File this under the category of "reach for something new and big." I posted this essay over at Professional Studio 365, where I do some blogging alongside co-author and former Mapleonian Emily Bennington, as advice for young professionals. Once you read it, you'll see that the lessons are equally relevant for marketing professionals and business owners, too!
When is the last time you felt such pressure, such adrenaline and such anxiety that you were literally sick to your stomach? If your answer is, “Not recently and thank goodness for that,” hang on just a minute. You might want to question your response.
In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do one thing every day that frightens you.” I buy that. I have her slogan on my favorite coffee mug. In fact, I have taken Eleanor’s challenge and adapted it. In the words of yours truly, “Do one thing every six months that nearly makes you puke.”
My theory is that queasy can be a very good thing. If you are stretching yourself to grow and develop…if you are pushing and expanding your personal boundaries…you need to feel queasy once in a while.
To be clear, this discussion is about more than nervous apprehension. This queasy thing is far beyond a quickened pulse and sweaty palms. (Although those are cool, too.) We all feel a little nervous adrenaline from time to time: a first date, doing the scripture reading at church, an important sales presentation or a training seminar that you are leading.
By contrast, I am talking about fear, i.e. being so scared you feel like someone has dropped a couple of lead bars on your stomach. Maybe even a pronounced ringing in the ears. Nervous apprehension times 50. The queasy feeling happens when we are threatened… with failure, injury, embarrassment, ridicule or rejection.
So I ask again, when is the last time you felt queasy? For me, it was just a few days ago on the eve of the 2010 CrossFit Games VA-WV-DC Sectional Qualifier. I had entered this competition, designed to test elite athletes for the purpose of determining the fittest man and woman in the world. Let’s be clear: an elite athlete I am not. A writer? Sure. A marketing expert? You bet. Admittedly, I have always played sports, but any progress or accomplishments for me have always been hard-fought and slow in coming. Despite such personal limitations, I set a goal to compete in the games back in April 2009. It was an intentional plan to push myself and to stretch for something big.
Cut to the grocery store last Friday night. Produce aisle. Out of the blue, my field of vision gets weird, and the surroundings start to go swirly. Something in my stomach suddenly weighs 50 pounds and is pressing down unbearably on my guts. I tell my wife, “Let me have the cart. I’m either going to throw up or faint.” A minute later, as I’m shuffling along the supermarket, clutching the shopping cart for dear life, I realize that I am very afraid. The next day, I would be thrust into an intense situation, competing against guys half my age (and not just any guys – the most elite athletes in the mid-Atlantic region), doing intense activities that might cause me to fail, get hurt, or embarrass myself.
Regardless, I smile and say to myself, “Hello, queasy. I’m glad you’re back.”
When we push ourselves out of our comfort zone and strive for something new and great, we truly grow. Our confidence increases. Our mood improves. We pump our bodies full of endorphins and other positive neuro-chemicals. Most of all, we suppress our fears and erase doubts. The queasiness, of course, goes away, but the confidence remains, spilling over into the rest of our lives, boosting our performance across all our domains.
How can you make yourself queasy? You might start by focusing on conquering a fear. Take a public speaking class. Go skydiving. Show up at open mic night. Go climb a mountain. C’mon – what are you afraid of?
P.S. – I completed the CrossFit Games competition, finishing respectably in the middle of the pack. A week later, I am still sky high, full of confidence–and still smiling.