Or, an object lesson in what happens when you ignore your own best advice.

A couple of months ago my bank ran a competition to award $20,000 to a small business owner. All you had to do was submit a video demonstrating how you’d use the money to grow your business. My banker kept suggesting that I enter the competition.

I just had one gigantic problem: I couldn’t picture it. I couldn’t picture how I would spend $20,000 to grow my business. And, even worse I was embarrassed to admit I couldn’t picture it. It sounds so lame when I write it down. PS It felt lame while I was feeling it, too, but I was definitely embarrassed.

Maybe it wasn’t that I couldn’t picture it. Maybe it was that I was afraid that I’d screw it up. I couldn’t even come up with an idea to start with. Okay. That’s a total lie. I had several ideas that I squelched. Shut those suckers down.

But what if I fail?

I also know I didn’t want to fail – like what does that even mean in this context? How could I fail? Sure, somebody would judge the videos, but how could I fail by creating the once piece of media that every single marketing person I talk to tells me to create? If I had created a video, I could have re-purposed it. Who knows what could have happened from there?

What if it was really that I didn’t want to let anyone down. What if I didn’t win? Would the people at the bank think less of me. Or, and here’s the kicker, would I think less of me?

This is exactly what happens when I trip up and find myself in the quagmire of my old way of thinking – that everyone is looking at me. That everyone has expectations for me that I don’t know or understand. That everyone has expectations for me that I don’t want to meet. I’ve spent decades learning to drown out this chorus of Harpies in my head.

Analysis Paralysis

I found myself paralyzed, totally incapable of even thinking about entering the contest. Even though I know an excellent videographer who would have helped me create the video. She would have loved to help me out.

Plus, I have a huge network of supporters, any one (or two or six or 12) of them would have helped me brainstorm how to use the money.

Or, I could have invested 30 minutes in thinking about it and ideas would have magically appeared because they always do when I take the time to pause.

I ended up feeling embarrassed and frustrated because I couldn’t figure out what to do. And I still haven’t told my cheerleaders at the bank that I didn’t apply.

Video vs Job Search

Perhaps there’s a parallel between not making the video and looking for a new job.

If we’re kind of comfortable right where we are at work – just enough stress, making good money, maybe a few long hours – it’s easy to stay in place. It’s easy to stay in place because changing things up is terrifying.

And what happens if someone comes up to us and offers us the job of our dreams. Would we fall into the same trap I did? Would we ask ourselves the same questions?

What if we’re not positive we can do the job? What if we embarrass ourselves by asking the wrong questions in the interview? What if we let our families down? Everybody will be looking at us, wondering why we’d risk leaving a sure thing. Even worse, they might ask us about the interview. Oh, and what if we don’t know how the interview went? Then what do we do?

Try This

Here’s what I should have done and what we can all do when presented with an amazing opportunity.

We can dare to dream. We can believe that our reach is much longer than our grasp. We can ask our friends and family for ideas and support.

And, if we can’t find the support we need in our community, we can find a coach to help us jump our mental hurdles and organize a plan of action. Or maybe we can find a group of people who want to elevate their careers, too.

Instead of looking what could go wrong, we could ask ourselves, what would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail? The point is to embrace that risk – to show ourselves that we do have grit. Sure we could fall down, but I’m doubly sure we’d get right back up and hit it again.

Just don’t do what I did. Don’t leave $20,000 on the table.