How many times have we been in situations or had opportunities arise where our immediate reaction is “I couldn’t do that“? Our inner sense of self-doubt, our belief that we are not good enough, that we don’t possess the skills, or that we wouldn’t be capable. Deep down however, we would like to be good enough, the opportunity was interesting and engaging enough to capture our interest and to make us think. It raised a thought in our mind and some aspiration, but we chose to walk away and disengage.
Ok , maybe we are sometimes just being realistic – that we don’t currently have the skills necessarily to be a Ballerina, a Champion Show Jumper or an Olympic Swimmer, we are not an Astronaut or Brain Surgeon but everyone has to start somewhere. We were all born with the same basic start in life with a brain, from there we all developed our own sense of self, and through our environment and nurturing we developed in to the person we are today.
If you challenge yourself to take part, to enter and engage then you will be much further forward than walking away, you’ll never know if you could do it and will always wonder.
I entered the 10m/15k Great South Run in Portsmouth twice now, once in 2008 and again in 2016. Eight years apart, and I whilst I was eight years older the second time, I was also 8 stone lighter. The first time I finished, that was my goal, to complete the course and I did so in 3 hours and 56 seconds. I was determined to beat the Milk Float mopping up the rear and I did. I did virtually no training, I’m not proud of that, but it gave me a naivety about my ability to complete the course. Had I known how much effort, pain and determination it would take then I may well have just walked away and not tried.
The second time, I was aware of the challenge, I had done a few training sessions in the evenings around the local area, I knew how much of a toll it would take on my knees and feet, but I was confident this time that I could finish and my goal was simply to beat my previous time, score a new personal best if you like. I did beat my time, I made it in 2 hours and 34 minutes, nearly half an hour quicker. I had hoped that I would be able to complete it without walking, but at about the 6 mile mark my legs turned to jelly and I had to be realistic so started to walk. I managed to dig deep and complete the last mile at a jog and crossed the line with a huge smile on my face and an enourmous sense of acheivement.
I now have two Great South Run finisher medals proudly on display to remind me that whilst I didn’t win, I took part and I came ahead of those who didn’t take part.
A reminder that engaging in something reaps rewards even though your self-belief is turning you away. I still don’t define myself as a runner, it is not something that I aspire to but I am a competitor and choose to be in the race to the end.
In our professional life we also look at opportunities and on occasions choose to walk away, whether as a Salesperson we prejudge that the customer won’t be interested in our deal, whether we undervalue or under-price our services because we are not confident enough, or we look at a key requirements list for a job opportunity and feel we don’t tick enough of the boxes.
Fortune Favours the Strong
We have all met people who seem to effortlessly glide through life, everything they touch turns to gold, they are seemingly boundless in their confidence and always seem to succeed. We get jealous and sometimes dismiss these people as superficial or fly because they don’t seem to have to put in the effort. We however, always seem to have to graft and struggle to get anywhere.
I have come to the conclusion that much of this is about self-belief and self-confidence, overcoming our own sense of “Imposter Syndrome”. When you are confident it reflects on you well, you can engage with the situation and those around you. Very quickly you can be viewed as a “can do” person, someone who will adapt and be flexible enough to tackle whatever is thrown at them. Opportunities open up when you can be relied upon to deliver. If you invest in nurturing your persona and image then inevitably this will lead to more opportunities and you will develop trust in your own abilities.
No one is perfect, no one ticks all the boxes, but all you need to do is focus on is being the best at who you are, invest more time in raising yourself amongst your peers and competitors.
I recently had coffee with a long time business associate, he was telling me about his son who was working for a large UK based DIY chain in their HR department. An opportunity arose for promotion two levels about where he was at, there were others seemingly better placed and more experienced to take the role. At this point he could have walked away with his self-doubt intact, instead he decided to engage and go for it.
He wrote a short paper and plan for his “first 100 days” in the role, sought testimonials from key stakeholders in the business in favour of his suitability for the role and took these to the interview. He tackled this opportunity head on with a purpose and strategy. Needless to say he got the position and a £6K pay rise to go with it, his investment and strategy paid off.
You don’t need to out run the lion, just be confident that you are better prepared than those around you!
Being prepared, planning your approach, and investing time into an opportunity sets you up, it will instil self-belief and confidence and a “can do attitude“. Don’t worry about trying too hard, just be a more prepared than your competitors and believe in yourself.
Most of the time “good enough is good enough“, I have heard many discussions about this and how “only perfection will do” – if that is what we believe, then no wonder why we walk away and disengage or have a sense of inadequacy. How we define “good enough” is the key here, a Brain Surgeon is good enough is that the patient survives and goes on to live a long and fruitful life that they would not normally have experienced, good enough for a Pilot is that he lands the plan safely. Ok, the pilot might also have a number of other challenges to hit perfection, but when crunch comes to crunch we would all settle for being alive after a bumpy landing than no landing at all.
When you have successes, when you overcome challenges that you would have otherwise walked away from, when something goes your way against the perceived odds, then try and remember how that made you feel, capture that pride, passion and sense of achievement. You can use this memory as a motivator, something to give you the drive to step up and go for it when you are feeling like a pretender or imposter.
So, will I enter the Great South Run again?, sure I will, because I want to beat 2 hours, can I do it?, of course I can, I just need to start the race and believe in myself and one day I will!