Screw fearlessness - do it scaredFeatured

As I imagined the future in front of me, I envisioned nothing but a crisp, blank white canvas that extended beyond what my vision could see. Both terrifying and gloriously enticing, I knew that canvas had a deeper meaning than just causing my legs to tremble.

I was on the tail end of getting my divorce paperwork in order. Everything was submitted to my lawyer and I didn’t have anything left to do but wait. I had spent so much time focusing on all the steps to get the paperwork to my lawyer, I never stopped to think about what the next part of my life would look like.

While married, I knew, within reason, what my future would hold. We’d pay our bills (barely) and take vacations and continue to argue about how much money we put into his business. We’d make meals based on whatever diet was trending at the time. I’d get promoted and climb the corporate ladder and we’d move to another apartment with dreams of one day buying a home.

Bits and pieces were always subject to small changes. Perhaps the shutters on the house would be green instead of blue. Or, we’d have an electric fence vs. chain link for the backyard where our dog would run through the snow chasing squirrels up the Maple trees. Or, perhaps Oak trees. The fine details weren’t set in stone, but the direction was.

Until one day, that future just didn’t exist anymore. No part of what I expected my future to be was ever going to arrive. As if I was a character from a painted portrait by Leonardo da Vinci transported to a photography set with Anne Geddes, I was now surrounded by baskets and more pastel colors than a clearance section of Target after Easter.

I think about my blank white canvas almost every single day as I build not one, but two businesses; freelance & farm.

I started my professional career in a large corporation. They’d been around 25 years and their systems and processes were pretty well established. Deeply believing that getting a ‘good job in corporate’ was the pivotal key to success, I gobbled up what I could learn and continued following a path I was told would lead me to great success.

And it did - for a while.

Eventually, I started to feel the walls of the too small box start to fold in on top of me. I was rough around the edges (still am) and wasn’t having it when my manager told me in the most roundabout way that I was ‘too abrasive’. I didn’t understand the corporate lingo being used and approached the conversation with more naive ego than confident self-awareness. I looked them straight in the face and said, “I’ll never sh*t sprinkles or vomit rainbows.”

I eventually left the big workplace and returned to the food industry where I refined my soft skills and the truckload of transferable skills that come with managing a restaurant. And when my body reminded me that I’d aged several years and 10-12 hour days were harder than I expected, I lunged head first into my first SaaS company.

Whether it was a major life or career change, I had no idea what I was doing at these crossroads or what was going to come from my actions and decisions. But I did it anyway and I did it scared each time because I believed in myself enough to know I’d land on my feet.

I’ve encountered a plethora of ‘scary’ moments in the last 9 months because I jumped before the fear had a chance to show up. And now, I’m almost a masochist seeking out opportunities to test my bravado. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:

Step #1 - Stay Curious

My journey to self-employment started with the decision that I no longer wanted to work for someone else. A frequent phrase I was saying at the time was, “If I’m going to work this hard, I want it to be for myself.” I started reaching out to other folks in my network who worked freelance or owned their own businesses to ask all the questions. (Fun fact, that’s how I heard about Elpha!)

Step #2 - Shoulders Back

I provided my employer with a long-term notice because I was standing up a new arm of their business. I knew that I wasn’t the right fit for their long-term vision, but I also knew it would take a hot-minute to find my replacement. (Their plan was to replace me with three people.) As we began informing the team & customers about my departure, the questions rolled in:

How could you leave us? What will you be doing? Are you sure you want to be a business owner? It’s a lot of work.

All shared with good intentions (I assume), but this type of commentary can start to shred a person's confidence to pieces. So, I made a playlist of songs that made me feel confident and listened to it each day during my commute. After I’d park, I’d take a deep breath, roll my shoulders back and strut in. Yes - strut, not walk.

Step #3 - Embrace the unknowns

As my last day of work was also my “do the thing” day for my freelance business, I grew more afraid that I was doing something reckless. I hoped to have had more mental energy during my offboarding so I could begin building the foundation of my business in hopes of having something in order on my first day as a business owner.

Which brought about another scary question - how am I going to describe myself since I’m an operational generalist? I’m not doing just one thing freelance, I’m offering a buffet of services.

I used the time offboarding to test out different terms in order to identify what felt right to me and what landed when talking to other people. It was awkward and clunky most times, but eventually I found the right words and phrasing.

Step #4: Listen to your gut

I continued to come across a phrase in all sorts of places in my life: “Know the difference between being patient and wasting your time.”

The time with my employer was coming to a close and with less than 50 days left in my notice, I said goodbye. Deep in my gut I knew I could no longer be an effective part of the team and staying would have been detrimental to both of us.

So I leaped.

Full send, arms wide open, I threw myself off the edge of the figurative cliff and yelled, “I’ll figure it out and land on my feet!”

