The Gift that Nothing Brings

There’s a sweet symphony of emotions that happens when you’re readying yourself to share your inner most dreams and desires. It’s the build-up to what will surely prove to be a life-altering occasion. Despite the outcome and the events that may or may not transpire after you hit the send button or utter the words you’ve been dying to say or share that crazy idea you fear will be laughed it, nothing is as satisfying as knowing that you believed in something so much that you embraced fear head on to walk into the sunset of truth.

About two hours ago, I hit send. Until that moment, I was racked with nervousness and doubt. I’ve been tinkering with this idea for almost a year, during the time that I was falling out of love with my last job and moving deeper into my journey to becoming a better me. The idea is deceptively simple: create a loyalty program for volunteerism. As the saying goes, the devil’s in the details as the actual mechanics of this concept are quite complicated requiring the partnership of big firms with big data capabilities and even bigger hearts to drive its success.

At its core, the concept focuses on rewarding volunteers for the services they provide. The more good they do, the more good they get. The platform would ideally be provided on a mega social network like Facebook who has the scale, data chops, and ambition to drive meaningful societal change and who coincidentally has a division specifically focused on social good. Companies like Disney or Patagonia would provide the rewards because they would have the opportunity to engage with civic-minded consumers eager to support businesses that stand for something greater than their bottom line.

I’ve always maintained that companies can drive bigger profits by genuinely engaging with their consumers and not just by focusing on how many dollars we can extract from their wallets. We just need to find a way that makes good business sense for companies to incorporate social impact into achieving greater ROI. There are a few more details I won’t bore you with, but I think overall this concept is exactly what our fractured nation needs, which is a movement based on the collective desire for positive change that helps others while helping ourselves.

I know what you’re thinking, “It’s a crazy idea! Who would buy into this?” And that’s exactly where I’ve been for the last several months. As I worked through the details creating a snazzy little deck to illustrate the ins and outs of the idea, that little voice of doubt kept whispering, “What’s the point? Who’s going to listen to you? They’re just going to laugh.” What a vicious little voice it was. But something else inside me told me to keep at it. “Just finish,” I kept thinking. There was something waiting for me on the other side of this. I could feel it.

I finished the idea back in October, and mustered everything I could to share the spiffy deck with two friends I felt I could trust. Still, sharing something like this that I care so deeply about (and am so personally invested in) is terrifying to say the least. There were many moments where I thought that perhaps the purpose of this side-project was to get my creative juices flowing again, to prove to myself that I still have the drive to dream up worthwhile endeavors. I tried to rationalize that I’d be happy just filing it away into my archives as a memento to dust off once I crept into my sunset years.

But of course, the more I rationalized, the more the other voice kept talking. “You have nothing to lose, just go for it. Be brave, you are enough.” Eventually that voice won out. One of my friends provided encouragement and enthusiasm beyond expectation. More than that, she gave thoughtful feedback on how I could make the idea better. I have yet to receive any words from my other friend, though I expected that as she’s been traveling abroad since I made the request.

I took the suggestions and made some tweaks and for a while I basked in the glow of knowing that I had accomplished what I initially set out to do. I followed through on an idea I felt strongly about and had the guts to share it with others. That alone was already a magnificent feat in my book and I tried to rationalize that it was enough. But that nagging voice kept returning, egging me on to hit send once more but this time to someone who isn’t biased by friendship. It was hard to get unstuck. The grips of unworthiness and doubt can feel quite warm and comforting when contemplating the cold reality of rejection and ambivalence. That all changed yesterday when I stumbled upon this very quote in Seth Godin’s book “Tribes”:

“It’s uncomfortable to stand up in front of strangers. It’s uncomfortable to propose an idea that might fail. It’s uncomfortable to challenge the status quo. It’s uncomfortable to resist the urge to settle. When you identify the discomfort, you’ve found the place where a leader is needed. If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader.”

I knew I wanted to lead even if it’s only leading myself to realize that nothing is worse than wallowing in self-doubt and regret over something that you never did. As I’ve said before, I’d rather fail trying to do something worthwhile than succeed at something I’m apathetic towards. Two hours ago, I relinquished my claim on self-doubt and wallowing and hit the send button once more to bask in the light of faith and bravery.

Whether something or nothing happens with my idea hardly matters now because I’ve already gained exponentially by the simple act of hitting send. I demonstrated to my harshest critic, myself, that I am brave and I am worthy. I took the grandest leap of faith possible sharing something that I love with the world not knowing how it will be received. In doing so, I’ve proved to myself that the act of giving is enough. Nothing happening is a fallacy anyways because it only focuses on the end result, the final destination. It fails to take into account all the plentiful somethings that have accumulated throughout the journey.

I was right in that there was something waiting for me on the other side of this project. It’s me but a lot braver and more proud than I could ever imagine. I never could have dreamt how crazy beautiful this wild journey would be to realize the strength of hitting one tiny button. In a way, hitting send is like saying “yes” to life and all the things that I desire. That, to me, is the greatest nothing of all.