The following is a guest post by Jody Burgess. Jody is a software marketing exec turned startup entrepreneur. She is cofounder and CMO of Tribbon, a service that makes it easier to remember the people you meet and the experiences you share at events. She also provides strategic marketing consulting and outsourced CMO services for technology clients. She blogs at http://www.tribbon.wordpress.com.
Jody gave a Lightning Talk at Business of Software 2012. This is a summary of her talk.
I have been diligently practicing overcoming fear for 15 years. It is the reason I am so “obnoxiously happy” as my friends put it, and I want to share my story with BOSers because overcoming fear is one of the most important parts of being an entrepreneur.
What’s your fear?
We all have fears. What is the one thing that is holding you back from achieving your next business goal or your next dream. Big or small, doesn’t matter. Be REALLY honest with yourself. Just think about it for a minute.
It was about 15 years ago that I found myself in sort of a sad, lonely, dark place. I was divorced. Alone. Broke. Living on my grandma’s couch. It pretty much sucked.
One day I decided to get a grip and make a better life for myself. I was going to start by setting some goals. I went to my favorite little cozy restaurant and wrote on the only piece of paper I could find, which was the little green paper wrapper that served as a napkin ring. Turns out it’s not a bad thing to boil all of your complex thoughts down to a little space. It makes them memorable.
Then I started to take an honest look at the obstacles that were standing in my way. That’s when it hit me. I was afraid. I was afraid to do the things I needed to do to achieve the goals I had set for myself. For example, I was a salesperson who was afraid to make sales calls. Ridiculous but true. I was also afraid to tell my boyfriend at the time that I was madly in love with him because I thought FOR SURE he was going to turn and run the other way.
I felt I was on to something so I ordered another glass of wine and I dug further. That’s when I got really honest with myself and realized it was the outcome or the reaction of others that I feared the most. I was afraid that if I made the sales calls people would hang up on me and the guy in the cubicle next to me would laugh. I would look like an idiot. THAT’S what I was afraid of. Looking like an idiot. I was afraid that if my boyfriend left I would be alone. I was afraid to be alone…
Oh my God!I had just had an epiphany. I was afraid of the outcome. I was afraid of the reactions I would get from others. I quickly scratched off all the goals and just wrote “BE FEARLESS” at the bottom of the slip of paper. I thought…”I got this”. And I did.
The very next day I woke up and started making the calls. People hung up on me and I got laughed at. My boyfriend left and moved all the way to Ohio! (note: he came back… we’ve been married 12 years).
I have been on a completely different path since making the choice that day. It has been an amazing journey.
I learned some lessons along the way…
1. It is way better to decide up front that you are going to be fearless.
Our brains are programmed to have a fight or flight response to impending danger. It is much more efficient and effective to decide up front that you are going to stay and fight. It takes all of the emotion out and allows you to think and act from a rational place when it matters most- in the heat of the moment.
2. Always fight. Peacefully.
I’ll never forget the time my new boss called me into his office after a week on the job to ask me a “what were you thinking!?” question. I recall reminding myself in that very moment that I had already decided to stay and fight. So I resisted the temptation to run and hide under my new desk for the next five years, and instead, I calmly sat down and explained my thinking. We ended up having a great conversation that turned into a great relationship. And THAT was a key moment in my career. Lesson: Stay. Fight. Peacefully.
3. Not everyone will be fearless and peaceful.
Fighting peacefully is a skill that must be developed. We are not born with the natural tendency to sit down and explain ourselves. It comes with diligent practice. Remember, not everyone is there yet. The people you interact with may still want to throw shit at a fan, pick a fight or storm out of the room. It is up to you to figure out how to deal with people like that, and your choices are pretty obvious. You either keep them in your life the way they are, try to fix them or move them out altogether.
4. Nobody ever died from…
Public speaking, looking foolish, being honest, starting over and not being perfect. I’m pretty sure.
5. Start now and see immediate results (unlike a diet).
There is no need to wait. Just like the cartoon says, “How do you know if you are a flying squirrel if you don’t jump?”.
Although I started my journey some 15 years ago, it wasn’t until 2012 that I got the opportunity and the courage to stand on stage at the BOS2012 conference and tell this story as an entrepreneur. I am pretty amazed at how far I have come from that day a long time ago.
This is a picture of the actual slip of paper. I have achieved everything on this list and more. And I am not done yet.
Thank you for listening to my story.
Join the Business of Software Community.
Get the latest updates from Business of Software free to you. You will receive conference news, blogs from some of the world's best leaders, and access BoS video content as soon as it goes live by signing up here.