These are four of the most powerful words in the human vocabulary.
Given what has become of my life in the past few years, there’s something to be said about investing the time and energy in diffusing the negative power of this statement.
The all-too-human, internal narrative always seems to spur dark emotions when it comes to mind. As an entrepreneur especially, this phrase can eat you alive before you even make it out of the gates.
My favourite teacher took the time to look me in the eye, behind his signature yellow glasses to change my worldview about them.
And by extension, invested his time into changing me.
The right influence from those who care for you and believe in you is a powerful engine to propel personal growth.
Last week, I sat across the table from two of the kindest blue eyes that I know. The past few years have been monumental for us both, and despite being divided by an international border, he and I still have always found a way to look out for one another. We’ve served as safe sounding boards, as uncritical or unbiased launch pads, an extra pair of helping hands and as honest voices of reason for one another for years. To this day, he remains one of the first people who was in my corner when Little Big Words was something only a mother could love.
Everyone should have a friendship like this with someone in their life.
Between chopsticks and brown-rice-tuna-rolls, he looked at me and said,
‘Do you even remember how this all started anymore? The idea of starting this company, why illustration, and how you got here? How did you know where you were going and that it was going to work?’
I looked away from him and around the room - trying to avoid an answer or the fact I barely had one. Tried even harder to avoid the fact that I had to be honest or he’d see right through me.
‘Would you believe me if I told you, that I don’t even know? I just chose to try and make it work, and figure it out. Fear is just as powerful of a motivator, as love for something is. Something in my intuition just told me start.’
This year went nothing, and I mean nothing – like I had planned. The level of growth that I achieved ripped the stitches wide open of what I thought was possible.
Who knew that selling greeting cards would get you this far.
Over the past few months especially, I’ve had the unbelievable privilege and opportunity to work with, coach and coach alongside a wide array of personalities and professional backgrounds. Small business owners, rocket scientists, students searching for their first job, Fortune 500 corporate executives and international not-for-profit movement leaders from around the globe were my students and colleagues working on Seth Godin's altMBA.
One by one, each one of them, found the courage to be completely human with me. Perhaps my own experiences about managing and dealing with fear, risk and finding the place to start are what allowed me to meet them where they were at. Somehow it seemed to level the playing field and help them process it - as together, we prepared to level up for the risks that they wanted to take or the change in the world they wanted to make through their projects and initiatives.
But after hours of interacting and observing, what I can say is this:
Regardless of who they are, or what they do and their level of responsibility – the fear that lives in statement of ‘this might not work’ -- plagues and inhibits everyone.
They just don’t talk about it.
Some people, even live their lives guided entirely by it.
Spend 6 months in entrepreneurship, and you will learn that if you get stuck in saying, ‘this might not work’, you won’t get very far, convince anyone and you can’t afford to stay there very long. For all of the perfection, validation and grades that the educational system primes us to seek -- the real world will throw it right out the window for you. Sometimes, even with a bow around it.
The good news is that everyone has the power to change the negative connotations and fear that surround these four little words, and win. I’ve seen it, first hand with dozens of students. Work alongside those who silence it each day. And lived it, myself.
It requires a twofold approach. It’s starts by deciding to never to get stuck.
First -- whenever that little voice appears and says, ‘this might not work’, replace it with, ‘we’ll figure this out.’
Change the end game from ‘perfect’, to ‘growth’.
And tell your ego to take a seat. The people who really matter and care about you aren’t going to care whether or not you fail or succeed. These decisions are not who you are, they are what you do. Practice compassion with yourself and say, ‘if failure isn’t an option, then neither is success.’
The second step, is to decide – about what you want to do, and why you want to do it. When you decide, you make a choice so that the work can begin, and a whole new hand of possibilities can appear.
As a society, thanks to smart-phone culture, we’re primed for instant gratification, digital validation and short term success.
But when you invest the time in making a long-term vision, it has the power to trump short term discomfort and inherently understand, it’s all part of the process. It has the power to absorb the costs, the mistakes and missteps. Because when you choose to play the long game, and commit to ‘figuring it out’, as opposed to being perfect – it cracks open an endless world of possibilities and avenues for how to get there.
The narrative of ‘What if’s’ can be transformed into, ‘Okay, what’s next?’ and ‘Where do we start.’
Not to mention the definition of ‘this’, has the ability to morph, grow and become ‘that’ – and even become something far greater than you ever imagined.
Little Big Words is a free-standing example of this.
And the people that you attract - to work with you, as friends, as partners, as significant others, as mentors and colleagues, respect you not just for your success, but for your guts for trying, and your humility for when you fail.
For all of thousands of doors that I’ve walked through and the choices I’ve made in the last few years, the luck I've had, and how hard and how much work it really is - you just have to keep accepting, that these four little words are always going to appear.
But the less power you give anything, the less power it has over you.
Push through the doors anyway.
Because a leprechaun - one that holds a dream or an opportunity that you didn’t even know was possible - may actually be standing behind one of them, and could have the power change the course of your entire life.