Last week I started my three-part series on (unexpected) traits that help me thrive as a freelancer (find parts one
here). Part one covered the importance of the ability to play the long game. Part two is in line with this in that it also requires patience – an iterative mindset
When you think about the risks that you haven’t taken in life, what is the barrier that typically holds you back? For most of us, it is fear – the fear of failure. Many of us struggle with the idea of having to potentially face the fact that if we actually try, we won’t live up to what we think is our potential. We believe that if things don’t work out, we’ll feel shame, along with the sting of other people’s judgment. Our cherished notion that if we tried [NAME THAT VENTURE], we’d be a superstar can only be killed by one thing – actually stepping up to the plate.
The truth is, I’ve “failed” at a number of things since going freelance. But in reality, I haven’t failed at anything. I’ve simply made a first attempt that underperformed. You may chuckle thinking that I’m up-phrasing, but I honestly don’t see it that way. If you think about any professional skill you’ve mastered, from doing a great interview to giving a memorable presentation, the odds are that the first time you tried it was not your best.
The same is true of consulting. As with anything challenging, you’ll make a number of gaffes in the beginning. The first time I arranged a networking lunch, I felt so awkward paying for the meal that I just didn’t offer. We split the cheque. It’s still embarrassing to remember that incident, but over the years I have gotten much more comfortable having these lunches, to the point where I actually enjoy (and pay!) for them. As a newbie blogger, I’m hardly setting any records for readership, but each post I write, I gain a little more understanding of what topics really resonate and how to write a solid headline to support it.
These things are a little tough to admit, but they would only be failures in my eyes if I stopped after the first attempt. I have always been someone who sees things iteratively, from mastering my chili recipe to managing my consulting practice. The key to this mindset is to consider your latest effort not as a failure, but as the new benchmark on the ultimate journey to mastering the skill. One thing that will help you master this mindset is to regularly consider how much you’ve progressed from when you first started, or even from your last attempt.
If this sounds like motherhood, or the message in a “very special” sitcom episode, consider how many things you’re holding yourself back from doing because you’re worried you won’t do well, that you’re not as good as you want to think you are. Seth Godin, seemingly the only person who can talk about failure without sounding like a cat poster (“Hang in there!”), said: “If you don’t start, you will
fail. Not starting and failing lead to the same outcome, with different names”.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to try writing another blog post.
This post was originally published on November 7, 2017