By: Millie Chu
As an entrepreneur or business professional, do you feel like you are on the verge of starting the next amazing chapter in your life, but you’ve been stuck on the same page for a while? Perhaps you could see yourself living the life you want, and it’s so close you could almost grab it; but, your physical self is running out of breath. You chase, you work hard, you fight, and you’ve given it all you’ve got. At times, you feel as if you’re at the tipping point, about to go insane. Then, you gather yourself together because you are resilient and you hang onto the glimmer of hope and light. It’s barely there, but it’s just enough to keep you going one step further. I understand because I’ve been there.
I have advised over 400 organizations and launched over 60 businesses for my clients. Through these experiences and my own, I have identified common threads of what leads an individual or company to success, stagnancy, or disaster. In the next few paragraphs, I will reveal the number one barrier that may be holding you back and what you can do to eradicate it.
The number one barrier I have identified through working on myself and my clients is fear. Fear surfaces in several forms. Fear of failure is when you are choosing to not take that step because you are afraid it won’t work. Or perhaps you feel that you are not good enough, and the thought of attempting the task gives you anxiety. You are afraid of the unknown and constantly think about downsides to your “what-ifs.” You may fear you are over-stepping boundaries, and your role or title doesn’t give you the authority or confidence to make it happen. Another type is fearing how others will think of you, your ideas or actions. You don’t want to be known as the foolish and stupid one, so you decide to do nothing. You are also afraid to suffer the embarrassment of failing. Those a just a few types of fear-myths plugging away in your head.
Now that we have identified fear as the number one barrier to success, here are two solutions you can implement right now and begin doing something about it.
ONE | Change your perception: Failure is how you learn. Realize failure is part of your journey to success. Shift your perception of failure. Every time you fail, you learn what not to do, and get closer to how to do it.
Here are some examples of people we know who have persevered regardless of rejection or fear of failure:
After Fred Astaire’s first screen test, the memo from the testing director of MGM, dated 1933, read, “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” He kept that memo over the fireplace at his home. Astaire said, “When you’re experimenting, you have to try so many things before you choose what you want, that you may go days getting nothing but exhaustion.” And the reward for perseverance: “The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it’s considered to be your style.”
Twenty-seven publishers rejected Dr. Seuss’s first book, To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.
Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly. He wanted to play his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him “hopeless as a composer.” Then he wrote five of his greatest symphonies.
Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything.” He was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.” As an inventor, Edison made over 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the lightbulb. Some say he failed 4,000 times, 5,000, 9,999 times — anyhow, he failed a lot. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The lightbulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
TWO | Exposure Therapy: The more you do what you fear, the less you will fear it each time, and it will eventually go away. In psychology, this is called exposure therapy.
For example, if public speaking is somehow involved in your work or helps elevate what you do, you must expose yourself to occasions that get you on stage. The more you put yourself in front of an audience, the more comfortable you will become.
Many years ago when I was in my early twenties, I was a volunteer for an event to benefit youth in the community. The producer rented a high school auditorium and seats were filled. The producer ran over to me in a panic. She said, “Millie! The emcee isn’t coming! Will you take his place?” Before I could say “no,” she gave me the program and said, “Here you go! You have five minutes! Thank you!” I was so terrified. I’d never done this before. I said to myself, “Well, either look like an idiot, or act like I was meant to be here.” I looked out into the audience and could barely see with the bright lights in my eyes. It seemed like there were a million shadowy heads, but it was probably more like 100. I took a deep breath and mustered up fake confidence and told myself I belong on this stage. When it was over, a reporter interviewed me and one of his questions was, “Where are you appearing next?” I said, “Oh, I don’t usually do this.”
Over the course of my life, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve spoken in front of an audience but I estimate in the ballpark of 500 plus. And plenty of those times, I walked away thinking, “I sucked!”, but people kept asking me to do it again. Maybe my self-perception was incorrect. Maybe I don’t suck, maybe I’m actually pretty good at this, and that standing ovation means I’m a badass.
What it boils down to is, the reason you’ve been stuck on the same page is you. It’s your fear. Believe in yourself and step out. When you choose to fully believe and trust, you release emotional desperation and worry. When one door closes, another opens because it is simply creating room and carving the pathway for the kind of success you’ve envisioned. Remember, you become what you think about. Believe and trust that each experience will lead you closer to your fulfillment. The roadblocks that you think are roadblocks are not. The universe is telling you, “No, this is not the best path for you. To do the great thing you want to do, go here instead.” When you believe and trust, your life will transform organically.
Get ready to soar, dear one.