Fear is the biggest showstopper in your life and mine. A colleague asked me last week how I managed to quit my (well-paid) full-time job to start my own business.
“Are you courageous or were you afraid too?”
I told her that I was really scared. I had almost pulled out of my decision to leave my former employer when my manager gave me a book called “Feel the fear and do it anyway”.
I had a few tough moments over the last four years, the lowest point was probably last year when I supported a group and had to clean the bathrooms and bins and accidentally threw away my friend’s house-keys in a effort to clean up. She rummaged through the garbage and needless to say was not happy with me.
But in all those years whenever I confronted my fear and worked through my insecurities (usually with the support of my mentor or my coach) my business made a leap. You don’t have to be as crazy as me and jump ship. Leaving a job and all security behind especially when you depend on your income to support you is kind of insane. For me it was the right decision at the time and the way to go. Today, I take a more relaxed approach to my business as I have a part-time role and I grow my business on the side. It is a matter of choice in this country.
Having a choice is having power. Having a choice means that you are in the driver seat. Having a choice means that you may not be in the mental prison you feel stuck in. If you wish to understand more about fear you might want to read my older posts on this matter: Conquer your fears little Jedi and your wishes will be granted.
PS: If you are looking for a shortcut you can set up a meeting with me. Watch out for #Decemberdeal on Social Media. Like, RT and Share our hashtag #Decemberdeal and get a discount on our packages for 2017.
Sitting in front of a white paper to write a blog post can be a daunting experience. It happened to me several times this year. I wanted to write but did not have a topic or did not find my way in. Blogging used to be diary style so there were no rules initially. With the digitalization of our lives, the style of blogging changed. Today whatever you want to say you need to say it in a tweet or a video.
I wanted to be a writer as a child
Some members of my family laughed about this. My German teacher R. M., the best teacher in our school also encouraged my creative process. My dad supported and encouraged me to continue to write poetry and short stories. Two of my short stories were published in children’s compilations. I never won a price but hey, my name was out there in print. Dad and I went on a holiday to Italy and both sat on the beach writing or reading for a week. It was heaven.
The same year my father and sister died in a car accident. With them, I buried most of my hopes at becoming a writer. For a long time after this traumatic experience, I was in “survival mode”. I never thought I would write again. At the time, I only read how hard it was to become a journalist or start a career that involved writing.
Like many people with many talents, I studied International Business Studies at the University of Paderborn (Germany). In 1992 this was innovative. The course contained a major in English and French (or Spanish) language and cultural studies. We were only the elitist second year (with around 70 students) and you needed to have a high GPA to get in. While I had no clue where exactly Paderborn was when I enrolled, I learned that I was lucky that I studied at a university with a well-known IT research department and a well-known professor in international human resources. (Sometimes dots do connect Mr. Jobs).
Call it fate, but at the age of 23, I was the guinea pig and went to study with an inspirational professor at the University of Tasmania (Australia). Thank you to Dr. Peter Dowling and Dr. Sarah Knowles. Through Peter, I was able to write a thesis which inspired the idea to build my company Global People Transitions GmbH. I drove back from Hobart (Tasmania, Australia) in a blue 1972 VW-Beetle after having conducted interviews with civil engineers. These civil engineers had been sent abroad without proper training and without the right framework (financial, social security, tax, immigration…there were all sorts of issues). I did not feel ready to start out on my own, so I went into the corporate HR world.
Within my career in corporate HR, I started to write again. First, it was a training manual one of my colleagues introduced me too. I wrote blog posts. I wrote down stories of international assignees and their intercultural experiences. I wrote for HR magazines for free. One New Year’s day I explored and developed a mini-poetry blog on Blogger. Then I practiced writing by writing a short story. Through a friend I met at The Powerhouse Zurich I was introduced to a whole new world, started to join writer’s workshop Zurich and did an online course with Ash Ambirge on copywriting.
Still I was not able to say “I am a writer…” without blushing or without playing it down.
After reading a book by Jeff Goins called “You are a writer: So start acting like one” I learned that I need to actually write every day. I wish I would. At least, I managed to self-publish two books already. These days I am working on “The Global Career Workbook”. I love the work again. I want to improve and feel ready to take in more.
I have a tendency to overwhelm myself with trying to achieve too many projects at once. So in the middle of working on my newest book I ran out of money last year. I had to ask providers to stop working for me until I had more funds…and then I shelved (or “drawered”) the draft. My editor moved into another role and I did not feel the pressure to finish. I got a rather negative feedback, wrote a post about it and got busy with other work. Between January and July 2015 I hardly wrote. I procrastinated, found excuses, got afraid and I guess that is when I started to glare at white paper. I often closed my typewriter. (I don’t work with a typewriter, but I call my MacBook air “Schreibmaschine”).
As a writer, you can easily get distracted and I knew that I made a mistake when my coach Dr. Eva Kinast called me out on it. She said, “I think the writer in you is neglected.” I knew she was right because in my vision of what I wanted to do at 65 it was a writer. I want to write and publish novels, I want to read books like the maniac reader I was as a child. I want to critique books and write for magazines. I would love to write screenplays and I want to use my creative brain in the best manner possible.
But often we do not do what we want…but everything else.
When I listen to other writers I understand that I am not that crazy. That they also have self-doubt, writer’s anxieties and block. I feel encouraged when I hear how long it took them to succeed. And all the time I tell myself: “But you are not an English native speaker. You will never be as good as they are.” (It’s true.)
When I wrote this I realized that I had English as a major in university. Even though I am not a native speaker I write at a fairly high level. There are editors out there who can correct errors. The world is full of collaborators. Why am I still staring at a blank page?
It’s the worry monster again. The fear of failure. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of being called out.
