Don’t Pass Me the Ball

Growing up I never wanted the ball in my hand when the game was on the line. I was too afraid to fail. I liked being a part of the supporting cast, I never wanted to be a leader. I wanted people to do the hard work for me.

I was afraid I would fuck up and people would see me in the same light I saw myself; a worthless failure who will never be good enough. Fear of living made me want to die or go to jail so I wouldn’t have to face the reality of actually living life. I was more afraid of living then I was of sitting in a jail cell having people make my decisions for me.

I never took responsibility for changing my own life, I just expected things to happen. The problem was, for many years I got by that way. I floated through life and things just happened for me. Poor behavior reinforced by reward leads to more poor behavior and unrealistic expectations of life.

Thankfully, life caught up with me and I was fortunate enough to experience a lot of pain because of my choices. I had to become accountable and make changes in my life. I can’t stand to think how boring my life would’ve been if everything kept coming easy to me. I would have no character, no experiences to share and no ability to overcome adversity when it struck.

Three years ago, my business partner and I had an idea to launch a discount business-to-consumer website for cell phone accessories. I sourced the products, we got the site set up and in a few months we were finally ready to launch. I expected to do a little advertising and sit back and watch the money pour in. That wasn’t the case.

I spent 6 months or more casually playing with ads on Facebook expecting to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars without having to do any real work. It’s absolutely insane to think that, but a part of me really thought it would happen. My delusions of grandeur were quickly crushed and reality set in.

I had no idea what hard work looked like or what it took to grow a business. I had to take accountability for the failure and I was responsible for finding a new path. I hated that thought. Even when we first decided to pivot from our initial idea, I expected others to do the work. To some extent they did, but eventually I had to step up and lead. Otherwise, no one would ever care about the business and rightfully so. I was overambitious and unrealistic. I believed overnight success existed.

Now I was faced with putting in hard work and doing things I really didn’t “feel” like doing. I had to start selling. I would get to work and look at the phone and be horrified to pick it up and make calls. I didn’t want to feel rejection or look foolish.

Every day I woke up fearful of doing my job. Even though the day before may have been a success, I started over with the same self-doubt. When I went into my office I felt butterflies in my stomach the first 5–10 or more times I picked up the phone to make calls.

Eventually things started to click, sales came in and the business grew. However, I still feel a little bit of fear everyday. When we have a strong sales month I become consumed with thoughts about how we will replicate it or do better next month. Where will I find leads for myself and my reps? Who can we sell to? What happens if we go backwards for a month? I know growth is rarely linear, but I’m apprehensive about a set back, even it’s only for a month. I afraid I’m too weak to handle the disappointment and I will use it as an excuse to quit and move onto something else.

I tell myself these stories because I fear the worst in the unknown. However, fear can also be useful tool against complacency. It forces me to get creative and learn new ways of generating business. It also compels me to find new verticals to sell into or new products to sell to existing customers. Customer acquisition is expensive and time consuming, selling new products to your existing base can be a great way to increase sales.

Some days are harder than others to shut down my inner resistance and do what needs to be done. I have a choice every day to either play the game or create excuses why I can’t. I remember hearing a saying in an AA meeting “It doesn’t matter how you feel, it only matters what you do.” It’s easy to make up an excuse for why I can’t accomplish something in my day. I don’t feel well, I’m tired, I’m stressed. For the most part it’s all bullshit. If rationalizing to make myself feel better was an Olympic sport, I could easily be a gold medalist.

Learning to carry the ball and become a leader has been difficult. I worry I may fuck up and ruin everything, almost on a daily basis. I’ve learned that it’s important to acknowledge fear, breathe into it, remind myself I can handle the consequences and then take action. Taking action in the face of fear builds confidence. It’s proof I’m capable of doing things I don’t want to or I’m afraid of. I may not always get the results I want, but the process is what’s important.

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