Swing for the Fences

Last year, my New year’s Resolutions were about getting over fear.  If there’s one thing I learned over the past year, it was to take some chances, and not dismiss the crazy idea too easily.  Here’s an example of what I did, and the results:

1. Wrote a few emails back and forth with Seth Godin.  He spoke with Hugh McLeod, and together they sponsored Podcamp NYC by contributing great bottles of Stormhoek wine. (Made me a convert to Stormhoek in the process as well.)

2.  I was lead organizer of Podcamp Philly, raised the money we needed plus a little extra, and put on a conference we were really proud of.   We managed to keep a local flavor to the event, and raised some money for Children’s Hospital of Philly while we were at it (Thanks, Drew!)  None of that would have been possible without a great team.

3.  I contacted and got to interview experts on learning disabilities for my podcast.  There were people on the list whose work I have long admired, including Sally Smith, Rick LaVoie, Dr. Tom Brown,  Dr. Perri Klass, Dr. Bob Brooks, Anne Ford,  Dr. Steve Graham,  and others- I feel truly lucky to have been able to talk to each of them.  If you want to learn about motivation, raising self-disciplined, self-reliant children, and how to support kids who are struggling with school, this is a group of experts to consult.  They are simply amazing people.

4.  Through Podcamp, I met an amazing group of people here in Philly and across the Country (and Canada) who’ve become really great friends and resources for any question I can come up with.  Whenever I have a really thorny question, this new social media circle will always throw out great ideas and new things to think about.

None of this would have happened if I never left the house, or wasn’t willing to take risks.

What do you gain by playing it safe? 

Playing it safe and conservative is important sometimes.  You should never gamble with your mortgage money or your kid’s college savings, for example. But other than that, why not swing for the fences every time?

If there’s someone you want to talk to, or exchange ideas with, why not track down an email or send a letter?  What is the worst thing that could happen?  It gets ignored.  And, then, you are in the same situation you are in at the present.  But if they answer the letter or email, your life may change for the better.  And even if they don’t answer, you know you tried and didn’t chicken out, which is great for your self-esteem.

I have a friend who is in retail sales.  Not a great business to be in, at the moment.  But if they don’t do something interesting and dramatic, the status quo won’t change.  So why not think about the wild and outlandish, the audacious ideas and suggestions, and actually go for it?

The downside is usually either 1) maintenance of the status quo if the risk fails or 2) finding out that even the outlandish won’t save your business, since after that, you will have pretty much reached the “I’ve tried everything” stage.  But I would argue even abject failure is preferable to coasting into oblivion.  I would rather go out with a bang.  Even if my hopes are dashed and smashed into the rocks, at least I gave it my all, and wasn’t playing with sweaty, nervous hands.  I can hold my head up high and walk away from a spectacular failure much easier than from something that was handled with indifference or too much caution and fear.

Letting go of fear and trying the big moves, the risky stuff, the putting yourself on the line, feels so much better, and gets better results than the small, conservative, no risk strategy.  So just once this year, when you find yourself afraid of something, of not feeling “worthy”, of shying away from a risk, give it a try instead.  Say “what the hell” and go for it.  I bet you’ll be happy you did.

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