For the past few days I’ve been sharing the lessons we all learned in 2012 with the Early Boarding Party. These lessons came from your emails, Starship chats and what creatives have told me they’ve learned in the last year. (You can find them here: #1, #2, #3)
They all were true for me too, but my biggest lesson is something not a lot of people mentioned. It’s kinda simple (maybe I’m the only person on the planet who didn’t realize how important it was?), but without it, everything is harder.
My biggest lesson: Connection is everything.
Connection – really feeling like someone else gets you and really listening to them – drives everything in my business. Sales. Readership. Conversations. Conversion.
But most important of all – it drives me.
Whether I recognize it or not, it pushes me towards some situations (we do what we think will bring more connection) and away from things I fear will bring disconnection (shame, embarrassment, failure). Sometimes this is awesome (I sent that scary email and got a response!) and sometimes it’s not (I don’t want to be rejected so I’m not going to try the big thing.)
Understanding this (and how important it is to my business) is a direct result of reading all three of Brene Brown‘s books this year. They really confirmed what the Starship has been teaching me: We (humans) need to feel connected. We seek it out everywhere in our lives. The happiest people have connected to their community both when they have something to celebrate, and when they’re disappointed.
But it’s that second bit that’s so hard. When you’re disappointed, it’s easy for shame to creep in, for you to believe that it’s something wrong with YOU. That you are the only one who can’t figure this out, or that it’s your lack – of personality/skills/cleverness – that is keeping you from moving forward. My favorite (as in, least-favorite) belief: If only I was a little different (a little better) things would be better in my life. I’d be more comfortable. More people would be drawn to what I do. I would change lives with my words.
When we feel that shame (or the fear of it), we withdraw. Brene’s research has shown that we withdraw because we’re afraid of other people withdrawing with us. We believe that if they knew, they would pull away. If they knew that we shipped that order late, or that we still haven’t gotten into a craft show, or that X (a shop, show, publisher) rejected us, they’d know we weren’t worth investing in. So we turn away first. We put on a happy face and hide the things to protect ourselves…all the while drifting further away from the real us, the us that makes our thing special and sparkly.
That’s the human component of it, the thing that ALL humans are afraid of that…but then, for us, you have to add in that extra-scary layer: we’re in business. We need our buyers to believe in us, at least enough to buy what we sell. We have to look like we have it together enough to deliver what they ordered.
So we hide the vulnerability, the scariness, the I’m-not-doing-this-right fears, because it’s inappropriate to share with our community of customers. And the people in our day to day life maybe don’t understand. They’re not pouring their heart and soul into a product, and then fearing that it’ll be rejected.*
*Even if they can’t really understand, it’s still so important to fill our loved ones in. They can support you more than you think, if you open up and take the time to explain why you’re so upset you didn’t meet your sales goals.
What we need is a place where it is appropriate and safe to talk about all this, and where the people we connect with understand. Where it’s ok to share that self-doubt. Where it is ok to be honest about your sales numbers, where you know it won’t affect your “reputation”. We need a place to talk about the hard stuff because talking about it how is we move through it.
Hiding the doubt, the scary bits and the difficulty keeps you swimming in it. It keeps you in the swirl of your own head, and it confirms your first fears: if people knew this about you, they would feel differently towards you, because you keep creating this persona that has it figured out.
But telling someone and having them respond with compassion confirms that you’re not alone. That changes things. You can stop (at least for a moment) the swirl of your own fears, and start to see the hope of what could be. You realize that other (super successful) business ladies have the same fears and made the same mistakes, and they came through it.
When you’re not busy hiding, you can get busy building. When you have examples of risk-taking, you get a little confidence to try new things. When someone says “Here’s how I talk to shops“, you feel comfortable doing it yourself.
That’s what we’re all after, right? Building our dreams into something awesome, while feeling awesome about it. Doing what we love, while not feeling like a total outcast freak. Sharing our thing with the world, without the paralyzing fear of being rejected.
I’ve found that kind of connection (and have created it for others) inside the Starship.