Glinda the Good Witch
When you are on a journey of finding your true Good and bringing it into the world, there are lessons for you everywhere. The whole world has things to teach you about how to become what you need to become. The business lessons I learned from my car, for example, are probably more important than all the webinars I’ve listened to, put together.
So, I got a new car a few months ago.
It is a lovely car, a little 2012 Ford Focus. Black. Nearly new, low mileage. Lots of whizzy things on it that make it feel pretty fancy, indeed. It was perfect.
Except for it’s manual transmission.
Now, I’ve driven a stick plenty in my life. The first car I ever drove was a big four-door dually truck on our farm in Texas. It had a terrible habit of not wanting to go into reverse, and my short 13-year-old legs could just barely get the clutch in far enough to start it. It was a monster.
And when I moved to the UK, I took hours and hours and hours of driving lessons in a manual transmission because that’s the only way to get a full license there. (Fat lot of good those lessons did. I failed my first UK driving test, but I won’t relive that delightful experience just now).
The point is, I knew HOW to drive a manual. I just wasn’t very good at it.
The mechanics of it were all understood, and if I concentrated rrreeeaaaallly hard, I could just about keep from stalling and/or slamming into the car behind me on a hill. Almost. I had never gotten past that beginner phase of having to think hard to get the job done. I never felt confident.
I was literally sick with anxiety every time I had to drive this car. I planned my route and avoided hills. I prayed for lights to stay green so I didn’t have to stop. I took the other car (an automatic, of course) if I had to go somewhere unfamiliar, just in case the terrain was not level enough. As long as I stuck to the familiar routes and roads, at least I could concentrate on shifting and clutch control, rather than navigating and watching for signs.
I talked to myself a lot. Sometimes, I also talked to the car. Begging for teamwork, for grace, for it to just. Keep. Going.
Eventually, my confidence began to grow and my anxiety lowered. It took a month or two of driving it every day, and forcing myself to keep driving it, but now I can honestly say that I can confidently drive a stick anywhere.
The transformation from terrified driver to confidence with this car resembles my journey with my business in many ways. Here are some business lessons I learned from my car.
1. Big Giant Scary Things are never as bad as they look from a distance.
Looking at a hill from far away, I’d be terrified of the possibility of having to stop at the top of one for a light or slowing traffic. But the truth is, almost every single time that happened, the top of the hill was never as steep or as scary as I thought it was going to be. As long as I took it slowly, and just kept the car moving, I learned that those big hills were completely manageable. And the more I did them, the easier they got.
With my car, and with my business, the things I fear the most are rarely as scary once I get to them as I think they are going to be. Step by step, inch by inch, I make progress and before I know it, I’ve done the impossible!
2. Just because I am afraid of something, doesn’t mean I can’t (or shouldn’t) do it.
I’m a big advocate of listening to your gut and trusting your intuition, in life and in business. I had always had a fear of driving a manual, despite having done it quite a bit. Fear is a funny thing though. Despite several people telling me not to get a car I was afraid of, I KNEW I needed to face my fear and push through until I got comfortable with it.
I know this is true in my business as well. There are things I am absolutely terrified of doing. But I know I need to do them, to push through, to learn to enjoy them somehow so my business grows. There are other things that feel icky, ill-fitting, and just wrong for me. They are things I don’t want to do because they aren’t right for me.
Fear is easily misinterpreted as an instinctual gut feeling about something. But if it alone is the overriding feeling, it’s probably not a good criteria on which to make my business decisions.
3. There is a point where I have to stop looking to others to teach me, and just do it.
One of the first things I did when I got this new car was to look up youtube videos on “how to drive a stick.” My search results came up mainly with 16 year old boy-racers with a wealth of information I didn’t need. I couldn’t find what I wanted. And the reason for this is that learning this particular skill requires doing it. No amount of “how-to” videos or instructions were going to really help me.
Driving a manual transmission well requires muscle memory, which means you can’t actually do it consciously. Like walking or riding a bike, if you think about it too much and let your conscious mind try and manage your body, things don’t go well. The more I tried to think about it, rehearse my movements, and consciously, logically go through the steps of clutch up, acceleration, watching the revs, etc., the more likely I was to mess up. But if I focused on feelings, letting go of the control I wanted to have over the car and working together with it, things got a lot easier!
This is also true with my business. I’m a full-blown control freak about most things. But with my business, the more I try to control things, to force them to bend to my will, the more difficult things seem to become. I have to consciously relax into my days sometimes. I have to invite my business into my life, and let it become what it needs to become. We bend and shape each other, but on the whole, we are a partnership.
As time goes by I see that my work is coming through me, and is not of me. Because I am not building empires or widgets, I have to let there be flow, let it be easy, and let my work be guided by my unconscious knowing. The moment I step out of this place, my work and my life suffer.
My car and I are definitely working in partnership now, and when I get stressed or in a hurry and revert to my controlling-self, I stall or shift badly and my car shouts at me to get my act together.
My business is very similar. It’s my thoughts and the energy I bring to my work that makes a difference as to the opportunities that come to me, the success of the coaching sessions I have with clients, and to my feelings about life in general. It’s taken me some time to realize it, but the truth is that I have much more success when I focus on controlling my own mindset and emotions than when I try to control the entire world, past, present and future! This is the shift that has made the biggest difference for me in my work.
And I’m letting go of that fear of failure a little bit more each day. The truth is, despite my terror of stalling my car, or of being out of control on a hill, I only once stalled it in traffic and only once had trouble on a hill. Both these things happened within the first week of owning the car, and I handled both beautifully. Disaster averted!
My business will continue to thrive only if I apply the same lessons to it. Stalling is not failure. Control is an illusion. I only need to feel my way through this and keep at it. And it gets easier! I promise, it does!Read More
Yesterday was the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream…” speech. We’re all familiar with this moving and important speech, and regardless of your politics, it cannot be denied that that speech was powerful. But why? And aside from the message of equality and freedom, what can we, as modern-day Do-Gooders, learn from Dr. King’s speech to help us carry on our Good Works?
In my “Getting your message to the World” workshop that I do with non-profit leaders, I often talk about the “I have a Dream” speech. It is a fantastic example of how we need to be communicating our message and sharing our own vision with the world. Do you want to get more funding? More volunteers? More clients who want to work with you? Tell them your dream. Tell them your vision of how you want the world to change, and how your work plays a part in that vision.
If you aren’t clear yet on your vision, ask yourself what would happen if you had all the resources of the world to help you in your work. What would change if every single person in the world dropped whatever they were doing and committed to helping you do one thing. What would you say to them? What would you ask them to do?
If you had all the money, all the time, all the resources of the whole world, what Good would you want to do?
And what difference would that make? What would be different about everyday life for people? How would the world be changed?
Your business vision should be that big! Don’t be afraid to have a dream, and let it be as big as it can be. It doesn’t have to be achievable in your lifetime, and it should be bigger than anything you can possibly do alone. It should make you smile, make you get goosebumps, it should inspire you and make you want to rush out and start. Right. Now.
And most of all, it should be something that you can’t wait to stand up in front of thousands of people and talk about.
When your work is about asking people to change their behaviors, shift perspective, or to join a cause for Good, you must speak to their hearts. And the only way to do this is to speak from YOURS.
Dr. King was nothing if not a genius orator. But did you know that the “I have a dream” section of his speech wasn’t even planned? In the original speech, it didn’t exist. That was him, speaking from his heart, painting a picture of how each and every one of those demonstrators was helping to change the world.
Your vision of Good can do the same! Don’t short change your Good. Spend some time letting yourself dream. And share your dream with anyone who will listen!Read More