What do you feel is the number-one dream-killer in this world? Well, I don’t know that anybody has actually made a real-live list, but I bet that good old fashioned FEAR would be high on it! Yep, it is something that everyone knows, everyone has probably stumbled over at one time or another, and is most likely the biggest reason that we find ourselves wanting to start something new……but not doing it.
Of course, then there is another side to that Fear coin…..one that can present fear not necessarily as a dragon to be slayed but as a peculiar and unlikely ally in the arena of life. We’ve all been afraid to do something, but…..have you ever been afraid NOT to do something?
I surely have! On more than one occasion. But today I want to share with you a story that, quite honestly I’m kind of nervous to do. It’s about me, something I loved so passionately, and how I went after it, even though it took me several years….but I never gave up. Sure, I was afraid. I was terrified at what people might think, what they might say, or how I might look. But I did it anyway. Because I had to. Because it was a dream so great that it just wouldn’t leave me. And because I was more scared NOT to go for it and make it happen than I was to face the potential ridicule and embarrassment that might’ve been ahead.
What was this crazy adventure, you ask? On the surface, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. Here it is: I took up an instrument. I mastered it. And I auditioned for my University’s Marching Band.
OK, la-de-dah, you might say. A LOT of young musicians do that. Big deal.
But how many of them do it when they’re 32 years old?
Yes, you read that correctly. I was well “old enough to know better” at the time. I had already graduated college. I had not one but TWO degrees. I had an established professional career. I was hacking away at life, wondering what the hell I was doing but soldiering on anyway, just as many thirty-somethings find themselves doing.
But something was wrong. There was a hole in my life that was the size of the national debt. I knew that it was for multiple reasons, but the one I could identify the most clearly was that I never participated in my University Marching Band. And I so desperately wanted that experience. Why, I wasn’t quite sure, to tell you the truth. But I knew that somehow, I had to be part of this organization before I died–and that doing it was crucial to the person that I needed to become. This was no frivolous fantasy, here. This was more important than I could explain.
The University of Georgia Redcoat Band. From the moment that I first heard them play back when I was a freshman (of the normal age-range at the time!) I knew I had to be a part of that energy. I never played a musical instrument before in my life. I didn’t even know WHAT I would play if I could. I was never ensconced in the football culture that I’d discovered upon my arrival in Athens, Georgia, and BOY was it a shock–Southern Football is just something that one really doesn’t understand until they experience it firsthand. And the Southern Football COLLEGE experience? Well, say all that you want to, rest of the world, but there is nothing like it in the world. Certainly nothing like it that I, a girl who grew up in America’s Heartland as well as the Inner-Mountain West, had ever imagined to exist. And my first meeting with that cultural juggernaut was life-changing.
When I saw that band for the first time, I knew I wanted more than anything not just to observe but also to participate. And since I had always been a performer and loved music more than anything, this particular aspect of the Southern Football way of life was perfect for me. But I couldn’t play anything. I didn’t know how to march. How on God’s Green Earth could I be in the BAND?? So I watched. I longed. I dreamed. I woefully sighed a lot.
But I didn’t do anything. Figured that I was too late. And that I couldn’t make it in anyway, so maybe this one wouldn’t happen.
The years went on. I earned my first degree in Microbiology. And the dream was still there. Unfulfilled.
I applied to and began Pharmacy School. Moving in some professional direction, at least. Showing up on football Saturdays in Athens but only in the stands….wishing and wanting to be with the kids making the amazing and inspiring music. And the longer I stayed, the bigger it got. It went from a “want to” to a “have to”….slowly but surely, and without my really knowing what was going on.
One day I decided that something had to happen. I decided that I needed an instrument. No matter what I just needed to learn how to play one. I didn’t know what I would be doing with it once I learned, but that was just details. I settled on the trumpet. Yes, that would do just fine. I took what little money I could scrape together as a starving student and got my hands on the only one I could afford. And embarked on an adventure that is like no other–the mastering of a musical instrument. I was 27 at the time. And about to graduate Pharmacy School and be kicked out of the manufactured and idealistic world of college and into the also manufactured (but FAR less idealistic) world of the corporate employee. Still not one note played in a Redcoat Uniform. Not one step taken on the field.
What was I going to do now? Just forget the whole thing and go become an “adult”?
Well, the answer to that question in the moment was….”yes”. And folks, it not only did it not feel very good, it just felt outright wrong. You know how when you know something is just WRONG in your life and yet you take the path of least resistance and ignore it, hoping it might go away? It was kind of like that.
So I got involved in my job. Started bringing in money. The work was….well, we’ll talk about that later. But something (at least ONE big thing that I knew of, anyway) was left undone. Still, I just kept going on with the job and the life. This went on for about another three years…..
Then one day, it all hit me. I knew that I wanted to pursue another potential career path. I knew that I still had unfulfilled dreams that could only be satisfied in one place–Athens, GA. By then I had gotten pretty damn competent on my instrument thanks to not only my diligence but also my most treasured trumpet teacher, who kept me going, striving, and improving all this time. Yes, it was time for a change.
