Three Ways to Exercise Courage At Work
"Time doesn't scale, but bravery does."Seth Godin
I work with a creative bunch of people, but there's one person in particular who is utterly fearless.
She loves to toss around new ideas and she imagines the future like someone who has already visited and is coming back to let the rest of us in on her findings. She makes outlandish statements with confidence and engages in "what if we were to..." vision conversations the way the rest of us discuss lunch options.
I find her style brash, captivating, and utterly inspiring.
When I see her in action, I recall a Seth Godin blog post, where he declares the "the economy is now rewarding art and innovation and guts," because it's impossible to win by putting in more hours.
In other words, if you think you're differentiated because you work more than someone else, you're wrong.
Your hours don't count if you aren't doing something different; if your work isn't art, the output isn't unique, and you don't have courage to put your ideas forward. Different isn't punching out of the office later. Succeeding isn't about responding to every email immediately or otherwise being constantly available. It's about doing something most people don't do; having courage to do different.
Your time won't ever scale. You will always have the same amount of hours as anyone else. If you show courage, THAT will scale.
What would happen if you really believed that? How would you apply this on the job? There are at least three practical responses to this principle.
1. Exercise Creative Muscles
You are a creative person. (Don't believe me, stop what you're doing, purchase and read, The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.) If you aren't behaving in a creative way at work, chances are your creative muscles are flabby. The only way to get back in shape is to exercise them. This means reading materials outside of your expertise, brainstorming with others, listening to speakers, writing stream of consciousness ideas (10 minutes and a blank notepad - GO!), or a myriad of other approaches. Practice stretching those creative parts of you every day. Ms. Cameron says it best when she talks about her writing habit, “writing is like breathing, it's possible to learn to do it well, but the point is to do it no matter what.”
The point is to exercise creativity no matter what.
2. Stop Comparing
If you think differently, you are going to NOT blend in. This is a good thing, in fact, that's THE point. Blending in with the crowd requires zero courage. When you look around, your being brave is exponentially more challenging. Twyla Tharp famously wrote, “the thing about creativity is, people are going to laugh at it. Get over it.”
If you ditch the comparison game, getting "over it" is a breeze!
3. Cultivate Vulnerability
Probably the biggest reason people don't take risks at work is because they are afraid of being vulnerable. Having an idea fail is scary, but it should be less frightening than mediocrity. Dr. Brene Brown wrote a fabulous book on achieving great things by daring greatly. Her primary point is, “vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
If you struggle with this idea, I highly recommend watching Brene's TED talk (here). I can't say make the case any better than she does!
In the immortal words of Winnie-the-Pooh, “Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”