All change worth making requires courage
Last week, I interviewed Nadine Champion for an upcoming episode of the Beyond Billables Podcast. Nadine is my Sensei, a black belt in Ukidokan Karate, an undefeated fighter, a coach, a speaker, and she has a new book “Ten Seconds of Courage” coming out soon. Stay tuned, because this podcast episode will be a cracker! We spoke for an hour about the courage it takes to grasp opportunity. Nadine's speaking career blossomed with a TEDX talk in Sydney, two years ago. Funnily enough, she spoke about courage and change. Nadine talked about how, as the talk approached, she became more and more afraid. Here she was, talking about courage, and feeling the complete opposite! She felt like a fraud. Watch the video - you'd never know she had a doubt in the world, but internally she was terrified.
Nadine and I were only talking about it last Monday and, by Friday, I was learning this lesson the hard way. You see, I had a crazy reaction when we launched Beyond Billables last week. I was simultaneously excited and terrified. A year of work. Finally doing something I loved again. Doing something that was true to ourselves. But, I was petrified when it happened. I struggled to sleep Thursday and Friday nights. I felt sick in the stomach and vacillated between happiness and exhaustion.
I worried about how people would take it. I stressed about how everyone would react when we said we wanted to make real change. About how our clients would view us. I was scared that people would be confused. That they would think we'd lost our minds for making a bold (and admittedly cheeky) statement like “we make lawyers better people”. I worried that they'd see us as just typical recruiters, looking for a new angle. I was concerned that people wouldn't understand that we can still help them find a new role. We simply now offer a much more personal approach, all while helping them get to where they want to be in life as well. I thought to myself: why am I launching with a podcast about me? Won't people think that is self-indulgent? As much as it makes sense that we have to introduce ourselves first, it is scary as hell putting yourself out there. I spent a few weeks thinking about all these questions and then when we launched I was overwhelmed.
As normal I told Maciek how I was feeling and he sent me this:
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
He asked me: Why do you care what other people think? What business is it of yours? Why are you sabotaging something positive with mere thoughts in your head? Why, after all this time and work, would you question it?
And he ended with: Why am I thinking the same thing?!!!!!
We've both spent the last year studying Stoicism. We've read books like “The Four Agreements”, and tried to live our lives not worrying what others think. So, it was a stark reminder to both of us how much we still have to learn, and how ingrained some of these reactions are. It was fight or flight in action; the ultimate fear of social shame and rejection. And neither of us liked it.
The point is, we're not all perfect. While I'd love to have cruised along, without a care, I wasn't even close to that level of zen! I'm writing this to get over it and to make sense of the reaction. Having a creative outlet is so important. Having a way to process your thoughts is critical, and if you can do that creatively even just for yourself, it is something worth holding onto.
Upon reflection, at least I was self-aware enough to understand what was going on and next time I hope it won't be so bad! Change takes time; we don't all become Seneca or Epictetus overnight. I had no idea who those guys were 6 months ago so it shouldn't surprise me.
But it begs the question that I was pondering after my discussion with Nadine:
Why does change require courage at all?
Well it seems to be because:
It's easier to sit still and do nothing. We all like to whinge and feel sorry for ourselves - it's far more comfortable than changing any given situation. We could sit and pretend the system worked and that lawyers didn't need help. We could keep our heads down and make a comfortable living, trudging along doing the same old, same old. We did that for years. But, change is uncomfortable and will lead to uncomfortable questions like “but Mike, I hated the job you moved me to in the past”. Yup. It likely happened many times, which sucks. But this is why we want to change things up.
It's easy to have self-doubt about your authority. Who the hell am I to say anything? I should be quiet and let someone else do the heavy lifting. What do I know about making someone a better person? I'm not perfect, why would I think I could help anyone? Basically, every late night self-doubt coming to the fore. Everyone has imposter syndrome.
You can't control the outcome, so it's important to detach from it. In my case, a large number of people will say "Beyond Billables is not for me" or "wtf are these guys on about?" or “I'm only here for the jobs.” It's ok to think that through, but you never really know until you release something, where it will go.
Change will upset some people no matter what. It's true, some of the recruitment industry will have their noses put out of joint by us shining a light on the problems lawyers and firms have. It's also true that in a conservative profession, pointing out that people are unhappy is uncomfortable for some.
You can't control other people's views. Stop worrying about controlling every outcome and stop assuming what others will think. We're not all perfect
Imposter syndrome kicks in for anyone who is self-reflective. It's all a matter of recognising it for what it is and learning to overcome it.
If you're afraid, it is a good sign. All change worth making requires courage.
Find an outlet to help you deal with fear whenever it rears its ugly head.
Stop trying to predict every outcome. Your predictions are mere thoughts that can capture and stop you.