This isn’t one of those “go get ‘em” notes, telling you that you’re more ready than you think you are.
I actually want you to consider the possibility that you, in fact, are not ready.
We’ve been sold a potentially dangerous, painful message by the personal and business self-help world.
(Note: I am a fan of self-help. Big fan of high-quality self help, actually.)
The truth is, sometimes we actually aren’t ready.
We haven’t learned the whole lesson. We haven’t really hit the “other side.” We can’t see the forest because we are still walking the path amidst the trees. We may see the light ahead, have a clear view of the meadow that awaits, have a pretty good idea of the path to get out there. But the fact is, we are still in the forest.
I want to recognize here that, yes, we are further along the path than those back behind us. The view of the meadow (outside of all those trees!) is in plain sight. We have much we can share about what we see, especially to those behind us who are way back in the forest. But the fact is, we aren’t out yet and the path is still a bit uncertain.
Theoretically, we could call back to our friends deep in the forest: “I found the way! Let me tell you how to get out!”
And that’s where things get dangerous.
You don’t really know the way. You haven’t done the whole trek yet, have you?
You have what looks like a pretty clear view of the whole way out. And you know a lot about how you got to where you are. The problem is, you think you have to tell them the whole way out in order to get their attention.
And that, right there, is where it all falls apart.
Because you know that you don’t know the whole way out. In your belly, deep within, you know that the turn in the path up ahead could go in a couple of directions. Not having tested it, you’re not sure what happens with either turn. You can guess, but you’re not sure.
That uncertainty makes you nervous. It messes with your confidence.
From this place of lower confidence – of speculation – decisions are harder to make. Your voice wavers a bit when you call back to your friends deep in the forest. Your words lift at the end of your sentence, making them sound like a question as much as a statement. Your gut wrenches.
Your friends are looking to you because they trust that you know the way. You want so much to be of service to them – after all, you are further ahead on the path than they are. They need you. How will they get out of the deep forest if you don’t tell them the way?
And yet, you can’t tell them with confidence what you don’t know deeply within you.
This is where you may have heard things like “fake it ’til you make it” or “act as if” – meaning if you just behave as though you are confident then you will be. Those things work in some places (these are great approaches to practicing for speeches or beginning a new art or hobby, for example), but they do not apply when it comes to mentoring or teaching, both meaningful ways to change real lives with your message and your great work.
Acting as if you know, when deep down you know you aren’t sure, is dangerous for you and them.
You might think I’m writing this to protect them, but I’m not (though I do want safety for everyone). I’m writing this to protect you.
One of my most profound realizations in the last year has been the necessity that we know when we’re not ready.
I’ve watched and felt so many clients, colleagues – and myself (oh, myself!) – break our own hearts over and over as we try to teach lessons we are still learning. We are not intentionally misrepresenting our expertise or wanting to capitalize on a new opportunity to make money. In fact, the intense desire to serve and connect is driving this tricky situation. The problem is that when are still living the lesson and processing the learning, even if we have “realized” important aspects of the new lesson and put a name to the experience, we can’t teach with clarity and confidence. It’s just too close – still too fluid and shifting.
Here’s a new metaphor to consider:
I think of stepping stones on a path through a pond. We stand on one stone, still assessing the next move and finding our balance. Look back – there are those stones we have already traversed. We know how they teeter and where it gets slippery. We can teach about those stones with confidence.
That path of stones behind us, already crossed – this is our place of service, the message we are here to share. For now.
~You can tell them how to get to the place you are.~
In fact, for those way deep in the forest or just stepping onto the first stone in the path, you can share details that those ahead of you on the path may have forgotten about long ago.
The truth is, you have so much to teach. There is a wellspring of brilliance and gifts and learning you have to share that your right people need. The key is to recognize what you’re fully ready to teach – then serve up that message and those lessons with all of your heart and soul.
We think that, in order to serve, we have to have the ultimate answer.
We have to promise our ideal clients the grandest outcomes they can imagine.
This belief tears us up. It kills our confidence and confuses our message.
It weakens our ability to call forth those who need us most – those who are in that part of the forest we can both remember with detail and yet also provide the beautiful way toward the light.
So, my question to you is this:
What can you say to the people walking around this earth right now searching for you and your message with the deepest confidence and certainty? What are you powerfully and fully ready to teach them?
Go do that work. It’s the message you are here to share right now.