If you are plagued by self doubt…
Do you ever look back at the path you’ve trod, all the way back, to pinpoint the first domino, the one action you took way back that led you to where you are now?
For me, one of those actions had to do with HOW Magazine.
If I hadn’t “borrowed” an issue of the magazine that I found in a client’s office in 1990 and written a query letter to the editor, I would not be where I am today.
At the time, I had been self employed for 2 years, calling myself a “professional organizer” and helping creative types wrangle their paperwork and promote themselves. I came across an issue of HOW in a client’s office. I picked it up, flipped through it and, for some reason, although I had never written an article before, the thought that came into my head was this:
I could write an article for this magazine!
So I wrote a query letter to the Laurel Harper, Editor of HOW Magazine at the time, proposing my article idea.
A few weeks later, in the mail, I received Laurel’s response in the form of a contract to write the article I proposed for $500.
There is no question in my mind that I would not be where I am today if I had listened to any discouraging voices in my head or imagined that…
· because I’d never written an article before, the editor of HOW wouldn’t commission me to write my first…
· my idea wasn’t good enough for that magazine…
· the editor of HOW wouldn’t respond because I was no one…
Those are just a few of the things I could have done to get in my own way. To my credit, I didn’t.
That one action I took at the beginning of my career shaped the almost 30 years that followed. My gratitude goes to Laurel Harper.
Thank you, Laurel, for giving me the opportunity. The foot in the door you gave me laid the foundation for my career.
If I hadn’t written that letter…and if you hadn’t said yes…I would never have:
- written 7 business books!
- been offered that first speaking gig at the HOW Conference in 1993.
- co-founded the Creative Freelancer Conference or the Creative Entrepreneur track or the Get Better Clients Bootcamp (coming up in 2017 in Chicago) all via HOW Design Live.
- made connections with academic institutions such as Pratt, MICA and SCAD.
So if you are plagued by self doubt, my message to you is:
You have no idea what the outcome will be.
Or where it will take you.
Worse, if you let discouraging voices stop you, you eliminate the possibility for someone else to help you, to like your idea and to give you a chance. You are single-handedly shutting them out — and shutting yourself down.
Who are you to decide anyway? What do you know about…
· whether your idea is good enough?
· whether you’re qualified enough?
· whether they need what you have to offer?
It’s for them to decide!
In 1990, I let Laurel Harper make her own decisions. And I’m very glad she did.
What about you?
Which opportunities are waiting for you to say yes and see what happens? Which of your prospects just might decide they need your help?
If you’re not sure whether or not to reach out to someone, stop wondering and just do it, as they say. Put yourself out there. Introduce yourself. Ask a question. Propose something.
Whether or not they need what you’re offering is not your decision to make.
So, let it be theirs.
When I sent a version of this post out as a Quick Tip earlier this year, one reader responded with this:
Thank you Ilise, this email came when I needed to hear just what you had to say. I’ve been thinking of proposing a workshop and keep getting cold feet.
Is it a good idea(?), will they want to try it(?), do I have enough experience(?) . . . blah, blah, blah.
I’m going to take your lead and put it out there. Even if I don’t know how much to charge, how long it should run . . . maybe they can help me answer those questions.
This comment reminded me of something that seems to stop people often: the belief that before you initiate contact you first must have all your ducks in a row…and prepared answers for every possible question at the ready.
Not only is “having your ducks in a row” unnecessary, it’s pretty much impossible.
You have no idea how anyone will respond. Or what questions they will ask. And you’ll have plenty of time to formulate a response. Just say, “Let me consider that and get back to you.” In fact, that will keep the conversation going, which is what you want!
Remember, you don’t need to know the answer to every question before you say hello!
Just say hello. Find out what the questions are and then continue the conversation.
And if you’re still not sure and need a sounding board before reaching out to someone, I’d be happy to help.