How many of you go to bed at night thinking you held back a little? You played it too safe? You left a little bit on the table?
Whether it relates to your work or your relationships or even your body?
Today I’m going to talk about the 10% you’re leaving up for grabs.
I used to be a master at leaving hefty bits on the table. I’ve been changing that though.
I’ve always been a very motivated, disciplined and driven person.
But I was a quiet plugger.
I didn’t talk about what I did or promote myself with anything that resembled enthusiasm.
I always assumed that no matter what I was doing, it paled in comparison to what everyone else was doing so it wasn’t worth mentioning.
And, if you had asked me to sell the two tons of water that I just carried on my back through the hot and dry dessert to millionnaires on a vacation who took their last sip of liquid two hours ago, I would have either just given it to them for free or told them all the ways they could have gotten it elsewhere. In fact, I probably would have sold my competitor’s water to them and then given her the money when she caught up with me.
I spent my first seven years in business struggling every single day to make the sale. In fact, I would do any number of things to not make the sale. Fortunately I had enough people reaching out to work with me that I didn’t end up in a van by the river. Still, I would watch other people around me promoting themselves, their work, their events and their books every chance they got while I just sat back and hoped everyone would magically see my worth. Then naturally I’d scratch my head and wonder “How the heck did so and so build this wildly successful and well known business and I can’t?”
I was forever putting my credentials and experience and education on a comparison sheet against others and then wonder how I could have the background I did and still come out on bottom. Well, maybe not the bottom but certainly not the top.
The answer was obvious. Or at least it is to me now. They were willing to do what I wasn’t. Simple as that.
It took me seven years to own up to what was really happening but when I did big shifts started happening for me. Some were great. Some were a thousand shades of awful.
The Old Me
I realized that the reason I wasn’t more successful was not because I needed another degree (5 and counting presently), not because I needed more subject matter expertise (20 years and counting of studying the same thing), and not because I didn’t have experience (17 years of writing and working in my field) but rather because I’d spent 41 years perfecting the art of invisibility.
Here’s what the little voice inside me used to say…
Stand in the back. Don’t make noise. Let others go in ahead of you. Give it away. Downplay your accomplishments. Don’t bother people. You’ll never be enough or do enough. Don’t brag. Don’t think you’re special. Don’t stand out. Be the person behind the “talent”.
And for frak sake, don’t put yourself in a situation where you might get rejected.
Because that’s really what it all came down to.
Safety. Safety. Safety.
Which, let’s face it, is not going to cut it if you’re trying to be in business for yourself. It doesn’t really cut it anywhere; but, if you’re taking on the risk of running your own show, it most definitely isn’t going to cut it.
Now, I’m not saying that my first seven years in business were a bust. Not by a long shot. With the exception of the first year (which was abysmal), I had the most financially successful years of my life. But that was just money. I was still holding back that final 10 percent, which ultimately held the fuel for my life and my business.
It was wretched, debilitating, and uninspired.
So, six months ago I decided that the person I had been for the first 41 years of my life was not going to be the person I was going to drag with me for the next 41. Well, not all of her at least. That’s what’s great about reinvention. You can keep all of the parts you love and leave the rest behind.
I like to call it channeling my inner Leigh Anne Tuohy. (Sandra Bullock’s character in The Blind Side.) She’s strong, confident, sure of herself and never content to keep her mouth shut when it comes to what’s important to her. She doesn’t hold back. I have been practicing being more like that person every chance I get.
The New Version of Me
Here’s what I did to honor the newest version of me:
1. I wrote a book I had wanted to write for seven years. It’s called Career Switch: How to Write & Play Your Way to Career Clarity and it’s coming out this fall. I hired an editor to give me feedback on every last word. I let people read it early. I asked for endorsements. I didn’t let fear of rejection guide the project.
2. I pitched some guest posts on big blogs. Again, something I wanted to do for seven years but was too afraid to do. Haven’t received a no yet.
3. I created an interview series of thought leaders I’ve been watching with admiration for years. I sent out over 20 invitations and only two people said no.
4. I created a private services page that reflected my personality, researched 14 individuals and companies I wanted to help and then pitched my work to each one. I didn’t take any of the rejections personally. I just kept moving ahead.
5. I created a proposal for a “returnship” I wanted with a leader in the field of e-learning and instructional design and reached out to the leader of the community. I got the gig.
6. I “cold called” or emailed countless numbers of people I just wanted to get to know to begin building my network. Operating as though I’d been deathly allergic to networking for most of my adult life, this was the FIRST time I’d ever done something like that. Seriously sad.
