Are You Leading Your Life, or Is Your Fear in Front?
Keynote Speech from the 2014 Women’s Business Conference
By Sarah Stokes
(Speech starts with a clip from a horror movie)
What a horrible way to start your day, right? Thanks Sarah! What in the world!?
But how many of us start our days with that very emotion? Not that dramatic of course, but it might be there.
That’s what the movies tell us it’s like…
But what does your fear look like, sound like, feel like?
Is it your self doubt over the outfit you picked for today? Is it that your resume isn’t as good as you wanted it to be? Perhaps a fear that these other women are way more accomplished than me and I don’t belong? Is it nerves as you open your inbox wondering what’s waiting for you? Is it asking for the raise you know you’ve earned?
Is it something that’s holding you back from your dreams?
For me this morning, it is manifesting in my hands and throat.
You should all know I get very nervous speaking publically.
I blame it on too many years in a quiet TV news studio with no eyeballs staring back at me. Then when your pretty eyeshadow and mascara-lashed selves are looking back at me, it makes my voice shake and my heart race. It sounds crazy as someone who has come into your homes on the news for decades, but public speaking is a fear for me.
You’re maybe hanging onto some fear this morning too. Maybe you’re wondering if you have time to be sitting here when you should be out doing a million other things. Let’s all take just a second to breathe. It will help me and hopefully help you.
My friend Aveen recommended we all take three deep breaths to gather ourselves. As she describes it, it helps busy women “arrive” and it’s so true. We are often so scattered. Let’s arrive as we take these deep breaths so we can be present today and make the most of it.
(Sarah leads audience through three deep breaths)
We are here to talk about being women in business and I am a newly minted business owner and let me tell you, the last nine months of my life has had plenty of fear-filled moments.
As I was on the verge of changing careers after being in television news for my entire professional life, I was fearful that I’d regret making a change, that I’d let the viewers down, that I’d feel isolated, that my husband and I (who co-anchored the news together) would lose our close connection, yadda yadda yadda…
When I decided to buy Queen of the Castle Magazine in 2013, those fears had to go back and sit in the dugout because a whole new player was up to bat: fear of putting yourself out there professionally. Then there are the other players: fear of failing and fear of financial ruin.
I had my coffee and toast with a side of fear for weeks.
When you’ve done what you were trained to do for so long, you get in that groove, you’re comfortable. You might even be able to put it on autopilot somedays and as busy women we know sometimes you need that autopilot day.
When you decide to make a huge career or life change and strike out on your own or go for that promotion, whatever change you decide to make, fear hops in our purses and comes along for the ride.
When fear had me in its grips I turned to the woman who I was buying the magazine from and said, “I’m terrified right now and don’t know why. I’m a confident person. I know I can write the stories and learn the rest, so what is up with this gripping fear?”
I’ll never forget what she told me. She said that when you’re a business owner, you ride the line of terror and exhilaration all the time.
I love that. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between excited anticipation and fear. It was reassuring to hear that I wasn’t alone. I was normal.
Had I not reached out for that support I don’t know if I could have moved past that emotional ditch I was stuck in. What would have happened to the magazine and my family’s future if I’d let fear win?
I didn’t let fear win. I want to make sure I put it out there, that you have to have a healthy dose of caution too. I’m not recommending getting into something that could drain your bank accounts to the point you can’t bounce back. You have to go in eyes wide open, but take a close look at what’s holding you back. If it’s not something obviously risky like trying to sell sand in the desert, then look at yourself instead. Is it you holding you back from your purpose? Your potential?
When I was stuck in the “scared stiff,” but “really curious if it could work” place of decision making, I worked that business plan for the best case scenario and planned for the worst as well. It’s not in my positive nature to think the worst, but smarter women than me said it’s a good idea to lay out what will go right and what could go wrong so you have a roadmap to deal with both.
You know what? It worked! When my husband quizzed me as he likes to do to see if I’ve done my due diligence (after all these years, why is he still doing that?) I had answers for him. I told him what the plan was if I didn’t make my sales goals that month or had an answer for nearly whatever it was he threw at me. Having a plan helped me skip that fear and move into command mode.
We like it better there anyway… right? Having a good solid plan for our life?
Granted, I haven’t truly had that since before our 3 year old and his little sister were born, but when it comes to business, it’s a big deal to feel that belief in your future.
So no matter where you’re at in your professional life, there will be moments of fear. What’s your roadmap to taking a detour around that to stay out of the fear ditch?
Support needs to be part of your plan. Who can you call when the doubts come calling? Who can you call when the “what ifs” start to steal your sleep?
When your insides are shaky and your inner resolve isn’t cutting it, figure out who it is who calms you. This could be the most unlikely person. Maybe it’s the barista who believes in you, maybe it is a mentor, or maybe it’s someone in your networking group. Find that person who feeds your enthusiasm so fear doesn’t have any room to thrive.
I pride myself on being real. I know you’re not going to have the “eye of the tiger” every day. I don’t.
I still find pockets of fear, especially before a deadline every month when I wonder how much sleep I can sacrifice and still keep it all together. Am I missing a meeting? Did I email everyone back who needed a reply? Can I pay myself this month?
That’s why I’ve had to find tools that center me every time I start to unravel.
What will it be for you? Prayer? Meditation? A massage or getaway? Journaling? Reiki? A walk or listening to an audio book? Maybe it’s sneaking away for 2 hours of The Bachelor on TV, whatever it takes! It does not matter what the sustaining support is. Try new things. Be open to getting and asking for help and you’ll be amazed at what might start clicking for you. I consider this maintenance.
We’ve heard for years to take care of ourselves. When you’re a woman in business you know this is true, but sometimes it’s laughable. Get more sleep? I suppose that sounds nice, but I’d like to buy groceries this month and keep the lights on…right?
This is where these small things we can do for ourselves come in. They don’t require major thought, but it is important to put ourselves on the to-do list too. It will help when we feel the slide of fear come back in. Go back to that supportive person. Have coffee and get a few laughs in with them. Write down new goals on a piece of paper and tape it to the fridge.
My latest strategy? Get 3 deep breaths in at every stoplight instead of texting or checking emails when you’re waiting on green. It’s a good time to make that time to breathe! It seems to work!
And I suppose there are more chapters to come in this study on fear. I’m not there yet. I’m still in “survival” mode as my business mentors say, so I don’t want to talk out of turn. I will have more fearful moments ahead, as I try to hire my first full-time employee or whatever it may be. I am just so glad I didn’t let fear dictate my future because now the future is in my hands and it feels so much better on the other side of THAT fear.
The other side has lots of that exhilaration, promise, hope, and joy.
My hope for you is that if you’re working through the fear in your life right now that you can find people and positive tools to help you pull yourself through that mode, because really it boils down to you and what you choose to do with that energy.
When you find yourself on the other side of fear, if you’re in exhilaration mode, look around and see if there isn’t someone you can encourage as they try to get where you are.
We have got an awesome day ahead! Fear is not invited here today, so let go of it. We’re all truly in it together here and all of us have experienced fear…it’s what we do next that counts.