How many of us are afraid to raise our hands in a talk during the Q&A, but as soon as the talk is done, we will rush to the front to ask our questions privately with the speaker? We are afraid of being judged and we’re worried about how we will be perceived by others. We are so wrapped up in our heads that we can’t stop caring about what others think about us.
We seek validation from others all the time rather than going ahead with what we feel is the right thing that we need to do. We are afraid to do the right thing and it’s not because we don’t know what the right thing is. We know the right thing to do in any situation, but we ignore it out of our fears and insecurities, and every time we ignore it, we let a part of ourselves die — we allow our spirit to be dampened and destroyed through fear of judgment and this will have an effect on our mental well-being in the future.
I’m reminded of this quote from Upton Sinclair:
It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.
Here’s a common example that comes to mind — when we’re in a movie theater and we find someone talking on the phone and disturbing others, we wait for others to speak up. We implicitly prefer feeling irritable rather than doing something about it. If this kind of thing keeps happening, it’s not entirely the fault of the person who’s doing it, but part of the blame rests with those of us who keep ignoring it. Because of our inaction, that person is learning from us that it’s okay to keep doing that, lest we stop them by making ourselves heard.
Society conditions us to seek out comfort and stability in our work and lives. Safety/security is reinforced implicitly and is pervasive everywhere, be it in education, in jobs we take, or in the social circles we keep.
We are conditioned by the world to seek out comfort and certainty in everything we do. We look for reassurance all the time, so we don’t end up “rocking the boat”.
We seek out comfort because Resistance wants us to play it safe. Like our parents, it wants to “protect” us and not [want us to] get rejected, which is a side effect of doing anything worthwhile.
We would rather seek out a tried-and-tested approach in our work and follow the herd than forge our own path. We seek definite outcomes and chart out the path that gets us there. We are afraid to leave our own trail to see where it takes us. We look for stability in our work, but where is the “job security” in being beholden to others for our livelihood? Above all, we are so caught up in reaching our destination that we tend to lose out on enjoying the journey, which is far more important anyway.
It’s always easier to complain about the status quo than doing something about it. It doesn’t matter what our situation/circumstance is, what matters is how we respond to it. The onus is therefore always on us. It’s always our turn. We need to take the initiative and not let our fears get in the way. We create suffering for ourselves. We hold ourselves back because we are afraid of what might go wrong. We let our fears get the better of us.
Here are some ideas for stepping up and taking your turn.
The first thing we need to do is to stop waiting to get picked. No one is reaching out to us. If/when things aren’t happening, we need to make things happen. Rather than looking for excuses as to why what we are doing isn’t working, we need to look for ways how we can make stuff happen. This is about taking your turn, not being given your turn.
When we start a project, it might not work, and that’s okay. Unless we are willing to try, we are never going to find out. Ultimately, doing anything is a gamble because it might not work, but that shouldn’t be reason enough to stop you. Life itself is a gamble, but knowing we will die at some point doesn’t stop us from living today. The only way to be right is to be willing to be wrong. The way to have good ideas is to have lots of bad ones. The person who fails the most succeeds because they know that’s how it works. Failure is the price we need to pay for our success. Are you willing to pay that price? Remember, when we are not failing, we are not trying.
It’s easy to give up when we experience failure, but we must be able to walk away from it and seek to create change again knowing it might not work and that’s okay, but unless we are willing to try, we’ll never know. For instance, we can love others, whether we are loved in return is not in our control. So why concern ourselves with the outcome?! In any case, we are not loving others so we may be loved. We love others because it’s who we are, it’s what makes us human, and because we care.
Show up every day and make something. The amateur does the work when they feel like it. The pro shows up and does the work despite not feeling like it. Being a pro is better. When we turn pro, life gets simple. Besides, it’s one less thing we need to think about. I try to show up every day, so I can put out one draft every week. I know when I haven’t shown up consistently, it’s resulted in me missing weeks of writing.
Detach yourself from the outcome. You are only entitled to do the work. Focus on the process and let that determine the outcome of your work. In any case, it’s not for you to judge your work. Besides, not everything we do will work. It’s not supposed to.
We need to seek out tension rather than run away from it. When we don’t, it will create resistance which will keep us from doing what we need to be doing. We shouldn’t be afraid of having (healthy) conflicts.
Stop seeking comfort. Make discomfort your compass. The struggle is the point. The obstacle is the way. Nothing is riskier than feeling safe. Offense is the best defense. We need to keep making deposits in our relationships because at some point there will be withdrawals, as we are only human. Remember, our actions are not dependent on others’ actions — while others might choose fear, we can always choose to operate out of love. We always have a choice. We need to exercise it.
Doing great work requires you to be an impostor. And because it’s not been done before, there is no precedent for it. If you’re not feeling like an impostor, you’re probably not doing work that matters. Playing it safe ironically keeps you from doing great work.
There are no guarantees with anything and that’s ok. Stop looking for reassurance as it’s overrated. We need to stop waiting for others to take the initiative. It’s always your turn. Go forth leave your own trail rather than following someone else’s path. Stop seeking certainty and make discomfort your compass. You’ll be grateful you did. We can stop looking up to others and take the initiative ourselves that is needed to change the status quo for the better. Either you’re waiting your turn or you’re taking it.