I can’t remember where I was or when it was that someone said this phrase to me the first time. I have a feeling it was in a meeting, or a training session (there were a lot of them in the GWR/GCap days).
It’s something which has stuck with me from that very first time of hearing it…
It’s sort of become a bit of a mantra over the years and I’ve leaned into more and more, and especially when presented with an opportunity or decision- do the thing that scares you the most! It doesn’t mean be reckless or dangerous, or even overtly risky. It’s about choosing the thing that you think you might have to challenge yourself to grasp.
I remember when I was programming a radio station in my home city of Derby, where I had presented breakfast for many years also. I was offered the job of programming a bigger station, Trent in Nottingham. It scared me… a lot. I knew I would be able to do it, but the scale and the stakes were higher. I would become, I think only the seventh programmer that Trent had ever had since it launched in 1975. I was comfy in Derby and I knew it well and was having a good time with some great people. Some might say it was a no brainer decision and would probably be right, but it still scared me and made me pause.
I’ve never been one to hopscotch around the country from place to place and job to job, even though I’ve driven the length and breadth in regional and group roles! I turned down working in London a few times, and in fact it was only at the fourth time of asking did I say yes to the Group Programme Director role at Smooth- another really scary decision.
What is the point of this wander down the Dick Stone memory lane?
I guess it’s to offer some advice. If you have a choice, if you are presented with something which seems bigger than you can manage, or you think might be a reach- err towards grasping it. If you don’t then you will miss out on some incredible learning, new skills and knowledge and a vast amount of experience which will better enable you to make decisions in the future. You probably don’t know what you are capable of and if you are presented with an opportunity where someone thinks you can do string but you don’t… try it! It’s entirely possible, and perhaps probable, that they see something in you that you can’t see because of that self protection, cautious preservation angel sitting on your shoulder.
This doesn’t mean that you have to say YES to everything by the way. The normal rules of what you find acceptable in terms of geography, package and lifestyle fit of course are paramount, but assuming all that works for you and you are still wobbling… because it all seems a bit scary, then that’s the point to jump in.
Then there is the progression argument. What might this next opportunity lead to next? Where might you be in five or ten years time as a result of making this move? Just like the movie “Sliding Doors”, everything that happens could rest on having the courage or just making that next step.
I once did a presentation with a group of people around giving their staff “Failure Vouchers”. In fact, you gave them half a failure voucher and the other half when they tried something new and it didn’t work. Without trying they wouldn’t know and they wouldn’t have tried something new, which in reality might well work! The point was removing the fear of failure, so you try something.
Some of the world’s biggest and most successful creative companies have a “let’s see” budget. To try things which may or may not work in the hopes of finding a hit. TV series have pilots for that reason.
You might well fail- but without at trying you won’t succeed either, in fact it’s a nailed on certainty.
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