I am not a risk taker by nature. Some people (Eric) might say I'm risk-averse. I tend to revert to the ‘worst-case scenario’ as a reason why I shouldn't do something. I'd like to believe this is the work of my well-tuned survival instinct that has kept me safe all 46 years of my life.
But if I'm honest - really honest with myself - I can see this for what it is: fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of not having all the answers...So. Much. Fear. There is comfort that comes along with not taking risks. It's cozy, familiar, and safe! However, I’ve come to appreciate I can’t become all I’m called to be while living in this comfort zone.
Launching Hands & Feet was a big turning point for me. I believe I've found what I'm called to do. However, in order to take the leap of faith in myself I needed to face a lot of my fears all at once. How did I do this? It started with asking myself “why not?”. I then started to ask myself “what's the worst thing that could happen?”. One of the most powerful questions I then started to ask myself was “what would the consequences be if I didn't take action?”.
As I've gotten older, I've come to realize that a life worth living requires me stepping outside of my comfort zone. Is it easy? Heck, no! Is it scary? Heck, yes! Do I sometimes still drag my feet and complain while doing it? Heck, yes! (much to Eric's chagrin). But I do it anyway. There's a tiny, quiet voice in my head (I like to think it's God) that keeps asking "why not?". Have I made mistakes? Of course. They’ve also become one of my greatest teachers, as they’ve helped me make more informed decisions about the business. Missteps are going to happen - that's life. However, I’ve grown comfortable living with the missteps rather than the regret of not living out my full potential.
“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it” - Pablo Picasso
I love this quote. It makes me think of the fearlessness with which many of us lived as children. Can you climb that tree? I don’t know, let’s try it! Can you jump that on your bike? I don’t know, let’s build the ramp a little higher! I don’t remember a whole lot of deliberation and analysis ‘back in the day’. Rather, we tried things, tested solutions, made adjustments, and tried again. In short, we started from a position of “why not?!”.In many respects, Hands & Feet has been a series of tests:
- Should we start a company, or not? Sure, let’s try it!
- Will our customers like a new design idea, or not? I don’t know, let’s try a navy one and a black one!
- Will retail stores be willing to carry our apparel, or not? Who knows, let’s find one and see what they say!
Over time our discussions have matured from “can we/should we do this?” to “what can we learn from this?”. We’ve made an important shift. Our initial decisions were laced with a fear of failure. In recent months we’ve become much more intentional about the value of testing, with the sole purpose of gathering information to make better decisions. For example, we used to spend hours, and sometimes days, trying to decide which color shirt to use and what color we should use for the design. We wasted a lot of time. Today, when we’re thinking about a new design, our first two questions are often “what should we test with this one?” and “what do we want to learn?”. We are saving a lot of time and money by making this simple, yet crucial, shift in how we run our business.
“Learn to make nonfatal or reversible decisions as quickly as possible. Fast decisions preserve usable attention for what matters.” - Tim Ferriss
When we made the shift to “why not” and embraced this new approach to running our business, we immediately removed a tremendous amount of pressure (fear) from our decision making. We’ve not only gotten more efficient and effective, we’ve also gotten smarter and more confident in what we’re doing. Confidence, even in small doses, is a wonderful fear repellant.