It’s been years now, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I leaned up against the scratchy brick wall outside the conference room. Butterflies danced in my stomach and were threatening to escape. All I could do was breathe. Deep breaths. In, out. In, out.
My supervisor signed me up to lead a workshop for other corporate professionals. She believed that I could do it, and I believed her. At first. My self-confidence disappeared within minutes.
And now, the day had come. It was time to go into that conference room and lead that workshop. My thoughts were in a jumble, as my fears took over the driver’s seat. I reached out a trembling hand for the doorknob, and my breath caught in my throat.
Fast-forward two hours, to the end of the workshop. Guess what? I survived!
It was by no means an award-winning performance. I’m sure I blushed when I stumbled over my opening words. I dropped a note card at one point. And I’m sure I skipped a slide or two somewhere in the middle of my presentation.
But as far as I know, everyone was satisfied with the workshop. Some of them even told me so! I didn’t die of embarrassment, and nobody stalked out in disgust halfway through.
As I packed up to leave the conference room, I was filled with new-found confidence. It felt like I was lifted right up to cloud nine! As I pondered what was going on, I realized that the experience had taught me some transformational lessons. Those lessons have shaped my life from that moment on.
1. Success Takes Time
It’s common to think of success as something that happens all at once, in one single great and grand moment. Like you’re just strolling along, and all of a sudden, totally out of nowhere, WHAM! You’re suddenly a smashing success.
But of course, in reality, that’s not at all how life works.
If you’re going to experience success, it’s going to come after an investment of time. The success starts as soon as you’ve committed yourself to your goal. You get closer to success as you take the steps it takes to achieve that goal. And setting the goal doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to reach it without running into setbacks. Your success will be built upon your overcoming of the failures along the way.
2. Learn by Doing
Sometimes, you can learn how to do something by reading a book. But there are other things you can’t possibly learn by reading a book. You can’t learn how to ride a bike from a book. You’ve got to actually get on a bike, and learn by doing.
Your thoughts work like the bike-riding example. Your thoughts serve as the beginning point of your understanding of a new skill. You won’t ever be able to master new skills if all you do is think about them, in an abstract theoretical way.
Learning and mastering new skills involves practice, experimentation, and experience. The more you practice towards mastery, the greater your results will be. The more you experiment, the sooner you will achieve mastery. The more you experience, the more you will be able to share your knowledge with others.
3. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
It’s natural to want to feel safe. And it’s common to seek certainty as a way to stay within our comfort zone. But our world is an uncertain place. There’s no way to get around that uncertainty. It will always be there. And you shouldn’t let it stand in the way of your success.
Avoiding uncertainty will not ever lead to success. Uncertainty must be embraced in order to achieve success. Flexibility is key when learning how to face uncertainty. It will help you learn how to thrive with the unfamiliar, rather than trying to find a way to cope and retreat back to the safety of certainty.
Trying something new, even if you might fail, is a great way to step outside of your comfort zone.
4. Learn From Mistakes
Making a mistake is one of the best ways to learn more about yourself and to discover where your boundaries are. As you step outside of your comfort zone more and more, you will begin to learn how you feel just before you make a mistake. This will help you become a quicker thinker. You will soon be able to push yourself further than you did before you made the last mistake.
5. Three Choices After Failing
You will certainly fail as you strive towards success. Every time you fail, you are faced with three possible ways to respond to that failure.
- You could deny the role you played in what happened by blaming others or avoiding the truth.
- You could surrender to emotion, and react in anger from frustration or tears from disappointment.
- You could learn from what happened and gain what insights you can from the experience.
The Truth about Certainty
Staying inside of your safe little comfort zone, packed as it with the comfort of certainty, will never lead you to success. In order to live up to your biggest dream of success, you’ve got to step out there. There is a certainty in this: you will make mistakes. You may even experience complete and total failure.
But here’s another certainty: every time you do, you’ll grow stronger. If you want to change your life, the only way is to get moving along on your path to success. You’ll never reach that success if you choose to stay in your safe little zone of coziness sticking only to the things you know you’re good at.
Instead of saying “no” to that uncertain opportunity, say “yes.” Even if it terrifies you. Even if you fear you’re not good enough to do that something you know would be good for you. Allow yourself the opportunity to be a success.
And always remember this . . .
The only certainty of life is uncertainty. It’ll help if you learn to embrace it.