When I was young, I was selected to be a flying monkey in The Wizard of Oz, the school play. I had the experience of being a ballerina and gymnast in grade school, and so part of my role meant that I would be tethered to a harness to fly across the stage. I was accustomed to competing in front of large crowds, but I wasn’t used to trusting a harness to fly me across the stage in front of our California community. This was compounded by my fear of ruining the play for the older - much cooler - upper schoolers. It was that mixture of fear, nausea, and insecurity floating around in my stomach that brought me severe anxiety leading up to the play. Shortly before it was showtime, my dad pulled me close to him on the side of the stage while I fidgeted with my ponytails looking like I had seen a ghost, and he whispered in my ear: “those butterflies in your stomach? Embrace them, love them, because they mean you are about to do something great. I get them every time I step onto a court to coach a game.”
I remember when my son was running for President of his third grade class, and I said the same thing to him that my father said to me: “those butterflies, learn to love them because it means you are about to do something great.” The beauty of all of this was that my opening night flight was definitely not pretty! It was definitely a less-than-stellar performance, but by the 7th performance on closing night, I was pretty darn good! And my son? He lost the election, but he has run for something every year, because like me, he believes something great is on the horizon. Those butterflies are the ingredients that are all mixed up in a bowl before the cake comes. Sometimes the cake falls, fails, or tastes terrible, but all you can do is make another one, and then another one after that. With this constant effort, one day you will wake up as President, or CEO, or doctor, or artist - or whatever you dream up. You don’t become any of those things without butterflies. You don’t become any of those things without taking risks, or without experiencing failures.
To be a risktaker, you just need to have the courage to fail. Winston Churchill said, “success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” It’s believing in the butterflies in your stomach. The most successful people are those willing to expose themselves to failure. Remember the feeling you had when you were swimming to the other side of the pool for the first time? The fear you felt meant you were pushing yourself out of your comfort zone? Recently I read something that said, “happy people never stop growing. Happy people never stop discovering, never stop stretching, never stop learning. If you’ve stopped growing, you’re miserable, because you were made to grow.”
I talk about risktaking because I believe that we were made to grow. I believe a lot of our unhappiness comes from looking for happiness in places that don’t challenge us. Our society has a way of selling us a version that seems to include only rainbows and smiling emoji faces, when all along happiness is coming from the challenges, even the small ones: the 6 mile walk everyday, the phone call to an investor, trying out for a team, learning to play the piano at any age, going out for a play, learning a new language, complimenting a competitor after you lose, complimenting a competitor after you win, talking to a stranger, applying for medical school, getting a GED, learning to swim as an adult, starting a company, learning to read as a teenager, getting your pilot’s license, speaking your mind, aiming to play at Carnegie Hall, or winning a Pulitzer prize. These are risks because all of them include losing sight of the shore and trusting life.
Ignore the critics out there and ignore your inner critic and try this fun challenge:
Write down 10 things you would do if you couldn’t fail. Or, invert it if you are having problems thinking up ideas, and ask the question differently: if I knew my ideas would fail, what ideas would they be?
As my father told me later that night after I had flown across the stage, “anytime you don’t have butterflies, know greatness cannot find you.”
Quote of the week:
Winston Churchill: Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Podcast of the week:
SONG OF THE WEEK: