Earlier this week I hosted the International Association of Business Communicators - Detroit Chapter at the SheHive for an evening of networking. During a short program I shared the story of how the SheHive came to be and how it took just a few short weeks to get the SheHive from a concept on paper to reality because I’m an Activator. And also because I don’t have a huge fear of failure.
During a Q & A following the presentation one of our guests asked how I was able to overcome the fear of failure. My first thought was, “How long do you have? Can we talk about my entire childhood and a decade of pretty amazing therapy?”
In the end I eeked out a half-answer about being thrown into a multitude of different situations in my childhood - and then invited them all back for the real answer at a later time.
I thought about the question the whole way home. I’m not impervious to failure - it still hurts when it happens. But I’m not afraid of it, at least not as much as I used to be. Why?
Because I value learning above all else. And I value learning about all else because a bold woman didn’t hesitate to share her thoughts with me.
I was a straight A student.
Save a stint in college where I lost my flippin’ mind and stopped going to classes in favor of late night Euchre games with a really cute boy with a mohawk, I have always been a straight A student. (Well, not entirely true - apparently I got a B in third grade which my mother and I like to joke about a lot. She carried immense guilt for asking me about the B and ignoring the A’s for decades. I don’t remember any of it.) But I didn’t get any of those A’s, or even the B, because I was learning anything - I wanted to make sure that I was perceived as a good student. A good girl.
My A’s where shoulds.
I carried that attitude with me for years - well into grad school decades later. In fact, my only goal when starting grad school was to come out the other side with a degree that would propel me into the C-suite.
When else in life?
Sometime in my third residency of grad school I was lamenting to a classmate, Linda, about how much reading was being assigned - and the number of papers that were expected that semester. Linda paused. “I like to think of it like this,” she said. “When else in life will we have an opportunity like this? When else will learning about a subject we really care about, with people we really care about, to do work we really care about be a priority?”
I was floored - it had never dawned on me that I was there to do anything other than get a degree. Learning was just a haphazard side effect, I guess?
My thinking shifted after that day. I stopped writing papers to the specifications of the syllabus and, instead, started reflecting on what I had learned and how my point of view was changing because of what I was experiencing. And a funny thing happened… the A’s kept pouring in AND I found myself immersed in a subject that truly fascinated me. It was nothing short of life-altering for me. My mind expanded, my worldview expanded and my heart nearly burst from all the new ideas and knowledge swirling around.
I was hooked.
I was hooked on learning. I was hooked on questioning and reflecting on everything. And above all else, I was hooked on doing all of it in the company of bold women who weren’t afraid to say brave things and challenge the status quo. It was the impetus for starting the SheHive, because there was no way in hell I was going to stop surrounding myself with brave and badass women who would challenge me with love and compassion.
So why am I not afraid to fail? Because I love learning and failure is just data telling me that I need to learn more, experience more and try it a different way.
And I’m not sure I would have ever come to that love had it not been for the bravery of a dear woman who loved me enough to not let me just be okay with my old ideas and stories.
Who challenged you?
Are there women in your life that have helped to challenge your old stories with love and compassion? I’d love to hear about them! Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or, better yet, share it with the world and drop a comment below.
With much love and gratitude,
Ursula Adams, MSPOD