I’ll never forget the moment I decided I wanted to be a TV sports anchor and reporter. It was my sophomore year of college at Wisconsin and I had spent two days working as a runner for ABC Sports and its broadcast of a Badgers football game. I had just wrapped up my duties which included shadowing the female sideline reporter during the game. And by “shadowing” I mean I held her clipboard, got her water, and asked her a constant and steady flow of questions.
By the time the game ended she was probably ready to take that clipboard and knock herself over the head with it all so she could get away from me and my incessant talking. Meanwhile, I practically ran the mile or so back to my room—absolutely giddy—so I could call my parents. On a landline. Hoping my roommate wasn’t on the internet. Because there used to be a thing called dial-up. And because I wouldn’t get my first cell phone for another year and a half. It was 1999, after all.
When my dad answered the phone I blurted out, “I know what I want to do now!!”.
Shortly thereafter I began researching and calling around about internships for the following summer. In October. Everyone I talked to thought I was nuts. They didn’t even begin looking for summer interns until the beginning of the year. But I persisted, eventually landing my first role at a local station in Minneapolis.
And all along I knew it would happen. I knew I would get that first internship, and I knew the following summer I would get another at ABC Sports in New York City. I also knew I would get a job immediately out of college. I knew it would be small potatoes, but I also knew I would work my way up until I made it to New York or a network or both.
I never once had a single doubt. Because I believed in myself, my talent, and my ability to learn, grow and improve.
Holy crap, where did that person go?
The short answer is she grew up. But the long answer is far more complicated and layered. You see, the older we get the more life experiences we acquire. And each of those experiences chip away at some of our confidence and pure belief and replace it with a sense of reality and self-doubt.
For as great as my TV career was for me in some ways, it was also destructive in others. If you want to start questioning your looks, your wardrobe, your voice, your abilities, and your overall personality get a job on air and an email address. Viewers won’t hesitate to let you know if they thought your shirt was terrible or that you need a complete makeover because you wore the same pair of earrings two days in a row (yup, that happened).
But all of that was outside noise, and it was nothing compared to the pressure to please everyone on the inside. For 16 years I did what I was told to do when I was told to do it. I followed deadlines set by others, covered stories assigned to me, and followed a schedule defined by the seasons of the major sports.
And for many years I was absolutely fine with that. I felt a purpose and a drive to please. I’ve always taken direction well and I never had to worry about what I was going to do each day or how to fill the hours. I just did what I was told and worried about little other than pleasing those in charge.
About 15 years in I started to want more. I was tired of being told what to do by others, especially when I was no longer always agreeing with the orders. I was tired of having every part of myself on critical display, all for the benefit of my station and not me personally. And I was tired of the contract renegotiations that left you feeling like a number and not a person.
So, I left. I dared to dream of something bigger and better. I vowed to stop talking to men about sports and focus on speaking to women about their possibilities and potential. It sounded like such a great idea. And if I had found success in one career surely, I would find it again in this.
But then the little voices began to creep their way into my head. “Do you have any idea how to start a business?”, “Are you capable of being a boss?”, “Does anyone actually care about you if you aren’t on TV anymore?”, and the worst, “You don’t have what it takes to make this work”.
It’s that last one that really stuck. Because I didn’t know the answer. And to be perfectly honest, I still struggle to say an emphatic and self-confident YES. Because for the first time in my life I wasn’t being told what to do, where to go, and how to get through my day in a way that made it a success. I had no guidance, whether wanted or unwanted, and many days I had no idea where to even begin. In many ways I was lost.
And then there was the absence of the steady paychecks which was replaced by the lying awake at night wondering how I was going to help pay rent for the month. I hadn’t felt that way in years. Back when I was still young enough for it to be totally acceptable to ask my parents for help.
All of those struggles easily start to snowball and before you know it the nagging doubt has turned into a force strong enough to rattle your entire world. And your self-confidence.
Finding a purpose certainly helps. As soon as I began to develop The LifeActually Company™ my outlook noticeably changed. I finally felt like I had direction, and with a new website to develop and a launch party to plan my daily schedule became clear. I knew what I had to do and when I had to do it, and while the hours were long, I loved it all.
Then our personal lives took a hit. First, we lost my father in law to cancer and then my own father received a devastating prognosis in his own battle with that devastating and relentless disease. I diverted my attention to where it needed to be—with our families. And I have no regrets.
But I lost my drive. My momentum slipped and my confidence with it. Some days I struggle to get myself out of bed given all that is going on. How am I supposed to work on a podcast and a book and everything else when I’ve put all my energy into just getting through these extremely emotional and difficult days and weeks?
This, however, is life. In fact, it’s life, actually.
If it weren’t illnesses in our family it could be the addition of a baby, or a job change for Marc, or a cross-country move, or hundreds of other little—or big—things that threaten to derail or alter your perfect plans.
I’ve been struggling over these last few weeks to figure out what to do with myself and my business during this time of uncertainty. My gut reaction is to do nothing. To sit in my sadness and worry about all the things I’m not doing and wondering if I’ll ever be able to make it work.
I know that type of behavior is self-destructive, but dammit, sometimes all I can bring myself to do is wallow.
So, this is why I’ve surrounded myself with people who are way smarter than I am. Or at the very least they are experienced in the areas where I am lacking. They are strong, self-aware, and incredibly observant. And they care about me—both my present and my future.
That’s how I came to have a recent conversation with my good friend Sam, who is an inspiring combination of positivity and realism and who really and truly believes in me. Even when I’m not so sure about myself. We talked about the importance of not putting everything on pause, and of not wasting this time I could be spending building my business and reaching more and more women who will truly benefit from my message. She reminded me that what I’m going through right now doesn’t define my work and shouldn’t be given permission to completely destroy everything I’ve built.
But it won’t just happen. I have to get out and do the work.
And that’s when I start to hear that voice again saying, “you don’t have what it takes to make this work”. As the tears rolled down my face and I told Sam about this fear and all of my doubts it was as if she was prepared to hear exactly that.
“You just need a win. Just one little win.”
I told you my friends were smart. She said that all of these doubts are normal and it’s up to me to turn them around, but I need to find ways to help myself do that. I need to find wins. They can be little wins, but they need to be wins. Those little wins then find a way to snowball until you have a bigger win that starts to prove you are really onto something.
So, how do I find those wins? Well, first I have to start setting attainable goals and holding myself accountable. I can’t just say that my goal is to have a successful business. I have to break it down and look for ways to build that business day by day. Because when you give yourself an opportunity to define the steps in the process that entire process starts to feel less daunting. Less unattainable.
And then you go out and do it. You stop spending so much time on social media and look to make real connections with real people in real life. It’s time to start networking. To talk about The Life Actually Company™ and everything we are trying to achieve to anyone who will listen. It’s time to talk about myself (which I hate) in an effort to connect with like-minded women (which I love). It’s going to be really, really hard. But I can’t let my fear and discomfort win.
Of course, there is a fine balance. My family is my priority and dropping everything to be with my dad and mom is something I won’t hesitate to do. And some days I’m going to wake up and not feel like focusing on anything other than my family and my own fears, struggles, and emotions about my dad being sick. I won’t apologize for that.
But I’m also giving myself permission to multi-task my feelings. I can be scared for my family and excited for my business future at the same time. It will be a continual work in progress.
So, here we go. I have no idea what happens next, but I promise myself I’ve now embarked on a win hunt.
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