Is It Fear or Doubt That Keeps Your Career From Breaking Out?

I was recently on a six mile hike through some forest and field in Northern Michigan when the path became invisible under a canopy of ferns growing nearly 3 feet high. I was thinking how appropriate as career coach. Why?

If you think about the length of this hike, the six miles as a forty year career, you can equate this stretch of path with a decision or opportunity you haven't faced before. If you are an introvert it could be the opportunity to make a public presentation, join an association, or take a very visible role. It could be a job opportunity on a new project that is hot and topical today but there are lots of questions about the long term outcome. There are many times we can't clearly see outcomes when presented with a challenge. What's YOUR reaction? Wait and see or dive right in and set the bar?

I learned very early in my career that the stretch, by pushing doubt aside, even if it resulted in unemployment, was critical to my progress. Guess what happened along the way? My compensation would always dip in the short term and then rebound within 12-24 months, sometimes by a multiple of 2x. The same kind of trajectory occurs with role and responsibility. Starting out as an auto part sales rep driving 1,500 miles a week, by taking chances along the way (including being fired, twice) I found myself as the leader of a $250M organization with 1,500 employees.

Today is no exception. I still push myself and fearlessly head into the unknown to see what can be. Most recently I found myself at a data management company spending 80% of my waking hours dealing with one catastrophe after another. Everyday started and ended negative. Without parachute or safety net, I decided it was time to run my own race. Never looking back, I now find myself making a life not just making a living.

So today why not reach out to someone in your life that will stretch your frame, pushing you beyond what you thought possible? The short article and links below are my experiences and observations on overcoming doubt and stretching our personal frames just like Marine George Hood did for me .........

Doubt and Courage in Your Career:

In terms of your career, you are often faced with opportunities that can have significant risk attached to them. That risk is your ocean and your current situation is the safety of that shore. The doubts start to surface. We can become paralyzed. We can retreat. We can accept the risk and move forward. One thing is for sure ........

Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will and is likely your greatest weakness. Doubt can be created by experience, by adversity to risk, or simply by the frames we create. Here's my take on overcoming doubt ......

The gift of having a rich career filled with many different roles in a number of industries is perspective and vision with a lot of data points. Couple that with robust coaching and mentoring experiences and you see A LOT of best practices and conversely, some significant opportunities for improvement. There can be a number of career limiting demons lurking in the background.

  • For the 30 year old millennial media entrepreneur, the enemy is almost always: time, resources, grit, and doubt, specifically the belief that they can reach their goals living and working from their parent's basement.

  • For the mid level corporate manager, it's: experience, network, frame (primarily the job description) and expectations. The fresh memory of a brutal recession always in the back of their mind.

First, some call it the 'devil's advocate' or even 'critical thinking' but there is no way to sugar coat it. It is DOUBT, the doubting little voice in the back of your head that can become paralytic. Doubt may be the most destructive and biggest waste of your time and killer of raw talent you encounter in your career. Why? Doubt usually rears it's ugly head only after we have started a project or initiative or plan. We have already made an investment and commitment of our precious resources and it is doubt that begins to sabotage our success. It's self fulfilling and reinforces 'play it safe' behavior.

Next, once you've allowed doubt to dictate the outcome, we begin to set LOW EXPECTATIONS because of a need to be certain or successful. These lower expectations and the need to be certain results in our boundaries, or our frame. We tend to live within our frames and they define our effort and outcome. To change our frame we need to be exposed and most importantly, open to new data points to stretch. The best illustration of this was my personal wake up call thanks to former Marine, George Hood.

See an earlier post on how my frame changed and immediately resulted in greater performance and outcome: Do You Need A New Frame?

To summarize, it is your DOUBT that begins a cyclical and performance limiting process. Doubt, and the lack of faith and belief, leads to failure or lower performance. The result can be a set of lower expectations and a new tighter frame.

Overcoming Doubt:

How can you overcome debilitating doubt? I've found two simple concepts to help clients and mentees successfully quell the little voice inside.

  1. Work Backwards. Start with your vision output and work backwards to where you find yourself today. Being able to see the incremental steps, sometimes very small steps, helps break down what can seem to be a monumental task or goal.

  2. Adopt Continuous Improvement As A Lifestyle. Once you embrace failure as an opportunity to improve, your outlook and belief system can completely change. Adopting a forward looking posture that rewards incremental progress can be very liberating!

Finally, there is no better illustration of frames and setting expectations than this insightful post and video from a {LIFE}BUZZ staffer Sheyla. Take a moment to watch this powerful video and post.....

Check out this terrific post from {LIFE}BUZZ:

"Strangers Wrote Their Biggest Regrets....They All Used the Same Three-Letter Word"

About Mike McNamara:

Mike has held C-Suite, Executive and Senior Sales, Marketing, Business Development, and General Management roles with Cox Enterprises, WW Grainger, and Federal-Mogul Corporation. Mike has led sales, service and operations organizations of over 1,500 associates and accountable for P&L responsibility in excess of $250M.

Dedicated to giving back, Mike formed The MBAR Group in 2009 with the sole intent of providing pro bono career and business consulting serving underprivileged and underserved markets. Today as founder | CEO of TalentBlvd, he coaches a number of high profile media personalities as well as holding advisory board positions guiding a number of multimedia and small business startups.

Mike earned his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University and also holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University. He is a past chapter President of the American Marketing Association. Mike and family split time between their adopted state of Missouri and family home in NW Michigan where their philanthropic causes include The Kingdom House - St Louis, BACN in Benzonia, MI., and Samaritan’s Purse, Boone NC.

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