Managing Intimidation and Fear

Some lessons in life and in business stick with you. They become mantras, available for you to call on when you need them. This is one of those.

I remember the first day of grad school, sitting in orientation. There was a whole circle of us – my fellow first year students, all of the 2nd year students, and all of the professors.

I looked around the circle at all of those smart people and I felt like I was in the wrong place. Who am I to be here? I don’t know what I’m doing! They’re all so smart… I’m won’t be able to measure up. How did I get here? What the hell was I thinking?

I could hear my mind turning circles as the panic rose up in me…

But then I stopped.

I stopped the voices screaming in my head for just a moment, and I took a look around.

I stopped looking at them as a group and tried to see the individuals. I picked out one person – one of the professors who was active in selecting me to be in this seat – and considered him. Wasn’t he once in my seat? Didn’t he do a ton of work to get where he is today? I tried to imagine him learning… what was  he like when he was a student? I found that It helped to see him from the perspective of the long road that he walked to get here. It eased the intimidation a bit. He weren’t just a professor; he’d walked a very long road that earned him this professorship.

Then I looked at the grad students – both 2nd year and 1st years sitting around me. And again, I tried to see each of them from the perspective of the road they’d traveled to get here. I stopped seeing people who looked like they might be better than me; I started seeing people who were working hard to figure things out so they could get where they wanted to go.

And it was in that thought that I started to connect. I realized that I was here because I was willing to work hard to get where I wanted to go. And that it was that hard work that made the difference. And I saw, crystal clear in that moment, what “working hard” means

Working hard means having the patience to move forward step by step. No one arrives at success without this. Every person in the room – including me – did a lot of little things that added up to the reason we were each here.

It means being persistent in applying what you know while being open to learning what you don’t know, and doing that over and over and over. Apply, learn, apply, learn.

And working hard means persevering through the challenges, the mistakes, the bumps in the road that you run into along the way. If you fall down, you get back up… over and over and over. Perseverance is resilience.

I realized in that moment that success doesn’t come suddenly upon someone as they’re just hanging out on their couch or standing on the sidewalk. It’s found in what they do with what they have. They actively achieve success through hard work.

Since that day, I’ve had a mantra that I go back to again and again – especially if I’m feeling intimidated or fearful: Patience. Persistence. Perseverance.

This has come up over and over in my business.

Jump forward to about 5 years into owning my business – during the time that I was presenting for Constant Contact. I would regularly find myself sitting in a circle at a meeting with other marketers who were presenters as well, and therefore did similar work to me.

As the intimidation and fear would rise up, I could hear it in my head: Patience. Persistence. Perseverance. And on cue, I would look around the room at everyone and try to see the roads that led them to this place. It helped me see them as humans, not just competitors; people working hard, making decisions, doing the best they can to get where they want to go.

And that helped me remember that I am one of them – working hard to get where I want to go. And then I could look back and see myself and all the things I have accomplished, giving me the right to sit at this table.

My answer to intimidation and fear is patience, persistence, and perseverance.

It is a perspective that humanizes those around me so that I can see that we all start from the same place, reminds me to do the hard work step by step to get where I want to go, and encourages me to be resilient when things get tough.

What do you do when you feel intimidation or fear?

What have you learned from those situations?

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