fear, courage, and joy

Original Painting Heart of Nails from hkarts
Heart of Nails

I just got back from the Hello Etsy conference in Berlin. It was nothing short of amazing. So many incredible speakers, so many wonderful people. I know there are a few months left in 2011, but I think I can safely say that Hello Etsy has been the highlight of the year for me.

Another reason it was so personally important was that it provided me with an opportunity to get back in touch with my experience of fear and courage.

Months ago I pitched the idea of giving a talk on project management for indie businesses at the conference. To my delight Etsy accepted. In the months since I’ve been posting on the topic here on Scoutie Girl, and putting together a presentation. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt not just nervous, but scared about doing something work related.

One of the (few) good things about working a corporate job is that there are many opportunities where you have to move out of your comfort zone, whether it’s presenting final results to big clients or leading large internal meetings. Situations like these put you in front of a group and make you really want to avoid looking a fool, screwing up, or making the company look bad by not being on top of your game.

I haven’t had to do that in awhile. Tossing my hat in the ring to speak at Hello Etsy was partly good business (great exposure!) as well as sincere interest in sharing something  of value (hopefully) with the larger indie community. But I also did it because part of me wanted to keep myself on my toes.

This was a whole new audience, and one that was waaay closer to my heart than anyone I had to interact with at my old job. Moreover, the content represented me, not the company I worked for. Scary.

So over the last few weeks I’ve been a little freaked out. There were some moments where I wondered why I had signed myself up for it. I had to really discipline myself not to fixate on all sorts of worst case scenarios (what if I trip and fall? what if the talk is too basic? What if it’s too complicated? what if no one comes? what if everyone comes!? What if people tweet mean things?) I constantly had the voice of Sissy Spacek’s crazy mother from the movie Carrie in my head: “They’re all going to laugh at you!”

So I practiced a lot. I re-worked my slides. I asked for feedback. The week leading up to the conference I didn’t sleep very much. I didn’t sleep at all on Saturday night before my speaking slot on Sunday morning. My rational self reminded me to stay confident, I knew my material inside and out. But the deep reptilian lizard part of my brain was on red alert.

But I put one foot in front of the other, showed up for my slide and microphone check, and before I knew it I was standing in front of around 100 people giving my talk. And it was glorious. It wasn’t just glorious because I somehow managed to be relaxed and gave the presentation as well as I had hoped to, but also because somewhere along the way it became a lot of fun. The participants were engaged and asking really good questions, which told me that they were getting something out of it too.

After it was over I was swarmed with people leaving cards to get on the mailing list for the eBook, thanking me, and asking me questions. People came up to me throughout the rest of the conference telling me how much they enjoyed the session, and I’m still getting love notes and convos from people that attended. Joy. Joy. Joy.

I forgot how freaking great it feels to fight past your fear, do something that scares you, and really succeed.

What makes the whole thing even sweeter is the thrill of finding out that I had genuinely helped people, which I had hoped for but tried not to expect. Total best case scenario.

My posts here are about the mechanics of being efficient and structuring your work to accomplish your goals. This is all just the recipe and ingredients. The effort, energy, and love required actually to cook the meal involves large dollops of courage.

Fittingly, Chad Dickerson gave a great talk on the opening day of the conference called ‘Finding Your Courage’. He shared how his experience of overcoming fear, finding his courage, and moving through hardships has lead him to great joy and success, including meeting his wife and becoming the CEO of Etsy. Most importantly he reminded us that the root of the word ‘courage’ comes from the latin word for ‘heart’,  and is really about listening to your innermost feelings. Indeed. You can watch his talk here.

My friend Stephanie Levy is talking to several notable and thriving artists, designers, photographers, entrepreneurs, writers, and bloggers from around the world (Including Tara!) about exactly this topic in her e-Course on Creative Courage. I can see why; part of the reason these women are thriving and notable is that the thing that creates quantum leaps in both your personal and professional growth involves a steady diet of courage.

9 thoughts on “fear, courage, and joy

  1. Eleanor, how fabulous!!! So great to hear that your talk turned out better than expected – and that facing your fear turned into something wonderful.

    It’s amazing how often that happens :)

  2. What an inspiring post Eleanor! This topic is everywhere right now and hearing the stories of overcoming is so important.

    I just listened to the Chad Dickerson talk and that too is inspiring.

    I’m sure your talk was equally so! Great to take a chance and do better than expected.

  3. Everyone has scary things to confront, especially in creative business where your ego is really on the line, and it’s nice to have this affirmation and encouragement!

    The wonderful thing about creative business in today’s world is that we have the internet community. Years ago I was designing & making sweaters and doing it all alone. Talk about scary! I didn’t have anyone to bounce ideas around with; just made everything up as I went. It was lonely! The Etsy community and blogging community have changed the world!

    Thanks for this post.

  4. Great post, great message, and congratulations on the wonderful turnout in Berlin! I’m very flattered that you featured my heart of nails painting. I’d say it fit right in with your theme of courage: )

    Keep on!


    1. Hi Hollie, Happy to do it! It’s a lovely work and I agree perfectly fit with the theme: That courage involves your heart, but it’s also heard and scary (nails). I did a search on Etsy and as soon as I saw it, I knew it was the right image to convey what I was trying to say :-)

  5. Thanks for such a fantastic article! I couldn’t agree more. After my first “public speaking” activity in Junior High, I broke out in hives. As an adult, I began experiencing full blown panic attacks. I kept hacking away at my issues, and now I’m happy to report that I can speak in front of a group without too much anxiety. It feels great to overcome a fear!

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