I was standing outside the dealership where I worked when I got the call. When I saw the phone number I jumped into the closest new Honda sitting on the lot, closed the door, and answered the phone. It was the real estate broker that represented the building we were trying to lease, the building we needed to open our garage.
The day I took that call I was convinced I was already “all-in” when it came to starting my business. I was working 70 hours a week at the dealership and spending another 2-3 hours a night working on business plans. I had been doing this for the last three years!
When I went to parties at friends’ houses everyone would watch movies and hang out, I would sit in a corner on my laptop and play with Excel spreadsheets. Everyone basically knew I was starting a business, and in my mind it wasn’t a matter of “if” but “when”. I was convinced I was “all-in”.
So there I sat, after three years of research, writing business plans, pricing equipment, and meeting with vendors, answering the phone and hearing the real estate broker on the other end. I don’t remember what I was expecting him to say, but the first thing he did say was that our offer had been accepted. We were getting our building.
This was great news! It should have been the last piece of the puzzle falling into place but what that phone call turned out to be was me crossing what I now call The Scary Point!
Up to that point I thought I was “all-in” but despite all the work and effort I really just had an idea. Sure I had well researched spreadsheets and designs and logos and marketing outlines and three years of work, but the truth was I could have walked away at any moment, told everyone I couldn’t make the numbers work and gone back to my normal life. No one would have thought less of me.
When I was offered that lease, I now had to cross The Scary Point! I was about to quit my job, sink my life savings into a new business and expose myself to the world. Now I was about to have something to lose and my failures would be laid bare for all to see. I was both overcome with excitement to be attempting such a big endeavor and scared to death of falling on my face at the same time.
I wish I could tell you I was a seasoned professional and that I was so confident in my own abilities that success was assured. I wish I could tell you I handled myself well when I took that phone call, but I didn’t. Instead, I hung up the phone and started to cry.
When I say cry, I mean tears running down the face, unable to speak, legit emotional outburst, and I’m not a very emotional person. My wife has probably seen me cry a half dozen times in the 7 years we’ve known each other, but the excitement and fear and the shear “bigness” of what I was about to do was so overwhelming that all the emotions just came pouring out.
So I sat in that Honda crying, hoping none of my coworkers walked by, and about 5 minutes later I composed myself and called my then fiance to tell her the news. I got about three words out before I started to cry again. This was how I discovered The Scary Point.
Lots of people experience moments like this, not just new business owners. If you’ve ever intentionally done anything significant in your life you’ve probably crossed this point even if you didn’t realize it. This is the line we cross that takes us from the planning and the research stage to the first real step forward. The Scary Point is where we are locked in, and we are going to see it through however it turns out. Before this point there are many possible outcomes but once we cross over we’ve made the choice and now we have to live with it!
Getting married? Moving your family? Changing careers? Having children? Eventually you have to cross The Scary Point and you’ll own that decision.
For a lot of people this is a hard thing to overcome because what ever the results end up being, you’re the one that caused them! If we don’t make a decision than what happens really isn’t our fault, right?
If you don’t change jobs and get fired a year later that’s just the universe doing it’s thing, but if you switched companies and they fired you shortly after, you made a stupid choice and it’s all your fault! For a lot of people it’s “safer” to just never cross that line.
This doesn’t just apply for big life changing decisions; it can happen with more mundane things also. Recently I got my first tattoo and the scary point was between telling the guy what I wanted and him laying the design on my arm. I had wanted a tattoo for years, but that was when I realized it was about to happen. I wasn’t worried about the pain; I was worried how I would feel at age 80! That’s when the butterflies started and I had a moment where I really thought about backing out. No tattoo meant no possible regret even if I really wanted it up to that point!
There are lots of points in our lives when the planning and the dreaming meet the commitment and the doing and we need to learn how to push through if we want to achieve anything really big!
The reason I feel this is such an important concept is because there are a lot of people that get stuck at the scary point and never get past it. This is probably the biggest thing that holds people back from attempting great things and if more people push through this world could be transformed! So how do we overcome and get past The Scary Point?
The first thing we need to do is expect it in the first place. Just by being aware it exists and will show up can prepare us to deal with it. If you’re not blindsided by the fear you’re more likely to be able to deal with it. When you feel those butterflies or that twinge of fear, recognize it for what it really is.
The second thing I do to push through these resistance points is to remind myself of the prior planning and research I’ve done up to that point. With my business I already knew it could work from writing the business plan and studying already successful companies. If they could do it, so could I!
I was able to tell myself the fear was not something that was protecting me, but it was trying to hold me back instead. When I got my first tattoo I was nervous so I reminded myself that it was something I wanted for years and tomorrow morning when I woke up there was a good chance I’d still want it. (I still love it by the way!)
Another way to push through is to setup unavoidable encounters. This is something I unintentionally did when starting my business by signing the lease offer. Psychologically it’s harder to break a specific commitment so when I signed the lease offer, there was something in place pulling me forward to help counter the fear holding me back. I would have had to back out of that signed commitment if I wanted to call the whole thing off.
Now this is something I intentionally do! When I started this blog I set myself a target of getting a new article out every Monday. This is an unavoidable encounter that forces me to push forward and write even when I may be scared of how it will be received.
Since this is a self regulated encounter, the key is to set specific goals with a specific time frame. In our lease we had a specific agreement set to activate on a specific date. For this blog the goal is 1 article on Monday of every week. Saying you’re going to “start a blog” isn’t going to cut it nor would “several articles a month” work either, they have to be measurable and there needs to be specific times associated with them.
If we can also enlist people to hold us accountable we have an even better chance of success. Tell a friend “I’m going to get to the gym Monday, Wednesday and Friday of every week, kick my butt if I don’t” would be a good example. Telling a friend “I’m going to start working out” is not.
In October when I decided I wanted to start writing this blog I told someone who said “Great! I’ll call you after Thanksgiving and I expect you’ll have a blog up and running and you’ll already be writing articles.” This wasn’t anyone that I even really knew all that well, a mutual acquaintance that I was seeking some advice from, but knowing he was going to call me in 6 weeks pushed me to get moving.
He helped me set up an unavoidable encounter and now I had someone holding me accountable to a specific goal. I have no doubt it would have been harder to get started without those things pushing be forward. I wasn’t about to tell him I hadn’t done anything when he was taking time out of his life to help me out.
The good news about crossing The Scary Point is that the more often you cross it, the easier it’ll get. You will get better at developing strategies to push through it and it is a skill you can learn. Sooner or later the fear gives way to excitement and it’s much easier to step up and attempt bigger things!
Remind yourself of all your prior planning to help you convince yourself you’re making a good choice. Set up unavoidable encounters to help pull you forward when The Scary Point is pushing you back. Set specific goals and have people hold you accountable to keep you from getting bogged down in the fear.
Eventually everyone will get to The Scary Point, but your success will always be limited unless you can find ways to get through it!