I knew that I wanted to take education classes and pursue teaching. Which would mean that I’d be re-enrolling at Georgia. Which meant that I’d be a student again. And be eligible for the University Band. I could audition. I might make it. It just might happen after all…
Of course, I thought about what I was contemplating–really considered it fully. I was contemplating being the oldest Redcoat “freshman” in the world. I was wanting to put myself in a situation with oodles of just-out-of-high-school kids. At my age. And with my experience. What in the hell would people say when they figured me out? Would I be a laughingstock? An absolute joke? The “professional student” who refused to leave college for the “real” world? Any or all of that? The potential for embarrassment and outright ridicule was off…the…charts.
But by then I just didn’t care. I thought about it–a LOT–but it wasn’t enough to stop me. This was my last chance. And I wasn’t going to miss it. Not again. And I was CERTAINLY not going to give up this opportunity because I was afraid of what some 18-year-old college kid might say to me!
Not that I was completely fearless, though. At times, I was petrified. But this time I was about 100 times more terrified NOT to do it–I was more afraid that I’d give up on myself and something that meant that much to me than I was of what might happen if I did.
So I set the audition. I prepared vigilantly. I went in. I’d like to tell you that I knocked it out of the park. But….it was….well, competent! Not my best or my worst work–just good and solid. But would that be enough? I waited for what seemed like eons to find out. In fact, I’d almost given up hope, the wait was so long. (Apparently I wasn’t told that I’d gone out for one of the most competitive sections in the band! Silly me….)
But then it happened. One day in late June, I got my acceptance letter. Elated was not the word. You’d have thought that I just got my letter to Hogwarts. I did it. I DID IT. I was offered admission to the Marching Band.
And what an adventure it turned out to be. What I feared the most–that I wouldn’t be accepted for who I was and my, er, “differences” with the rest of the band–just didn’t happen. I fit in. I found friends. Wonderful people–not just great kids, but great people–the kind of friends I’d wished for most of my life. And every reservation I had about being weird, being thought of as foolish or just plain OLD…well, they turned out to be completely unfounded. I found dear friends who loved and supported me for who I was–and most of them were impressed with my dedication and courage!
But most of all, the true experiences performing on the field were priceless. And they so GREATLY exceeded my fantasy world because I’d manifested them by believing in myself. It was a true dream come true, as hokey as that sounds. I knew I would NOT have been satisfied had I not really given it a chance, had I not listened to my heart, and had I not trusted that this was indeed the right move for me, no matter how it LOOKED to other people.
THIS folks, is the material point here: it doesn’t matter that at the time my dream was to be a marching Redcoat at UGA. What the dream itself happens to be is sometimes secondary. What matters the MOST here is that I had the dream–and it was one of the highest callings that I ever had. And although it took a while, I didn’t ignore it. I followed my soul on this one–and from then on out I knew that I could trust it implicitly. Sure, it was just a football Saturday marching band. And sure, it might seem to some that I was shirking “adult” responsibilities to go chase a teenage dream. Well, if that’s what anyone is thinking, I would wish you well but feel sorry that my point about the power of a dream had been missed. (But if you’ve been with me a while, I know that you are aware of the power of dreams, right?)
The bottom line here? This was a bit of sleight of hand I used with fear that turned it from a deterrent into a motivator. The fear NOT to can be your friend sometimes, and this was one of those times. NO doubt in my mind that you, as a Creative Entrepreneur, have experienced this before. Want to know the short version of how to turn this fear on its head and make it work for you? For me, it’s like this:
–What are your true motivations for wanting to pursue your dream business? What is it about this dream that makes it so important to you? Is it something that keeps coming back to you? Good. Jot that down. And why you think it keeps coming back is noteworthy, too.
–What is it that scares you about going for it? Go ahead, say it! It’s OK! I did! And I do this frequently when I consider a new venture. When you acknowledge it without dwelling on it, it is amazing what happens to it…
–NOW–look at it another way: how would you feel if you really and truly abandoned this dream? Would there be a hole in your life? A regret? As my dearest Marie Forleo once said, (and I paraphrase here!), would you look back on this in 10-20 years and regret not doing it? If the answer is yes, then HOORAAYYYY! Then it means go for it. It means your ready. It means that you believe in yourself more than you don’t.
Soooo—believe it or not, that is the SHORT version of my rather vulnerable story! So much more to tell, so many tales of Band Camp (Alyson Hannigan has NOTHING on me!), Road Trips, even INTERNATIONAL trips (ask me about that when you see me!) that I would’ve missed had I not been afraid NOT to go for it.
I know you have a story like that. Or you’re working on one like that right now. Tell me about it! Share it! Or if you need some help sorting it out, now would be a great time for us to talk!
So what is it in your life that you’re afraid NOT to do?
Until next time!