Month of Learning

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Following The Fear Is Where Triumph Sits

The ideas that scare the wits out of you become a compass to suggest you might be onto something good.

A way to stand out is going to mean times to take risks. It’s a place that tells you that nothing is certain, but if you don’t try, you will never find out. However, there is an abundance of learning to grab hold of.

The possibility of failure is around every corner, but sometimes you have to follow your fear and confront what might not work. There is a way to make it easier and that’s to surround yourself with others. 

It Might Not Work, Is What Keep Us Back

It is easier to mimic what everyone else is doing as there is no jeopardy involved. That’s why we create a professional veneer in the spaces people see us, from a company video to a blog article with an angle on success, it makes us look worthy of people’s time, attention and money. 

This is why it’s easier to play it safe and take what someone else has done or said or just keep the industry narrative with the same rhetoric. When it’s something people have seen before, then your work will never stand out on its own.

This means that if you don’t do the things that make you feel uneasy, you keep to what everyone else does, what you have always done and create work that feels, to you, secure. The opposite is to step towards the fear, rather than look away. This means you produce your best work.

Start Small

In a recent YATM Online we were joined by comedy writer, Tim Washer, who has worked with the likes of Saturday Night Live and John Oliver. It was Tim who introduced me to the idea of ‘following your fear’ from an actor and improv teacher called Del Close.

I asked Tim what we should do when we have those moments that tell us we want to commit but have an uneasy feeling. Tim puts things in a simpler perspective, “You’re trying to start off at a place where the stakes are too high, or too much risk.”

Tim suggests it makes sense to ‘start small’. Sometimes we overthink and make that step into a new place where if the gamble doesn’t pay off, there is a lot to lose. For instance, it could be your promise to send a newsletter every week but run out of steam after one month. It could be the video interview series where you set yourself a benchmark of thousands of views and subscribers in the first two months. 

Starting small and testing with a pilot programme does provide that safe space to experiment. It allows you to reach out and refine and also to become better at your craft, such as a presenter or writer. 

Tim highlights that we have to not be so harsh on ourselves. Tim shares his experience from working in the corporate world, “At IBM we did a lot of podcasting. We had the idea for a series and we said that the first five episodes would be garbage. You have to give yourself the grace to fail.”

What Tim is telling us is that being a creator means taking risks. There are going to be times when we feel exposed, but this is what actually fuels your creativity and innovation to produce work that matters. Allowing yourself to fail and learn is what makes you resourceful.

Whats Scared Me

The ability to take risks, do what others are not and refine your ideas, starts from a chilling place. Here is what has filled me with fear:

Delivering events online

This started at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, with YATM Online. What had become settled with the in-person YATM Lunch Club events (2016 to 2020), this was completely new to create a Zoom show (that wasn’t a webinar but a genuine show)

The hybrid events

The YATM Online Offline with people on Zoom and in the theatre scared the life out of me at the start as it was delivering a show for two audiences. When we tested this in July 2021 it was quite overawing and needed a lot of tinkering to make it work.

Delivering a conference

A conference is always a huge commitment as you have to get the balance between speakers and people interested to attend a gathering. I had no experience of this in 2018.

YATM Month Of Learning

This was a dedicated month in April 2021 for our first-ever learning platform. Every ‘student’ had their own textbook, it had structured learning and a ‘course’ format that I had never delivered before. 

Writing about burnout

In 2018 I hit a wall and discovered burnout for the first time (you can read it here). I found it difficult to write as I was owning up to something very personal, at the time. 

The reason I highlighted these with you is that fear comes from anything that puts you in a place where you have no prior experience. 

What has made it easier over the years is this ability to share and when you have people around you, I do not hesitate to reach out and ask. When you do something for the first time, you don’t have the answers.

What Can You Do To Follow The Fear?

Creating work for the first time is not scary when you have the freedom to share and you are open. Failure happens when you keep everything to yourself and bottle it in.

Following the fear means you step forward and you are open. 

Tim Washer shared the values of improv. “One of the rules of improv is to support your partner. You have to have faith in each other and your partner has your back. My goal is about the other person looking good, then I’m not focusing on myself anymore.”

When you have others around you this is where unease and apprehension is taken out, finding support for your work as you start a new path is immense. It doesn’t have to be family, but friends and a trusted network of people who are ready to listen and also cheer you on. 

I like Tim’s words of ‘support your partner.’ It’s about that small group that will endorse and bolster your ideas and take the risk and fears away. Ask for feedback, find that group of people you can trust and lean into them.

The Fear Then Helps You

Following the fear starts to help you do your best work. For instance, the YATM Month Of Learning is the project that has given me the most pride in my career.

Here are some outcomes when you discover new frontiers:

Fear means you push forward. When you start something that doesn’t stop at the first hurdle it encourages you to keep going. For instance, I want to keep pursuing a live show format and test out new ideas and segments. It doesn’t feel as scary now, it just adds more fuel.

Fear means you step up. Making a commitment means you are accountable. It’s time to stop thinking and keeping everything in your head, in a notebook, or on a screen, but to make something happen, that has your name on it.

Fear means you concentrate. Creating something that feels new, heightens your thinking and you have to be tuned into the output. It helps you refine, learn from and make something that becomes better, the longer you are invested.

Let’s Round-Up

Following the fear is using it to your advantage to benefit what you do. This is completely opposite to staying in our comfort zones.

It’s a way to fuel your momentum and not as a barrier to hold you back. There are always going to be moments where your ego becomes bruised or you make a fool of yourself, or you feel slightly embarrassed but these all serve as guides to your output.

When you are filled with fear this often becomes the sign to do something. When you put yourself out there, you stand a better chance of producing work that matters but it’s you who made that first step. That’s a worthy breakthrough to make.



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