The Hard Truth: Getting out of your own way.
This past week for me has been largely a roller coaster of emotion and excitement,with the culmination of the 7 days welcoming in an amazing change in my life. For those of you who have not read my last 2 posts, I have been extremely fortunate to be welcomed onto Seth Godin's latest project, The Domino Project, with some pretty amazing individuals. You can see more about our super star team here, here, here, here, here, and one more that is soon to come.
But this great excitement has also shed light on the situation of those around me, those whom I love and care for immensely, those who are enduring great stress and a sense of insecurity. What I mentioned before is that I was welcomed onto one of the most exciting ventures ever with one of the coolest mentors possible. What I didn't tell you is about the months leading up to that journey...
I came to NYC on July 17, 2010 with the goal of finding myself. I came with enough money in the bank to cover myself for a few months. It started out amazing! I landed a job with an amazing start-up that gave me the stability I needed, when everything else in my life was so hectic. My boyfriend and I lived in a small bedroom in his family's house in the Bronx, NY. Their kindness in allowing us to live there at a discounted rent was quite gracious of them; a true blessing. However, emotionally it took its toll.
The room was quite small, and we had no living space for guests. Think freshman year, college dorm style.
Between the 1+ hour commute to get into Manhattan, and the 2 hours from friends and family in Brooklyn, I felt isolated. I needed to develop a social network, and feel a social connection, one that I didn't yet have.
On top of that, everyone that lived in the house with us (cousins, friends, siblings) had decided to leave. That would mean we would have to share a house with random tenants if we stayed. We knew we had to move, so we began looking.
For anyone who has ever apartment hunted in NYC, it is a daunting task. We worked during the week, and dedicated our weekends to finding an apartment. We must have looked at 50 apartments! With time and energy running thin, we made the decision and just applied to the one that seemed to make the most sense.
The day I found out that we were accepted into our apartment, was the same day that my boss called me into her office with some upsetting news.
The well had run dry. Cash flow was zip.
As a result, my hours were being cut from 35 to 10 in one week, and I had to not only come up with money for a brand new apartment, but also figure out how I was to pay rent, amongst my other expenses (food?), moving forward.
So as my boyfriend called me shortly after that morning conversation to congratulate me on the wonderful news, I laughed and smiled with him, biting down the feeling of fear rising in my chest, not knowing how I was going to make it all work.
I luckily picked up other work to supplement my decrease in hours, but the work was virtual and inconsistent. I felt more isolated than ever, and the money I was earning was not enough to pay for the most basic of expenses (rent, food, electricity). The stress of what felt like my world unraveling was immense.
I started to not sleep. I worried about where I would get clients, and how I would shield this news from my partner; I didn't want him to worry and I didn't want him to think I had lost control. On top of that, I didn't have money to spend on basic, leisurely activities. I had to count my money down to the penny, which only led to increased stress and worry.
The truth is that I didn't know what I was doing. I was trying my very best, using the resources I had and creating new avenues of wealth. But for 2 months, the situation was feeling dreary. I knew inside that something had to change; it was time.
And then one not so special Monday morning, I, plus 1 million other viewers, get the 6:00 AM blog post sent to my email address from Seth Godin that states he is looking for apprentices for the The Domino Project.
I was elated! What perfect timing!
At that point in time, I was emotionally and financially dancing on rock bottom. I am fiercely proud, and wouldn't have let anyone know it at the time. but I found myself questioning my path daily.
What was I doing?
Why did I feel I had to come to NYC?
Why did I follow that stupid gut feeling?
Sometimes my fears turned into a battering voice:
"Nice Lauryn. Now what?"
His application came at the perfect time. My goals had been to significantly increase my income and work with the greatest, most ethical innovators of all time. Seth Godin fit the bill on both...
So I applied.
And it took everything out of me. It reminds me of the movie The Pursuit of Happiness when Will Smith spends his last dollar on the light bulb to fix his last x-ray type machine so that he can sell it to an interested doctor. If it didn't work, he would be broke. If it did work, he would be able to sell the machine, have some money and be able to feed his son. His back was against the wall, and the only secure decision was to do nothing. The security was that his situation would remain just as shitty. Gotta love the security of misery!
But when you're in the middle of a moment like that, it requires immense faith. And make no mistake, it's scary.
I put myself into every media form I could to translate my passion, my drive and my capabilities to a man who could have chosen anyone. I faced the reality of not getting it, of having to console myself if the aftermath were to reveal that I wasn't chosen.
But an equal fear to the ego blow, was the even greater financial insecurity that I took on to get this opportunity.
I had spent 3 days working on this application. Those 3 days were days I did not work- meaning no pay-, and my bank reserves were running low.
Similar to Will Smith's position- if I didn't get the job, I'd be facing a month with bills due, and little cash flow. But, if I did get the job, I would be the richest woman in the world on so many levels. But to get to the latter, I had to take a chance.
I repeat, I had to take a significant chance and significant leap of faith.
There was no other option, and no other way around it.
And I got the job.
And it wasn't because Seth took pity on me, or because I made an application about how badly I deserved it. I dug deep within myself to find the energy and excitement to make a presentation that would solve his problems. My application was funny, persuasive, charismatic, and passionate among other things. It wasn't passive, meek or mild; it was explosive.
It was the end of the 4th quarter of a playoff game for me, and I was buckled over, out of breathe, with my hands on my knees looking up at the clock with 10 seconds to go. It was a tie game, and there was time enough on the clock for one shot, and I insisted on taking the ball. I was exhausted, to the point of tears with desire, confusion and want. I get the ball; I take the shot. All eyes on me... would I make it?
I say all of this to show you the back end of success. This for me is living proof of achieving your dreams. Beyond the immediate success, I want you to understand the road to get here.
I have witnessed countless people in my life who put themselves through static agony. They endure painful situations, or bring more of the same crap onto their plate, with no real reward at the end. They aren't pursuing anything; they are existing.
And it makes me so sad. I want to be able to help Joe step up to the plate in his own life and bat for himself. I want him to see how talented he is, so that he will have enough confidence to know that whatever obstacle he is presented with, he will have the answers when that time comes. I want him to experience the joy of triumph, the joy of playing your heart out, risking utter failure, and then winning.
I want to help Sara work less. I want her to see that she cannot control everything, and she is not responsible for everyone around her. She needs to trust that she can remove herself from the drama of others' lives and that all will be ok. I say this because she hurts herself in the midst of trying to support everyone around her; she has no time or energy to do anything that she enjoys. The sad thing is that every time good seems to enter her life, it is soon replaced with more drama and more stress.
I can't walk the necessary paths for the individuals I care about. Shoot, mine is hard enough!
To all the Joes and Saras of the world: you just need to get out of your own way. No more excuses, no more justifying why your miserable state needs to continue. And don't fight back with me when I say this.
Take a step forward. Do something different and daring, and enjoy it!
There will be failures, there will be setbacks, there will be tears, there will be strife. But in the midst of that great journey is triumph, adventure and meaning.
So just do it. Get out of your own way and allow yourself to succeed.
If I can do it, so can you.
So go! Make it happen.
And tell me all about it when you're done!