I’m 1000% more scared of fantastical success than I am of failure. What scares you?

I know. Ridiculous right? I mean, I call myself a Potentialist and Aspiring Fairy Godmother, and people hire me to help them figure out what incredible success looks like for them and help them get there. A friend once told me that my warning label should be, “Don’t sit next to Joanna unless you want to be convinced that yes, actually, your dreams can come true.” Teach what you know, right?

I’m not going to go on about WHY I get scared. I know why. I also know that I’m the queen of bouncing back. If you find me lying on the floor crying so hard that gunk is coming out of my nose, don’t try and pick me up. Just grab a glass of your beverage of choice and watch. When I get up, I get up in a big way. It’s why failure, for me, isn’t so scary. I know I’ll get up again.

In the past 48 hours, I’ve had multiple conversations about the gremlins in our heads telling us no.

– Peter shared his fear of starting something new.
– Morgan shared her fear of doing it wrong.
– Melanie shared her fear of letting go.

I had a chat with a thought leader and change-maker who has over 100,000 followers on Twitter. And other than how we’re both going to change the world, what did we discuss? Fear. Our fears and other people’s fears.

I’m known for saying, “Every decision made about you and your opportunities is made in a room you’re not in.” Usually, I’m talking about the people who are choosing the Future You. What I’ve come to realize is that the first room you need to tackle is the one inside your head. If you can’t choose the Future You, then how in the world can you get others to do it too?

You can’t.

Ok. So at this point, you either relate to what I’m saying, or you still have no concept of what I’m talking about. If you’re the former, stick around, and I’ll share a couple of ideas of how you might manifest your ambitions even with the twerp in your head. If you’re the latter, I want to hear your story. How is it you’re fearless? Seriously. Send me your story.

Ok. So back to my fearful fellows. How do I get over myself? Well, here are some suggestions.

1. Figure out what it is you’re actually afraid of. If you’re not sure and want some inspiration, I’m a HUGE fan of Elizabeth Day. I’ve listened to her podcast for years (she’s also written a book called Failosophy: A Handbook For When Things Go Wrong). She’s created a veritable buffet of stories from people who (from the outside) look super sorted out but have gremlins like you and me. Spoiler – she interviewed the brilliant Gloria Steinem for one of her episodes. One of the most fearless women I can imagine. The other option is to ask people. My husband was the one who pointed out the incongruency of what I teach and how I act for myself.
2. Identify how you’re measuring what “not failing” looks like. I’ve had this conversation with hundreds of people. Their version of “failing” and their audience’s version of “failing” were in two different places. Example: There’s a bit of a ridiculous narrative in the startup world that if you haven’t created a company and flipped it for a billion dollars, then you’ve failed. We all know this isn’t true, but if you’re a startup entrepreneur, then you’ve probably told yourself this. Half a billion dollars is totally acceptable. 🙂
3. Run some little experiments. Do you remember what it was like learning to swim? Unless you had parents like mine who slapped some floaties (armbands if you’re from the UK) on us and chucked us overboard, you had a swim coach whose first job was to teach you to float. There was a moment where your brain went from screaming, “I’m skinking! I’m sinking!” to, “Oh, I feel it.” and voila, you understood how to float. It’s worth noting that from that moment on, sinking became almost impossible without concerted effort. I could chuck you off a boat right now, and you’d still float. We have this same phenomenon when learning to ride a bike – the “ah-ha” moment is when you feel balance with momentum. Learning how to swim – big experiment = super scary. Learning how to float – not so much. Figure out your version of floating for what scares you and keep doing it until it doesn’t. Or you can take a page from my playbook. My fear of success never seems to go away. But in doing tiny experiments, I’m creating the building blocks of confidence. Do I keep moving my goalposts? Yes, of course. But that’s the point.

We can’t imagine something we haven’t seen before. The brilliant Janna Levin talked about this idea during her interview with Tim Ferris about four dimensions. As humans, we can’t “see” four dimensions, but mathematically it’s possible. It’s a mind-bending interview, and Levin’s examples describing this limitation are so simple (she uses PacMan and interlocking circles) that you understand what you still can’t see.

Don’t give yourself a hard time if you’re scared of something you haven’t experienced or can only imagine.

We’re writing a whole new way of working in this emerging post-pandemic world. And you have a choice. You can wait for it all to settle and let others decide how things will look because it’s safer that way. Or you can look in the mirror and say, “I get to choose who I want to be in the Future.” and lean into your scary.

Until next time.


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