And while I am typing this I know that I have never been as ready as today to tell you.
I am a writer!
There is a fantastic personality test on this blog. Find out if you are meant to be a writer too and if yes, let me know if you need any resources.
Have you ever been in a situation where your initial reaction was fear showing by you getting worried that you’ll be losing everything, been found an imposture or knowing that you’ll be criticized for something you knew was a bit risk
With a bit of distance you probably noticed that all of these situations were harmless and that you made them a lot bigger with your fear.
I have probably told you already that even after having graduated more than 15 years ago I still have a recurring dream that I failed at Math (which funnily enough was one of my best subjects ever).
Seven Shades of Fear
I thought that if I am ridden by fear, it might be that you face fears as well. Have you recently had any of those?
Fear of not being genuinely likeable and just being liked because you have money, work for a brand, you have influential friends etc. (1)
Fear of not being good enough and being found out (2)
Fear of not taking enough charge and being considered slack (3)
Fear of losing everything and ending up under a bridge (4)
Fear of spiders, cats, airplanes (5)
Fear of your imminent death (6)
Fear of getting too close to someone and possibly getting hurt (7)
As we become older (not wiser) we see more risks and it is legitimate to decide that certain risks are too high for us to take in this situation of our lives. However, fear should not stop us from doing anything that is important to us.
Just do it and work with your fear
That allowed me to attend a wedding in Pakistan (probably the safest trip I have been on in the last few years), start my own business by leaving a well-paid job and going on a two-day alpine hike with sneakers (sliding down a snow field on my butt).
Fear is a compass but when fear turns into anxiety it blocks your ability to live the life you want. As a coach I advise you apply these seven techniques:
1) If you are afraid of a project: Break it down in very small items and tasks. Manage one task every day.
2) If you are afraid of not being likeable work for charity. Do something for others without expecting any reward.
3) If you see yourself procrastinating write of your fear to friends. Commit to a first action step.
4) If you are afraid of losing everything start to budget your spending, learn about finances and start saving money.
5) If you have an anxiety disorder such as fear of animals seek therapy. There are ways to heal these anxieties.
6) If you are afraid of dying work on your physical health and get advice how you can improve your health. Start small walks.
7) If you are afraid of loving someone who might break your heart love someone who loves you first and shows you love through action. (Or get a dog.)
Did you just have one of those days where nothing seems to work and the bread fell down with the buttered side? Or where you just want to have a “quick” cup of coffee and then you drip the coffee all over your white blouse – just before that client meeting?
Then you almost start crying and you cannot even find one good argument in the client meeting why they should work with you instead of anyone else in the market. You start to babble and you know that you have lost them. Or you sit in that interview and the HR Manager tells you “We will get back to you.” and you know it will be a rejection email again.
Neuro-scientists have found out that we have different areas in our brain. When you are driven by fear your most primal part of the brain gets activated. In the “fight” or “flight” mode you won’t be able to develop good solutions to any issue you might be facing right now. Challenges and obstacles will block your mind and you might consider yourself ready for therapy.
While you are in that “the world is unfair”-mode you will not also not be able to come across as strong and professional. Whether you are looking for a new job or whether you are trying to get a promotion at your old job you won’t come across as self-confident as you have been pushed out of your inner “middle”. (In German we say “innere Mitte” and we mean the place where you are at ease with yourself and where you accept your flaws as well as your strengths).
Best is to call it a day, go home and apply this method.
1)Distract your mind with soothing music. Turn on relaxing music on your i-pod, go for a walk or a dance class before you return to your issue at hand.
2) Ask your brain an open ended question such as “How can I serve this client better than others?” It is important that the question starts with “HOW…?”.
3) Do something completely different such as housework or go to sleep.
4) Set a timer for 25 minutes and write down all solutions that come to your mind without stopping yourself or judging them.
Later you can structure your thoughts and devise an action plan. I have noticed though that the more ideas I write down the better. It does not mean that I have to implement all of them but I need to write down about 20 ideas before I come up with new ones. So don’t stop yourself too early. It’s also fun to do this exercise in a group.
Confronting challenges is hard for anyone – no matter how prepared or not one is. Take recent university graduates for example. As they enter the professional workplace for the first time, they come with all the best and newest information available in their fields, but are challenged by how to apply this information in a real life setting. Self-confidence can drop as feelings of insecurity increase. Women tend to be more susceptible than men to feeling discouraged and often blame themselves when things go wrong. The fact is we all make mistakes; we just don’t all fess up to them. Don’t let the self-disabling belief that you aren’t good enough or are under-qualified hold you back. Believing in yourself is key to overcoming denial and achieving your goals.
Most of my professional life I’ve wanted my own coaching and consulting company. As early as 1996 I had the dream of starting my own business and in 1999 I even recorded my desire in my diary. Over the years I remained dedicated to my dream despite the setbacks and challenges I had to face. After all that patience and hard work, my husband and I have set-up Global People Transitions GmbH, a limited liability company in Switzerland in 2010 to serve global people in intercultural transitions through consulting, coaching and training. First we started to run the business part-time and when my husband got a full-time role I finally took the leap and left my corporate role (and financial security) to run the business full-time. My main challenge was (and sometimes still is) my own fear of failure. Once I got over that fear through a lot of coaching and encouragement from people like my former boss Michaela who believed in me I knew that I could tackle every challenge, one day at a time. Now, I find my work and life even more rewarding and do a lot of projects I never dreamt of doing a few years back.
Believe in yourself, follow your dream and in that moment of truth, stand-up for what you believe in. If you feel no one believes in you, we should arrange to meet. I can help you see your potential, encourage you to believe in yourself and teach you how to regain the strength you need to go on.