In a one-on-one with my creative director, we got to talking about what it takes to lead people, how to be a mentor, and where I can continue to grow as a senior member of the Shoptology team. On top of everything else discussed, one piece of advice she gave me was to “Do something that scares you.” As a sticky-note enthusiast, I wrote this phrase down and stuck it on my desk, reminding myself to come back to it when I could. And what better time to talk about scary things than Halloween, right?
This probably isn’t what my CD had in mind when she loosely paraphrased Eleanor Roosevelt, but this ghoulish holiday offers the perfect segue. Contrary to popular belief, we love being scared! Take haunted houses, for example. You pay money to voluntarily walk room by room to have things pop out at you and get a rise out of your adrenaline. Your heart starts pounding. Your breathing gets quicker. And more importantly, the tingles sent down your spine trigger your Spidey Senses. What’s good about this fear-inducing experience is that, once it’s over, you get this euphoric reaction – a natural high, almost – from surviving what you just went through. This sensation is also what makes you go from screaming to laughing when you walk out of that haunted house.
Willingly letting costumed people frighten you might sound like fun to some, but it’s also reassuring to know that it’s all an act. It’s fake and designed to get a reaction out of you. But as a parent, there are a lot of real things that scare me. A lot of what-ifs. Like, what if I say a word I don’t want my very impressionable almost-four-year-old daughter to repeat? What if I’m playing too rough and accidentally hurt my baby boy? What if I fail in some way and my children see me as a failure? The same thing translates to my role at work. What if I say the wrong thing, what if a joke goes too far or worse yet, what if I fail? And if that’s not scary enough, what if I lose my job because of it?
Doing something that scares you entails having a realized fear surrounding said activity. But fear can be good! In the non-horror-film sense of the word, having that moment of fear before you do something out of the ordinary is usually a good indicator that something amazing can happen as a result. This feeling can also become a big red stop sign if you let it.
But if I’m being honest with myself, when I look up at that sticky note with those five words written on it, that phrase makes me smile. No, really, it does. Because it gives me permission to do something that I wouldn’t normally do. Not just letting my single sign-on password get to the day it expired to update it. I mean going out of my way to do something – for myself or others – that makes my literal skin crawl. Like giving someone a meaningful compliment, for example.
Living with a constant fear of saying the wrong thing, simply talking to others can become a bit of word vomit. Yes, even copywriters struggle with wrong-word-itis from time to time. And it’s probably what made me start writing more – to get the right words down on paper and let the work speak for itself. That, of course, doesn’t always work. But over the course of my career I’ve continued to scare myself into wording out loud by presenting work, managing interns, building relationships with clients and so much more – before even hearing that phrase. Come to think of it, getting scared and making amazing stuff happen is really just a part of growing – no matter where you are in life or in your career.
Now, I should probably wrap up by mirroring the thousands of articles about getting out of your comfort zone. But that isn’t where I want to leave you. Because getting uncomfortable is easy. Doing something that makes your hair stand on end takes some effort. And in the end, even if you fail over and over again, it’s all worth the effort as you grow. So, go ahead. Get up and go do something that scares you. Yes, even if you’re reading this the day, week or month after Halloween. Give yourself goosebumps.