I spend hours and hours in cello lessons. Not that I pay attention – I answer emails a lot of the time. But there’s no way to not learn if you sit in enough lessons, and the big thing I’ve learned is being a great performer takes guts.
I knew that was true about gymnastics. My editor has a daughter who maybe was on track for the Olympics, but at some point he realized she wasn’t willing to try the crazy, daredevil moves required to compete at that level.
It’s similar in music. You have to let yourself go and trust that the notes will be there. But not everyone has the guts to perform like that. I get it now. After sitting through a gazillion lessons and reading a gazillion posts from Noa Kageyama about being brave in performance, I see there is memorizing a song and then there’s having the guts to play a song with your heart.
It’s true with work, too. Each day I wake up and I hope I’ll have the guts to write a blog post. Do not send me topic ideas – I have a million: Like, in the future work teams will be flash mobs, which is very consistent with super-temps who move in an out of the project-based workforce.
I could write more about that. But it’ll be boring. Writing with guts means not just being right, but showing fear. It’s being vulnerable in front of the reader by wholly committing to something and letting everyone see you try to get it.
For you, it is probably something at work. But it might not be. If you relocate twice for a girlfriend, you are showing guts in the relationship department. You are not even married and you’re probably killing your career for hers.
For me, right now, being wholly committing is telling you about my new company. Every day I worry that I can’t give you the link to my company’s web site because I’m scared it won’t work. I need you to do this company with me. I have to build something you like in order to get it off the ground. What if you don’t like it? I ruined my life getting three rounds of funding for Brazen Careerist. My kids lived in a house with no electricity while I grew the company. Insane. I can’t let this happen again.
Yet I am. I got funding for a new company. I hired four employees. And tons of contractors. While my son plays Bach.
I don’t know if this means I have the guts or I don’t have the guts for this new company. But I know that everything I’ve ever done that I’m proud of in my life was something that took a lot of guts. There was no rational reason to think it would work out well, and I did it anyway. Here’s what it takes in the guts area:
1. You have to know where you’ll have guts. No one has guts in lots of areas, but only in the area where you stand out. My son has guts in music, but he spent five months learning a back flip and never trusted his hands completely. Find your place where you’re special. Maybe you’re great with people. Or writing, or coding. Find what you’re great at, and take your big risks there.
2. Don’t ask other people if you have guts. It looks like I have guts to move to the farm. I was living in LA and NYC and then, all of a sudden I met a farmer in rural Wisconsin and my kids and I moved there. The culture shock is a daily thing for me here, but it didn’t take guts because I had nowhere else to go. My family is scattered and riddled with drama. And I was in love with the farmer. My job lets me live anywhere, and I have. So moving to a rural community was not that big a deal for me. I remind myself all the time that this was not something that took guts. It’s something I was dying to do.
3. There must be something at stake. If you have guts, you are letting people see you fail – big. They might see that. Because what we have to lose, ultimately, is our idea of ourselves that we are good at what we are risking. We might have to reframe our idea of ourself. And losing our identity takes a lot of guts.
I don’t want to be here again. I am too scared. But I am here. There is going to come a time, when I’m doing this company, where I will have to tell you how great it is. Right now, I don’t have to do that. I can tell you that behind every great anything is a person who is scared.
Every time I hear an incredible musician, I think about the bravery they play with and I want that to be me. I want to open my heart and show you the best that I can do with this company and not be fearful that I’ll fail. No great music came from fear, and that’s true of careers as well.