averse, and balks at every change, newness, chance of failure.
And curious about these projects, they sound interesting.
Roland Hesz´s last blog post..A Fistful of Dollars
Jamie Grove - How Not To Write says
“If you are 100% comfortable and confident you are probably not taking a risk.”
I’ll go you one better, Karen. If you are 100% comfortable and confident, you are just one step away from having it all taken away. Risk is what keeps us alive and moving, but it’s also around us all the time. If you feel like you’re living a risk free life, you’re actually living a complacent life and soon enough something will come along and remind you of that…
It’s better to embrace risk, to welcome it and make it part of your life. I’m not talking roll the dice to see whether you live or die, but moderate risks that keep you moving. Otherwise, you forget what to do when change comes instead of action being second nature.
Jamie Grove – How Not To Write´s last blog post..What To Do When Old Stories Refuse To Go Away
Evelyn Lim says
Sure, it may sound scary to try something new. However, we learn (and therefore grow) the most when we put ourselves in a place of discomfort. You will be taking little risk in yours since you are venturing into an area that you have some knowledge on and there is a market out there. More often than not, I find bloggers producing ebooks on topics without first doing some form of customer research.
Evelyn Lim´s last blog post..Ideas For Soul Growth In 2009
You know, I wouldn’t mind feeling 100% confident and comfortable.
Even just for a little while. I forgot what it’s like.
(Oh, to be 25 again!).
Janice Cartier says
Wouldn’t it be great if we could just call fear, “growing pains”?
Janice Cartier´s last blog post..Exploratory Drawings
I agree. Every day will teach us that we’re braver and stronger than we think, if we go just a little ways out to try the unknown.
And thanks for the kind words!
Kelly´s last blog post..What If Kelly Had Someday Syndrome?
Karen Swim says
@Andrew, thank you for the prayers Andrew and I pray that you too will realize your every dream. 🙂 Moving to Korea was huge and it demonstrates a bravery that many would have found daunting. Moving to a new city is tough but moving to a new country, wow! Let’s support one another as we move forward in the year. I promise to talk you through fear and you can do the same for me. 🙂
@Kelly, after reading your interview this morning on Someday Syndrome (everyone head over and read it’s great!) I know just where to go when I am feeling wimpy. I think fear does indeed teach us that we’re braver than we think. The unknown can be scary but the untried, ahh far worse.
@Ulla, one of the things I love and admire about you is your willingness to step outside of your comfort zone. You blog in your non-native language and you do it so well. It would be scary for me to blog in a second language, but you have not only done it but so wonderfully engaged a community and made new friends. As for the bonsai tree, well, lol, I had one and it caused me tons of anxiety too! 🙂
@Brad, I like that – “the wave.” Much better to think of it in those term because heck you can ride a wave! I also love the Seinfeld reference and it fits this situation perfectly. You pretty much summed up exactly how I was feeling!
@Joanna, I thought of you on Saturday and it’s funny that just as I’m following with you on the journey to audacity, fear came along to try and dissuade me. When I was through it I was able to hum a little tune courtesy of you. 🙂 I have a feeling we’re going to get a good song list out of this year. 😉
@Robert, LOL! Of course it never happens to you, you’ve got the hat, lol! I was reminded this morning that even when I think I’ve got it figured out, it’s truly grace and mercy that gets me through each second. Humbling and extremely uplifting! 🙂
Robert Hruzek says
Luckily this never happens to me (rolls eyes)!
Excellent thought-provoking piece today, Karen. We’ve all suffered from this one – it’s what we do with it that delineates the successful from the, er, not so successful.
Choosing the course before the battle is engaged is the best way to be prepared, though. Choose NOW to be a winner, and you’ll find the challenge is a tad easier to face. After all, you already know how it’s gonna come out, right?
Cheers for a great kick-start to my morning, Karen!
Joanna Young says
Karen, thanks for sharing your experience so openly and honestly. I’m glad you’ve got through the other side of it – that’s audacity for you!
I like you and others am also gripped by fear at times – and have been astonished at how much the change in medium changes my confidence or self-belief (eg from blog to book). The way I deal with it is just to ask myself which path I choose to follow.
One of fear, or one of love 🙂
Joanna Young´s last blog post..Audacious Writing Goals for 2009
Brad Shorr says
Hi Karen, Oh, I am very familiar with “the wave”. Pretty much every time I submit work to a client, announce a new project (like our little project just now!), start a speech, etc., I feel a wave of doubt roll over me. I guess I’ve gotten used to it and can just shake it off, usually. I think it’s a natural emotional reaction, and it doesn’t really mean anything. I remember hearing Larry David talk about this. After he heard NBC was going to make Seinfeld a series, he thought, My God! How in the world are we going to DO this???
Brad Shorr´s last blog post..Announcing! “How to Write a Web Site” Group Project
Ulla Hennig says
I know fear very well, in all fields of my daily life, be it taking my vacuum cleaner into its single parts in order to get it going again, be it dealing with my bonsai (“Too much water? Why are the leaves falling? Am I too dumb to deal with it?”), be experimenting on my blog. But I also made the experience that whenever I overcame fear, I managed not too bad.
Ulla Hennig´s last blog post..No Ferry today!
Well-said. Sure, fear grips me sometimes, and even stops me on occasion. I think that’s part of being human. But you nailed it when you said you can’t wait to be the best, smartest, etc. for one very important reason—no one is waiting to read the best and the smartest on any subject. If they were, professors and Rhodes scholars would always top the bestseller lists.
We love to read new perspectives. You’ve got a perspective that’s fresh. Put it out there!
You’re right. The only sure way to fail is not to give it a whirl. Stay brave. 🙂
Kelly´s last blog post..Tip of the Week: First Things First
Unfortunately, there have been far too many occasions in life where I have let fear hold me back, and perhaps that is part of the reason why I have never (a) married, or (b) gone into business for myself, despite having dreams of doing both.
On the bright side, however, I personally find that when I am able to summon sufficient courage to step out of my comfort zone, the result has usually been a thoroughly rewarding experience, with the three and a half years which I have spent in Korea being an excellent example.
Karen, I hope that our lord gives you the courage to finish your package. There are many job seekers out there who will no doubt benefit from what you have to share, and given your extensive professional background, you just may be in the right place at the right time to make a difference in their time of need.
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