Step #5: Reflect on the memories

Just a few days after saying goodbye, I attended my first public event representing my new business. With no business cards in hand, I walked into a digital marketing conference and could feel my lungs shiver with each breath. I took my seat and started scrolling through my mental rolodex of memories where I lived through so much worse and I figured it out. Each memory of doing something scary becomes a building block to the foundation of my confidence.

Step 6: Paint the canvas

It’s my life. I am the featured artist.

Art is subjective. Someone may look at a blank canvas and feel in awe of the ceramic vs. porcelain hue. And they may look at that first brush stroke sweeping across the dead center and find it horribly offensive, while someone else weeps from the beauty of the curved edges of the paint. None of that matters though.

The only thing to take into consideration when staring at my own crisp, blank white canvas is whether the stroke I make is part of the story I want to tell.

I was scared of my unknown future when I got divorced.

I was scared I’d never build a career because I was too abrasive.

I was scared I’d fail when I had to learn new softwares in the SaaS industry.

I was scared when I had 45 minutes to set up my tent & table display at the farmers market the first time.

I was scared when I said yes to a website redesign in Webflow - a tool I’d never used until I signed that client.

And I figured it out as I swiped different paint brushes across my canvas mixing styles and colors with enough chaos to make Pollock applaud from his grave.

The first brush stroke on the canvas is always the scariest, so do it scared.

Amazing storytelling and message!! Also, stealing this bit: “Know the difference between being patient and wasting your time.”As an impatient person who procrastinates, this seems like an excellent litmus test to keep in my back pocket!
So grateful you introduced me to this lovely community @renataoleo!
I love this post! Thanks for sharing this. You're right, you can't wait to feel fearless, because that may never come.
Thank you so much for the love, @rachellevysarfin!
This headline is TOP TIER and so is the message!I love everything about this piece from the storytelling to your resilience!Some quotes/pieces of content that resonated:- "If I’m going to work this hard, I want it to be for myself." A fcking MEN also hell yass so happy you found us and joined us!- "Are you sure you want to be a business owner? It’s a lot of work." This is the kind of statements I LOVE hearing because it means I'm doing something right! Whenever someone projects their insecurities when sharing my goals, all I can tell them is "watch me"- "how am I going to describe myself since I’m an operational generalist?" --> this is a real tactical challenge and it takes a LOT of A/B testing so I love that you took the time to test out different terms and how it landed on people - "Know the difference between being patient and wasting your time.” WOW this is so real! Question back for you: how do you make the difference? Like are there surefire signs that you've crossed that line? Or is it about how you feel internally aka with your gut feelings?- Full send, arms wide open, I threw myself off the edge of the figurative cliff and yelled, “I’ll figure it out and land on my feet!”I'm about to do just the same when going into the unknown haha- You're the featured artist ! I love this! I always say, you have one life, this is not a rehearsal, it's the show and you're the main character! Thank you for sharing your story, you got this and we're ALL rooting for you!
Thank you so much for your wonderful message, @iynna! I'm grateful that my experience can be shared and hopefully, inspire others to chase their dreams too!To answer your AMAZING question... "Question back for you: how do you make the difference? Like are there surefire signs that you've crossed that line? Or is it about how you feel internally aka with your gut feelings?"I think it's different for everyone. I have to ask myself some pretty tough questions and be willing to be honest with myself along the way. Questions I've scuffled with include: - What could be causing my body to hum with impatience right now? (Did I get enough sleep? Is something else going on in my life? Am I frustrated about part of the current experience?)- Where do I feel this coming from in my body? (For me, if it's rapid thoughts in my brain, I'm just being impatient LOL)- How do things currently sit on the Pros & Cons list? (This helps me prioritize what I need to focus on.)- If I were to start/stop/continue X, who or what would it be for and why? (As a recovering people-pleasing-perfectionist, I have to ask this question a LOT!)- Play it out... what's the worst/best thing that could happen if _____? (Sometimes, the answer is in the forecasted future and not found in the present moment.)- Am I just scared to try because I'm worried about failing? / Am I using _____ as a crutch to avoid taking a leap? (This forces me to stop and really think about my intentions, find a way to be mindful & present and re-center myself in confidence.)
Thankthank you for sharing this.
Thank you for reading it, @anamarierr!
Thank you for sharing! This is such a special message and so important to keep in mind being a woman in Tech. I've been on multiple development teams where I am the only female or the most junior person, and it's scary to step into that with confidence. It helps to remember though, that there's nothing to be scared of. People are just people and code is just code! Gotta put some paint on the canvas and not be afraid to scrap it and start over.
I'm so glad you found this helpful @paularenae08!! Paint that canvas! 👏🏻
Omgosh. Your story resonated so much with me. I am not ‘alone’ in feeling scared on navigating my professional journey since leaving my last company of 18 years. I’ve been praying to change this and I believe my prayers led me to read your story today. So thank you for sharing your experience and your determination. I am saving it in my ‘professional first aid kit’.
Thank you so much for letting me know my piece was impactful to read, @jackiecelestinandr! You are NOT alone!!! Keep chasing your dreams, because they are worth doing it scared!