Very early in my career I found myself in the wrong job. I had taken it for a slightly elevated title and a little more money. Granted, when you make little money, a small bump goes a long way. The work wasn’t what I wanted to do and I was beyond miserable.
One day a sales rep named Bob Jackson took me to lunch. He was an older, fatherly-figure type who had an aura of peace and calm. I must have been at a boiling point because I poured my heart out to Bob (which was weird because we didn’t have a close relationship).
Bob was remarkably unflustered by this young kid looking to him for help. He gave me this sage advice: “In life, you get exactly what you think you deserve.”
He wasn’t referring to illness or circumstances beyond our control. What he meant was our mindset affects our decision-making.
On the surface, I had settled for a job that took me off my desired career path for a few extra dollars. Digging a little deeper, I realized that I had been afraid to go after the jobs I really wanted. I’m not sure how Bob knew this or if he knew this, but it was true. For some reason, I didn’t think I deserved the job I really wanted. Doubt and fear led me astray as is often the case.
So, what was I afraid of? Failure. The job I took was comparatively easier than the position I wanted. I was avoiding risk to ensure success, but that doesn’t work. Risk is an inherent factor in pursuing the opportunities we desire.
In Dr. Albrecht’s five fear categories, the one that drove my risk-averse decision-making was the fear of ego-death. This is the fear of humiliation or loss of integrity. The thought that went through my mind was this: what if I’m not good enough?
Unconsciously, I avoided the possibility of failure (and the humiliation that goes with it) by avoiding the very career opportunities I sought. It sounds ridiculous, but that is how powerful fear can be. If I could talk to my younger self, I would say, “If you don’t try, you won’t ever succeed. Believe in yourself. You deserve success.”
I am now about the age Bob was when he gave me that advice. With the benefit of decades of hindsight and experience, I have learned that failure is not only an option it is an important part of the process of growth and development. If you haven’t failed, you probably haven’t tried to stretch yourself.
The New Year is a time for reflection and a fresh start. Do you deserve something better? Believe in yourself, confront your fear and go for it!
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