To grow stronger, force yourself to do what you fear

I'm often asked, "How do you keep coming up with ideas to write about?" The answer isn't very profound. Whether I'm consulting on organizational change, training a corporate group or just talking one-on-one, I always learn something. The truth is, writing this column since 1983 has forced me to pay attention to what's going on around me.

Why am I telling you this? Because the process of writing a weekly column and producing a weekly television show has taught me some things about managing my career that I think will help yours. Most of these lessons didn't seem like much at fact, they didn't even dawn on me for years. But looking back on the process has revealed some things that may give you a few ideas to consider on as you look at your future.

·         Do the things you're afraid of. A wonderful thing happens when you face your fears; you get stronger and more confident once you've come through the other side. You amaze yourself. Your self-esteem gets a boost and you're able to tackle a bigger challenge next time.

It's so easy to beg off. So safe. You think, "I couldn't possibly speak in front of that group" or "I couldn't possibly lead that committee." We let opportunities slip by every day because we know if we say "Yes, I'll do it," we'll feel uncomfortable and frightened. Yet, I'll bet every successful person you know has stepped out of their comfort zone and said, "Ok, I'll try it, because I know I'll grow from the experience."

Someone once said, "Luck is preparation meeting opportunity." In my experience, being willing to try scary new things has put me in opportunity's path. For the first three years of doing live television, I lost sleep and felt sick every time I drove to the station. Looking back, it was the training ground for the syndicated show I do today...and now it feels fun and a lot easier.

·        Force yourself to learn new things. If you got your Master's Degree ten years ago, it only means you used to know a lot. The workplace is evolving so fast, none of us can sit back and be complacent. Do you listen to educational tapes, read business magazines and books? Do you listen to people around you?

Do you have a "Board of Directors" for yourself? Why not seek out people you admire and ask them to be a sounding board periodically during the year? My mentors and coaches have changed over the years but they all had one thing in common: they told me the truth and told me things I didn't want to hear.

·        Be an opportunist instead of a pessimist. Every problem is an opportunity in disguise. Do you run from problems or move closer to examine them for win/win solutions? As a consultant, I go where the problems are. Are you going where the problems are in your organization and becoming part of the solution?

·        Believe in and create your own destiny. The power of having a vision, or goal is magic. It will help you stay on course when choosing among opportunities. You will achieve things you never thought possible if your vision is far reaching enough. Even if you don't fully accomplish your dream, your journey will take you beyond the reaches of what you would have accomplished without it.

·        Never get too full of yourself. Cocky, arrogant people set themselves up to fail. They forget all the people who helped them along the way. They stop learning and listening to others. They assume they're so good, no one could knock them off their pedestal.

Successful people, like movie stars, sometimes start believing their own press releases. When they start admiring themselves, they stop getting the admiration of others.

·        Look for ways to get visibility. People who manage their own reputation and image soar higher than those who don't. You won't get opportunities if people don't know who you are.

Write an article in the corporate newsletter, run for office in your professional organization, and get to know local reporters in the press... Manage your career like a public relations firm would.

I don't have all the answers, and like you, I'm learning along the way. Why not make the journey an adventure?

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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