WHEN PASSION & STRENGTH IS NOT ENOUGH – Originally appeared in Thrive Global

Untitled design-8 copy

Photo Courtesy of Mitchell Jordan

Growing up my dreams would always start the same way, with me being brave enough to put myself out into the world. Unfortunately, these dreams would also always end the same way, riddled with fear and the realization that I would never have the courage to do any of the things I laid awake at night dreaming of doing.

I used to tell myself the same thing over and over again: You can’t go after your dreams, Michael, you stutter. And each time I met with someone to talk about my future, they would reinforce my excuses, suggesting that maybe my dreams were too lofty, and that I should stick with the things that I was good at.

Deep down I knew that this was not the answer I needed, but after hearing it enough times, it stuck. For the first 23 years of my life I did just that, I played by everyone else’s rules, and not my own.

It was not until I saw my friends moving forward with their lives after graduating college, did it really hit me: if I continued down this path, each day allowing my fear to paralyze me, not only would I not accomplish my dreams, I would not accomplish anything.

From what I have deduced there are three camps in regards to finding work that matters:

1. Focus on your strengths and trust that in time the passion will follow

2. Follow your passions by trying new things and having the faith that you will get good at them and one day your stars will align

Or

3. Build confidence by facing your fears and improving upon your weaknesses

As someone who had lost touch with the strengths I did posses like being empathetic and a good listener, and as someone that had allowed my fears to bury my true passions, I came to a hard conclusion: Option 3 was the only choice I had if I wanted to live life on my own terms.

OPTION 3:

I can still see the looks on the faces of my friends when I told them that I had accepted a sales job. Imagine a guy who stuttered and a job that involved talking. Yeah. Still, I am not sure who they thought was crazier, me or the company that hired me. It was a big moment in my life, and I knew that I had to take the first step.

My whole life, I had been given well-meaning advice on how to deal with my speech impediment, including some notable suggestions from my friends, like pursue the lifestyle of a “drunken pop star” since I didn´t stutter when I sang, or when I drank. Yet, probably not surprisingly, not one person had said “get a sales job”. It was not until I did what no-one suggested I do and I picked up the phone to make my first call, did I view the one thing that had held me back for the better part of my life as a potential strength.

I grabbed my script, dialed up a random number, and went into one of the worst sales pitches in the history of sales pitches.

What should have been a quick ice breaker ended up running for three painful minutes, but to my surprise, the person on the other end of the line was still there, patiently waiting for me to finish.

On my first phone call, after 23 years of being petrified of my own voice, I instantly realized something that would change my life forever: People who stutter and choose to go unnoticed, stay unnoticed. But those people that stutter that choose to be noticed, become very noticed.

My suspicions were confirmed a few weeks later at the most unlikely of places: a sales seminar. After eight hours of listening to sales tips and advice from some industry giants, the keynote speaker ended his talk with one sentence that made my life so much easier:

I am going to leave you with one last piece of advice: if you cannot get the person to answer the door or talk to you on the phone, start stuttering, they will immediately see you as a person and not a sales person. It works every time. Thank you for your time today.

Needless to say, I went back to the office, picked up the phone and stuttered my ass off.

And it was glorious.

Sure I had some people hang up on me, but the majority respected what I was doing (or trying to do I should say) and within a year I was in the Top 10 in sales in a company with triple digit employees, and was asked to join the management team, where I eventually went on to lead a team and train all new sales people. I quickly learned that once again my biggest perceived weakness was the biggest motivating factor for my team: If you think it is hard to hang up on someone that is stuttering, try getting out sold by one, month in and month out.

OPTION 3 LED TO OPTION 4, 5 and 6:

It took having the guts to take the first step of facing my lifelong fear for 23 years worth of self-doubt and constant anxiety to instantly wash away, and with that step, the other dominos started to fall.

By building confidence at work, I began to take solo trips all over the world, each time returning home with new stories, friendships, and best of all, even more confidence.

By travelling alone, I gained the confidence to meet new people that seemed interesting, some of whom have played a huge part in my career guiding me in creating some opportunities today that I would have previously been too scared to even dream of just a few years prior.

By meeting new people, I gained the confidence to finally approach girls, which ultimately led me to Barcelona where I met the “one” person that I could not imagine living a day without.

Life is funny.

One day life is chasing you. But all it sometimes takes is one phone call, one piece of advice from someone you have never met, one line in a book, and in that very second, you start chasing life. But this comes with one caveat: you have to be willing to take that horrifying first step.

I have learned a great deal of lessons since I made the decision to take that step and face the fear that paralyzed me from chasing my dreams. But nothing bigger than the idea that you can sit around and dream of making great things, or you can get busy getting great at making.

After all, the best time to make the decision to run, comes after running the first mile.

(Thanks Conor Neill and Richard Mulholland for those last two zingers and the inspiration for this post. Can´t recommend clicking on their names and subscribing for their video series enough.

Keep making videos Richard. They are working;)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s