Courage, fearlessness, audacity – not character traits I need to dig down deep to find.
Instead, these are words that my friends would probably use to describe me. Throw in “risk taker” and “overly empathetic” and you’ve got yourself a Nicole.
Which is my point, and why sometimes I am terribly saddened and disheartened when I hear friends or fellow creatives and entrepreneurs speak about how they are struggling with being brave.
Beyond that, combatting fear and vulnerability can easily fall into the category of “motivational fluff”: it’s hard to find real, tangible tools to overcome these things. But there’s only so many times we can be told “You are enough” or “You got this, girl” and believe it. Recently, I read, then reread, Brené Brown’s Rising Strong. I will probably read it again, most likely out loud to my brand new baby until he believes every word spoken to the core.
I have a favorite paragraph in the book. And although the entire thing could be strong one liners we could use every single day, my most favorite is this one:
“A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop being hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. For me, if you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”
I think I resonate with this paragraph because of the last sentence – _I was brave and vulnerable enough to take this risk, and frankly, if you can’t muster up the same sentiment, I’m not interested in hearing your thoughts. _ This can apply to any area of our lives, but I love to think about it from a business perspective.
Let’s first consider who we may be getting feedback from:
Fellow Entrepreneurs – always quick to tell us how to do something because it worked for them. Maybe. But with a grain of salt, my friends. No one’s business is the same, and though their new contract automation program has “saved their life,” it may not save yours. Community in entrepreneurship is so very important. We need a place to share and learn from each other. However, it’s so important to recognize that “tips” and “feedback” are very different, and the words “should have,” “could have,” or “would have” most certainly will not be helpful to anyone.
Our Tribe – though they love me fiercely, and would literally dive in the shark water to help me, sometimes their advice, though appreciated, doesn’t resonate with my business. And as we business owners know, our businesses are our lives and it’s hard to compartmentalize. I’ve learned, that unless a friend that is an entrepreneur asks me specifically for feedback, that it’s not my business to comment on their business. At all.
Clients – can be the best thing in your life or the death of you. I’m elated when a client compliments us, but I’m devastated when they tell me I was “bad at my job.” I’ve heard many things: we weren’t clear enough in our proposal and they didn’t get what they expected; we could have done something differently; I should have known that they weren’t ready for this experience; our work was not the quality they expected… the list goes on. Though my businesses is completely dependent on catering to my client and creating great work, I have to remind myself that clients are on the other side of the fence that only has peep holes to see through.
Taking feedback can put you in a very vulnerable position. Sometimes, it makes me feel defensive, even belittled. But the tools I developed as an adult to overcome vulnerability has a lot do with being a business owner. I was forced, by choice I suppose, to be successful. It was not an option in my head. I chose to do this, to dive head first into this arena and I will, my golly, come out not only alive, but thriving. (You can read more about my journey to business ownership here). Here are some things I realized about myself in this journey:
I have never really looked up to the people in the cheap seats. They weren’t accomplishing anything I admired. Instead, they were just throwing eggs at my car and telling me I was ugly. Psst.
Adrenaline is invigorating. I’ve always loved roller coasters, Drop Zone, dancing and jumping off of waterfalls (safely). Though I would never skydive (sorry, Derrick), the adrenaline of a risk is something I thrive off of. Which probably explains why the girls in high school hated me for being the one brave enough to take three periods of welding (holding fire in your hand is pretty fun…).
Risk seems to yield results. At least that’s my experience. Examples include taking the risk to pursue the cutest guy at the rodeo (now my husband), taking the risk to spend all my money on an office space (real professionalism awaited), taking the risk to be an entrepreneur and a mother (currently assessing this success), taking the risk to cut back my services while raising my prices (less work, more money).
I have major FOMO. I’d rather have great seats that cost an arm and a leg and be in the action than have cheap seats and feel left out. That’s just real life for me. I HATE feeling like I’m not completely up to date or being left out. Use group texting as an example – if my tribe is in a group text and I’m accidentally left out, it’s an issue that gets brought up consistently and I have yet to let it go.
These things I have learned about myself have really helped me to understand why bravery and fearlessness are not things I struggle with. Which inherently, is something I struggle with. Sometimes I feel like I can’t be helpful to those who do have this struggle.
Motivational sentiments and constructive feedback have a time and a place, and are so crazy valuable in the journey of businesses ownership, and life, really. But you are your best motivator. Repeating mantras to yourself about how much of a badass you are is going to help you, for sure; but try evaluating your tools at hand to use as well. Use your own strengths to your advantage!
For so long, I thought that being overly empathetic made me a push-over, and that being confident in myself made me a “you know what” and that being young and blonde made it so I couldn’t be taken seriously. But these are my strengths!
Don’t let feedback define you. Instead, be selective about the feedback you let into your life. If it doesn’t motivate you or make you feel like a total badass, then disregard it. We were put on this earth to learn.
Adam Osborne says, “The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake; you can’t learn anything from being perfect.” And badassery is learned. Not innate.
I leave you with this nugget by the one and only Brene: “People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses.”
Photos by Valerie Denise