You have a choice, friends.
You can be a good worker bee, checking your boxes, doing your time, fulfilling all requirements
You can take a damn risk, already. Do something more. Do something different. Do something bold.
Briana already schooled us on why risks are good. Now I’m going to talk about taking the risk of aiming for the head of the table (or the room). In other words, some times you need to take the risk of (maybe) being too big for your britches.
But first here’s a story.
Picture it, Philadelphia November 2013….
I received an email from a national coalition of organizations (of which my organization/employer is a member) calling for nominations for the at-large seats on the convening group (of said national organization). Over the last couple of years I have been looking for ways to increase my impact on the public health world (part of the reason this blog exists) and have begun to work on my leadership skills. So this opportunity seemed like a step in the right direction.
A CRAZY step. First of all, I’m shy and an introvert. Don’t look so surprised. Sure I can write some blog posts, but actually talk to real people, people I admire and quite frankly, intimidate me?! Holy hell, that’s a lot to ask of me. And then to think that I could be ONE OF THEM?! Crazy to the extreme. Or maybe crazy like a fox.
But then, a little voice popped into my head, maybe one that sounded an awful lot like Seth Godin, “Why can’t you be one of them? Don’t let your resistance (fear of change or standing out) rob you of the chance to be something you really want to be. Stop being a wimp. Are you more afraid of never trying or actually getting the chance to do something big?”
I was more afraid of the chance to be one of the people who do big things than I was of failure. And that’s just stupid. Not badass at all. So I nominated myself. (Luckily the nomination process only required me to send an email that read: ‘I would like to be a nominee for the convening group’. Otherwise, I don’t know if I would have had the chutzpah to actually do it.)
I was pretty sure that I hadn’t a chance, because nobody has ever heard of me, not compared to the other nominees. Those people were “real experts”. I asked my boss to cast the votes for our organizations because I felt stupid voting for myself.
Then one day in December Briana walks in my office (or maybe she yelled down the hall) to tell me that I got elected. And then I almost threw up. And then I felt so proud and happy. And then I was confused. How could I get elected? Maybe only two people voted and my boss was one of the two people. So I asked her and she said she never got around to voting. So that means that people who don’t know me in real life voted for me. So maybe they know my work. And that thought thrilled me. And terrified me. Because now I have to do the work. I have to live up to expectations. I have to prove I belong.
Back to the present day….
Last week I attended my first meeting (via conference call) as a member of the convening group. I was scared of being put on the spot or that I would find some way to embarrass myself. But mostly, I was terrified that they would find me out as an impostor who somehow tricked her way into the group. Apparently this impostor syndrome is common in successful women (well, really everyone except you). But guess, what guys? I didn’t fart on the conference call, thinking I was on mute. (I didn’t fart at all. I was too nervous to fart.) I didn’t say anything stupid or forget my name. I survived it and now I’m not so scared anymore. Now, I think I can actually be in the same room as the other members and actually feel like I belong. Well, I’m not there yet, but I’ll get there.
You might feel like an impostor too. But you know what? You don’t have to be afraid of getting found out. People already know you and the work you do. I bet they like it, and like you too. I bet there’s an opportunity for you to throw your hat into the proverbial ring. Don’t be more afraid of your success than your failure. Don’t waste your talents sitting in the audience. Get up there and lead, sister (or brother). Don’t be a wimp.
I’ll be sure to let you know how my adventures in ‘being one of the cool kids’ goes. No doubt there will be lessons learned worth sharing.
I’m also pretty sure someday I’ll forget to push ‘mute’ on a conference call and really make an ass out of myself. You guys will be the first to know. Pinkie swear.