I’ve been a people pleaser from day one. It’s a trait I’ve had to fess up to and work to recognize it when I see it. I’m one of the middle kids in my parent’s lineup, and us middle children tend to like to keep the peace. Before I graduated high school however, I distinctly recall a period of time that I wish I would’ve acted differently in.
I would’ve been seventeen, only a few months away from graduating. It was at this point when I started stressing out about the future (in specific, returning to college to finish out my degree in business). I remember having so many questions and hypothetical situations stirring around in my head that I’d end up with a headache. Now, it’s easy to roll my eyes at myself today and wonder why I got so worked up, but as I was thinking about writing this post, I was recalling those very real feelings of uncertainty and doubt (each phase of life has moments like this, I believe).
The interesting thing I realize today is not that I shouldn’t have got stressed out about the future; my regret is all the time I spent asking everyone else what they thought about it. I asked everybody and their dog what their thoughts were on degree vs. starting a career. I asked engineers, accountants, designers, business owners, uncles… I even got this spreadsheet back from one of them:
(Click to enlarge)
It took several weeks of this thrashing, questioning, and stressing to come to the realization that, even with all that feedback, it was still my decision. I still had to make the call. It was my life.
A lot of kids wrestle with the same questions I did. So do a lot of business owners, college students, entrepreneurs, and employees. “What will so-and-so think of me doing this?” or, alternatively “how do I know this is what I’m supposed to be doing?” These are tough questions to answer in the heat of the moment. But what we need to be doing is embracing and moving forward with the confidence of knowing that it might not work, but we’re going to give it our best shot. If we can treat our lives as a play-by-play and repeatedly deliver on our promises, build relationships, and do our work so that it makes a difference in the world, we no longer need the answers to those questions. Instead, we can find the answer within the work we’re doing.
Seth Godin published a blog post the other day with a link to a conversation he had with a few business owners along these lines. If you can find $6.99 to buy the recording, I highly recommend doing so. Two hours that will change your perspective of your business, your college life, or your job.
Move forward. Deliver your work. If you fail, learn and deliver something else. Care and connect. Don’t get hung up on what other people will think or say or do. You’re the one in charge. Echo what Leonard Bernstein said: “I’m no long quite sure what the question is, but I know that the answer is ‘Yes'”.