7. I told people I was looking for more work. This was and continues to be the most difficult thing of all. My inner critic tells me that by doing that I am telling people I am weak, I am not successful and I can’t figure it out on my own. And those are all very bad things, right? But so far nothing terrible has happened and I have yet to be shunned from society. In fact, I’ve gotten work because of it. Disaster averted.
Throughout all of this I’ve discovered 4 ways to play up your best 10%. But before I get to them I want to define what I mean by the best 10%.
If you went behind my back and asked anyone who knows me well whether or not I am the kind of person who goes for broke and takes big chances, they would answer with a resounding “Hell yes!” On paper I definitely make the cut. I’ve earned many degrees; accomplished a lot when it comes to academics, work, business and physical challenges; I have a great network of friends; and have made it through some very traumatic incidents in my life. So yes, in many ways I have gone balls to the wall and I have a lot to show for it.
But that final 10% is relative. My default is to push and be productive and achieve and set big goals for myself in every area of my life. What I’m talking about is the 10% that terrifies me. The part that makes me much more than just uncomfortable. It’s the part of me that requires me to do things that do not come natural to me and that cause me to stretch in a thousand different ways.
Everyone’s best 10% is different and the way you figure out yours is to tune into the feeling you get when you know you want to do something, say something or go for broke but you hold back. You start making excuses or telling yourself stories or saying things like, “That’s just not who I am.” You feel it in your gut and when you walk away from an idea or an opportunity you have the distinct feeling you left too much on the table. That’s when you know.
Being able to play up the best 10% is what sets the most interesting and successful people apart from everyone else. With that way of being comes a great deal more pain, uncertainty and vulnerability but also vastly more joy.
4 Ways to Play Up Your Best 10%
1. Stop Being Lazy
Once you realize that you have the ability to make things happen by taking actions or saying things that are really difficult for you, you realize that you’ve spent a lot of your time being lazy. When you start doing the hard stuff you look back and wonder what the heck you were doing with your time. Then the next time you’re tempted to choose the safe and easy way you’re quickly reminded what will get to happen for you if you do what’s hard. It might be easier to be lazy but the rewards you get from stretching out of your comfort zone are far sweeter.
2. Drop the Excuses
Excuses are simply our attempt to reduce our personal responsibility for actions we take. Justifications are what we use to prove our excuses are sound. It’s a nasty pairing that gets us into a lot of trouble. For example, when it comes to not going after the career we want, our excuses, such as, I barely have enough time to get my job done and do what I need to do at home. I’ll never have time to figure out a career change, serve as barriers to getting what we want. In this example, we are saying that the reason we can’t change careers is because we don’t have time. The real reason is more along the lines of “It’s going to take too much work” or “I don’t know how to do it” or “I don’t know where to start.”
Once you stretch yourself and realize nothing bad happened to you as a result of reaching out or taking a risk, you will no longer act on behalf of your fear. The excuses fall away and even though they may enter your thoughts reflexively as soon as some choice enters your consciousness, you quickly dissolve them and move ahead. As soon as you become aware of how many excuses were guiding your actions, or inactions, you become hyper vigilant so that they don’t win out next time.
3. Get Naked
These days I walk around feeling exposed. I pitch, propose and put myself out there like I have nothing to lose. I never really did have anything to lose but I told myself I did. It takes getting used to. At least for me it has. I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to protect myself and control my situations but in the end the only thing I’ve done is hurt myself. Being in control is overrated. Not being afraid to be vulnerable, ask for help and show your weaknesses is where it’s at.
So get naked. Streak like you mean it and run toward what you want like you stole something.
4. Feed Your Addiction
Some addictions are bad. Like my addiction to Terra Chips or apples and peanut butter for instance. On the other hand, the addiction you’ll get to making things happen, even when it’s hard, or especially when it’s hard, is an addiction I suggest you take to your grave. Once you start making some crazy good stuff happen in your life on a regular basis, you’ll wonder how you found any satisfaction at all in just doing what you know and falling back into default mode. It’s a rush you’ll never want to kick and the only way you’ll be able to quench your thirst will be to keep setting your sights on bigger things and then figuring out a way to make them happen. This doesn’t mean you have to turn into a goal chasing freak, in fact don’t, it just means that when a desire crosses your path, you’d do best to remind yourself that you have it in you to make it happen.
What do you think would get to happen for you if you played up your best 10%?
Think of a recent incident when you felt like you held back and could have taken it a step further but didn’t because you were too scared, too concerned about what others thought or were too worried about rejection. What might you have done differently?
What is something you really want to make happen for your career right now? How will you challenge yourself today to take a step toward that career or job you think you can’t do or can’t have? What is one step you can take in the next 24 hours to get you closer to doing the work you care about the most?