What Should I Do Next?
What are you afraid of? What’s holding you back? What’s the item on your to-do list you keep writing out week after week and never cross off?
Go, do that.
Around this time 10 years ago, I started my first company. I was 18 and the co-founder was 19. Our company was a low-cost record label where bands could record their first demo or EP. Instead of paying for studio time by the hour, bands could come to us, and we would record and master their tracks at a fraction of the cost.
We bought good equipment. We were mobile. We could come to you, set up, and record. It was revolutionary, AND we were investing in local bands. It was fun. There was a market. We were learning A TON about music, the music industry, and how to run a business.
In less than one year.
The co-founder and I both lost money.
BUT it wasn’t a total loss. The money spent was an investment in learning how business worked. Instead of taking a college class on running a theoretical company, we were doing it hands-on in the real world. Starting a company and having it fail when I was young was one of the best lessons I ever learned. And it all started because I answered one question: what are you afraid of?
The co-founder and I encouraged each other to meet our fears head on. We wanted to live dangerously. If we had an idea and the answer was “no” because fear was holding us back, it meant we needed to do it. If making a phone call to another company made me nervous, it meant I was the one who needed to make that phone call. If making a visit to a venue made me feel uncomfortable, it meant I needed to drive there and have that meeting ASAP. If I had an idea to start a revolutionary company but the risk filled my head with doubt, it meant I needed to start filling out paperwork with the state to register the company.
Taking risks made me stronger and more confident—it gave me a thicker skin.
Taking risks grew my resilience.
The things we avoid doing out of fear are the lessons we need to learn the most. It’s better to do something badly than to never do it at all. And when you do fail, you will learn where you need to grow your skills, so you can do it better the next time. I want to echo what I wrote in a previous post: Embrace failure, because it’s one of our greatest teachers. Failure is only feedback, and it teaches us where our skills are, where they need to be, and what areas we should work on.
The fastest route to achieving your goal is the one that makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s the one that challenges you to take new risks.
Can you do one thing today? Not for me, but for yourself. Do one thing that makes you feel uncomfortable. In 10 years from now, when you are reflecting on your life, you will want to be able to look back and think: I’m so happy I took that chance.
If you want to learn more about growing your comfort zone, check out “The Learning Zone” on page 57 in my book Age of Agility.
Andrew J. Wilt is the author of Age of Agility, a book that addresses the skill gap between school and work. He can be reached at Andrew.firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @andrewjwilt