Millions of people choose the life of a freelancer, OK to be fair some are there not through choice, to fulfil their dreams and to build a life they have always wanted only to be paralysed and end up in a hell pit of fear. Sat at home staring at their Mac Book, over-thinking, juggling all the ‘what ifs’, fearing success, fearing failure, perfecting, polishing and questioning why they left the safety of regular employment.
Many kidding themselves that they are doing everything they can and are just unlucky, offering many reasons for why this or that can’t be done or started. ‘When I have more time, I will do x’ or ‘When I have a bit more money, I will start y’ and so on.
Fear is an interesting thing. If you went back 100’s and in fact, 1000’s of years, there were many things to be truly fearful of, physical dangers that meant we had to engage the limbic ‘chimp’ brain and think flight, fight, or freeze. Now there are very few, thankfully, life or death situations in our day-to-day lives.
However, the fear of failure, of being laughed at, of being judged, of looking silly, the fear of what others will think or say, the fear of succeeding and being in the limelight, all these things are in some ways more paralysing than suddenly realising you’ve trodden on the tail of a sabre-toothed tiger.
Life was easier when we worked for someone else, OK there was still that fear of being fired, still the fears of not looking a fool etc, but now as a freelancer there is the fear of not having money for the mortgage, the gas bill or even money for the green tea, yoga class and the next packet of pink Himalayan salt to sprinkle on our avocado and pesto risotto.
So we’re sat in our beautiful arranged home office, with pictures on the wall saying things like ‘fortune favours the brave’ or ‘JFDI’ and other such motivational aides. We have arranged all the self-help guru books, we’ve got the A-Z of inspirational authors lining the bookshelves, we have our Mac, our Moleskin notebook, our pot of colouring pencils and a freshly brewed cafetiere of coffee steaming on the desk. Yet we are stuck, helpless, lost and fearful.
OK so now your really in the hell pit of fear and you’re thinking, I’m going to stop reading this now, this is only making it worse!
Over-thinking and shipping
Well, that is the first thing to actually stop doing, thinking. Over-thinking is one of the biggest killers to productivity and creating something. You just need to ship or just fucking ship as Amy Hoy puts it.
The more we think, the more we find reasons not to do something, sometimes it is a question of saying ‘1,2,3…go’ and then we learn, we improve, we make better.
You can keep polishing something, hoping for yet greater levels of shine.
Perfection, even if it were attainable, would only last a brief moment until someone or something else out-perfected it.
Imperfect is actually what makes anything special, special.
Concentrate on doing something that is new, not merely putting a different coat of paint on somebody else’s work or what you did before. Make something that will stand out, but don’t take forever, just ship it, get it out there to the world.
After all the best way to learn is to try, and try, and try, and try again. Making your creation better each time.
Practice makes better not perfect.
Ship not shine, it will give you the edge on the people who feel the need to polish instead of creating.
It’s a game
Seth Godin talks about the game of Monopoly and what can be learnt from that. Unless you’re a young child, you’re unlikely to take Monopoly personally. OK so occasionally, I still want to turn the board upside down!
You can try different strategies, you can take risks, some work, some don’t, but it is just a game and you can play it again tomorrow and the day after and so on.
Well, life is like that and we are playing ‘Monopoly’ every day with billions of others and once you see it like that, then what is there to fear? You can try a strategy, learn and see what happens next.
Take off the shield.
We are all going to die one day, so maybe that is something to fear.
But we won’t die from posting that blog, launching that new service, asking someone on a date, moving house, changing jobs, asking for a salary increase, telling someone you love them or removing something or someone from your life that is not serving you well.
Whatever it is, life is about experiencing things, learning and making it better.
It is not about protecting ourselves.
We could do the changes we want in life at some point in the future.
We could wait for others to do it.
We know that regret hurts a great deal and we know that fear holds us back.
The brave people are those that face fear now, they know that regret is a very painful thing to remove and one that drags us back to the past.
Past is a place that can hurt many times. Past drains our energy now. Past is something that will never alter.
But now will be the past tomorrow.
True bravery is acting now.
Strategies that work to overcome fear:
Here are some things that are working for me, might not be right for you, but worth a try or adapting to you.
Daily success rituals
Having rituals every day is something that I have worked into my life over the last 2-3 years. It has taken that long to master it and adapt it to what works for me.
All habits are broken or new ones formed by doing something every day, 30 days was the magic number, but I believe in reality it is much longer, more like 90 days to truly bed in and work.
So, getting dressed and brushing your teeth don’t count. It could be meditating, doing an action list, reading a blog, exercising, learning a new skill or anything that is important to take the small steps towards self-improvement and building a discipline muscle.
it’s taken me most of my life to work this out, but only 12 months to really master it.
Writing a blog every day
If you are sitting at home struggling, then write a blog every day, work out loud and share your ideas with the world. It is all about developing the discipline muscle and it will improve your writing skills.
That is something we all do a great deal of, writing content, social media posts, proposals, offers, client work etc, why not practice?
There’s a link below to my experience of 365 days of blogging and the benefits.
The compound effect
Doing a little every day towards your goals is another key component in becoming braver and getting stuff done. There is a brilliant book by Darren Hardy titled surprisingly ‘The Compound Effect’.
Essentially, if you make the commitment and stick to it, initially not much changes as what you are doing is the small achievable steps, but as time passes it compounds and then momentum builds.
Seth Godin has over 1/2 million subscribers to his blog, but he’s been blogging every day for 10 years.
Success takes time and takes regular daily commitment.
Finding reasons to do something
Often in life, we have developed this habit of finding reason’s not to do something.
This fear-driven mentality is part of the hard-wired protective mechanism that our limbic ‘chimp’ brain uses to stop us being exposed to risk.
What if we simply turned that on its head and searched for reasons to do something? Similar to catching people doing something right, instead of always trying to catch others doing something wrong.
Imagine the possibilities if we found a reason why we could do something.
Find a reason to do the things that matter in life and stop searching for reasons to hide.
After all, it is just a habit and what you choose to look for.
I am a huge fan of Brene Brown, another person that over 15-20 years of hard work, commitment and interviewing literally thousands of people has developed great books and work on vulnerability, shame and how to dare to be great and rise from life’s falls.
Her work on vulnerability is all about taking down the shields that we put up to protect ourselves. Step into the ring and dare to be great as Roosevelt talks about in his famous speech, as he says ‘it is not the critic that counts’. We can take on well-intentioned feedback from the few people in life that really matter but do not worry about the people sat in the crowd, who have not overcome their own fear and been brave enough to step into the ring.
As a freelancer we have to be prepared to be brave and not sit at home waiting for things to happen to us, we have to step out there and create it.