listen instead, click hereHave you noticed that what usually keeps people, maybe even you, from actually doing it, is fear of looking foolish or failing, or looking foolish while failing?
We’ve all imagined and cringed at the thought of someone laughing at us, mocking our fledgling efforts.
If you were to change course, change jobs, become a sculptor, start pole dancing or just decide to set crazy a ambitious objective and really go for it.
Someone might judge you, even ask, “Are you having a midlife crisis?”
I bet you can easily imagine scenarios like this.
But, do you ever think about the people who are waiting for you to do what you want?
Hoping you will?
Imagine that unknown traveler who wouldn’t dream of mocking you.
What would your fear turn into if you anticipated relief and gratitude from people instead of mirth and mocking?
What if just your fledgling attempt at honoring your own instincts represented a sign only you can hold, one you probably want to hold, but don’t, for fear of looking foolish while failing.
About 16 years ago, I saw David Sedaris give a reading in Amsterdam where I was living at the time.
It was an amazing performance. He was funny warm, friendly and engaging. He owned that elegant Amsterdam room and every person in it.
I was shocked at my own extremely positive response to the experience and even more shocked when I thought, “That’s what I want to do.”
My whole body was humming. It was as if my cells had grown vocal cords and every one of them was yelling, “YES! THIS!” in the tiniest voice imaginable.
At the time, I was working for a large company in the Netherlands, the only writing I did was in email and the only speaking, in meetings.
I had no idea how to change direction, but I couldn’t deny the truth of what I was feeling and I at least had the sense to enjoy the feeling.
Over the years, I read a few more of his books. I never forgot that singular experience or my “This is it.” response.
Despite being moved by his work and his reading of it, I never so much as posted an online review his books most of which I’ve read and all of which I’ve laughed out loud while reading.
It’s never been my style to get autographs or approach performers, and even that amazing experience didn’t inspire me to make an exception.
Walking home that night through the streets of Amsterdam feeling alive and happy, the course of my life had been altered by a small measure, so small, it would take years for the change in direction to appear.
This week, I saw David Sedaris again.
He’s become wildly more accomplished in the16 years since I last saw him (and he was mind blowing back in Amsterdam.)
The polish and mastery not only reading his work, but his precise, easy execution of the little things - his banter between readings the short q/a he hosted afterwards. He was flawless and funny.
It was art.
When you see someone doing what they do (extremely well), it’s often the little things that make you think, “WOW, just … wow .”
The completeness, the details you know they could only have perfected by doing it year in year out - loving it and respecting it.
His comic writing is funnier and he’s started writing more poignant essays and when he read one that night, 300 people collectively stopped breathing for 20 minutes.
When he finished reading, and taking a few questions, he closed by saying if he missed anyone, they could bring their question to the back where he’d be signing books. People went up and there were at least 40 in line when I walked by.
I didn’t hang around for an autograph or a selfie, but once again, I was moved, inspired and motivated.
The people whose lives you touch with your work, may not come up to you after your talk, your set, your class, your … anything and tell you how you changed the very course of their lives. Because what they needed was for you to show up and hold up your sign. The one that says “I did it. You can too. Don’t quit. You got this.”
Or whatever you need to hear at that moment. I mean it could say, “keep pole dancing!” It doesn’t matter. You’ll know it when you see it.
You may never meet them. They may never know you exist. By doing what you want to do, and doing it well and working on it, investing time and energy because you love it, someone out there is getting something from that. A sign.
Some part of what you do, your product, art, your work or even just the story of how you got from point “A” to point “B”, might be just the coordinate they need to continue charting their course.
You matter. Your work matters.
And even if they don’t stay for the book signing, they saw your sign, now they know the next tack to take, which harbor to shelter in and how much further they have to go.
Hold your sign up.
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For a visual representation of this concept ;-), watch this video
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Courtney Kirschbaum is keynote speaker, career strategist and advocate. Her advice has been featured in Fast Company, CIO, Business News Daily Magazines. A TEDx Speaker and award-winning presenter, she’s inspired and empowered thousands to get a career and lifestyle they love. She’s the creator of Job Hunt School an online program for young professionals to find their ideal job. Take a sample class here.