Before we begin: this is the latest article in a series on modern leadership mastery. The course overview and links to previous articles can be found here.
The next step in leadership mastery is the easiest for me to describe but one of the hardest to actually do.
Now your job is to stop whispering and start shouting
You want a mentor to help guide you? Reach out to someone you admire and see if she’s willing to grab coffee. You need $5,000 in funding or donations? Pick up the phone and call a few people who would be interested in your work. You want to leave the beaten path (dropping out of school, shifting careers, applying for your dream job, etc)? Start telling people you want to do this.
Two reasons why declaring your vision for yourself is critically important:
1) It helps you believe it yourself: A few weeks after graduating and deciding to become a professional speaker, I found myself at a bar talking to a friend of a friend. She asked, “so what do you do?” and I said, “I’m a professional speaker.”
She looked at me confused, and said, “No you’re not.”
I forget what I said, but here is why I remember that interaction: in that moment, I hadn’t completely believed it myself either.
I realized that convincing myself was far more important – and far more difficult – than convincing other people. I was stuck in a psychological grey zone between wanting to speak for a living, but not being truly sure that I could actually pull it off.
Convincing yourself that your truth is actually possible is one of the most important things you’ll ever do for your psychology. An easy way to do that is to start talking about it and identifying with it. It might feel funny at first, but that’s only because you have been denying your essential reality for so long.
2) The world can’t read your mind (but sometimes it does what you ask it to): I had just given a lecture to a group of consultants in Boston and one of them asked, “Is there anything we can do to help you?”
I responded, “Well, I’m looking for a really great book agent, and if you know anyone I’d love to be connected.”
At the end of my lecture a woman came up and told me that her sister-in-law was one of the hottest agents in NYC and connected me.
One of the few tricks I’ve learned in life is that sometimes, all you have to do to get exactly what you want, is be bold enough to ask for it. This will work for you too. Start sincerely and politely asking for what you want. You’ll be surprised by how often and easily you get it.
Yes, telling the world what you want is scary
I get why people are afraid to ask for what they want. I feel the fear too.
First, it requires true vulnerability. To say, “This is who I am and this is what I want” is a revealing (and because of that, often attractive) move. It makes you feel naked.
When you show people who you truly are, you risk being laughed at, having our competence challenged, or dealing with flat out rejection.
Second, it feels risky to take action on what’s true and desirable for you. It requires that you take a risk, which creates the opportunity for “failure.”
So often our dreams and wishes feel safer in our head. If they rest exclusively in our heads (as opposed to expressed through our actions and lives) there is no chance that they will fail because we can’t fail at something we never start.
When you start something you create a world where suddenly, your wildest dreams might not work out. I get it, that’s scary.
But here is the cool thing that most people miss: when you start something you also create a world where suddenly, your wildest dreams can work out. But that world can only come into existence if you take action.
In the face of resistance, your job is to take small steps forward and let your passion overwhelm your fear. This, of course, is what true confidence is anyways.
Create time and space in your life
In some cases, all you’ll have to do is simply tell the world what you want, and you’ll receive it.
More often though, you’ll also need to create space and time for your vision to flourish.
This can be done by removing things in your life that don’t serve you:
- Canceling one of your commitments (especially if it’s something you weren’t wild about to begin with)
- Giving up a bad habit
- Saving up for a while then gracefully quitting your job
- Keeping one evening per week free
- Getting up an hour earlier on the weekends
Or by adding elements that will create connections, knowledge, and serendipity:
- Joining a group of like minded people (conferences, an artist collective, a coworking space)
- Taking a class to fill in knowledge gaps (improv classes seriously improved my life and made me a better speaker)
- Scheduling an information interview with someone you admire
- Asking your three best friends to hold you accountable
Finally: stop whispering, start screaming.
Your job in life is not to play small (even though most of us do). Your job is to live your truth even if that means being vulnerable. Stop whispering to yourself about your dreams and your work, and start telling the world.
If you’re having trouble getting past your internal resistance to taking action and beginning to truly live your truth, I can’t recommend Steven Pressfield’s book “The War of Art” enough. This is one of the few books I have a hard and e-copy of and has done wonders to help me push through internal resistance.
Tell the world (or at least three people) what you want from life. Let them know about the project you’re working on, ask for their help, get them to hold you accountable, or post your vision on facebook. This will serve the dual purpose of helping you understand and integrate your truth, as well as setting you down the path of getting exactly what you want.