Monday, January 7, 2013

Out on a Limb

We do our best work when we are out on a limb.  No, not 'good' work, not 'gee I met deadline and
budget' work, not 'that'll keep me employed and might give me a raise at the end of the year work', I mean our very BEST work, our 'This will change the face of how people see me, buy stuff, think about stuff' work.

When we are out on a limb we are leading.  We hope others will see our vision and follow, but we start by being out there on our own making change.  We are pushing, pulling, stretching, transforming, challenging  the status quo in some way, and that requires us to take a risk.  We risk being mocked and ridiculed.  We risk being seen as wrong.  We risk being out on that limb alone... for a very long time... before others 'get' it and begin to follow us and we risk being out there alone with no one following us... ever.  

The problem, of course, is that it is damn uncomfortable out there on that limb.  Fear of falling (read... FAILING) keeps us playing it safe hugging the tree (read... maintaining the STATUS QUO).  Fear can make us give in to the pressures of others around us to conform.  Worrying about what our audience will think and say about what we're doing though will keep us tree-hugging forever.  In order to step away from the tree, and out on that limb, we have to be willing to let go of the thought that not everyone will 'get it', that not everyone will 'like it', that not everyone will 'buy it'.  And worse, of course, is the personalization of  'it', that people won't get us, like us, buy into us.

The sad truth though is that too many of us spend our lives hugging the tree and never step out to discover what we are capable of.  Our fears keep us clinging to the comfort and safety of the trunk and we fail to stretch ourselves, showing the world our very best selves.  

Where would we be if many before us had not gone out on a limb?
  • Christopher Columbus
  • Charles Darwin
  • Albert Einstein
  • Benjamin Franklin
And consider the impact of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg or, even... Sir Thomas Crapper (inventor of the flush toilet... seriously!)

The limb you step out on need not be one that will change the face of the world, but if you are taking a risk on something it will mean change of some kind, even if on a smaller scale, even if only of one... you.  Too nervous to try?  Test it out by going out on a limb a little closer to the ground first, one which has less of a fall.  There's less of a risk, less of a change involved, but it is still a step forward, still a step toward strengthening your balancing skills - preparing you for those limbs higher up.

I'm implementing some changes this year, in my business and personal life, that have me precariously perched on a limb that seems pretty high up there to me.  It represents big challenges and risks but I believe it's the next step for me and for my growth.  I hope that you will join me out there at some point, that you follow me as I make those steps and changes, but I am stepping out on that limb regardless.  It is going to be scary, it will be intimidating and I know it could be a big fall for me but, and here's the big plus for those of you ready to step out on a limb of your own... I hear the view is great from up there!

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