The other day I had my first solo planning call with a major client. For someone who’s been in marketing for a year, I’m embarrassed to say that I was scared.
What’s the “right” way to coordinate a marketing campaign? To please and impress a client with high expectations? You tell me. I was too busy trying to figure out how to make my conference call line work (I come from the Skype/Hangouts generation).
This story plays out in millions of workplaces for millions of young people every day. At the end of these stories, most of us realize one of two things:
1) If I do challenging or risky things like this ever again, I’ll just embarrass myself!
2) If I’m just willing to be a little embarrassed, I can do challenging and risky things like this again and again!
Both of these are true. Only one allows for any kind of growth, excitement, or meaning. Hint: it’s the second.
Like every other fish out of water moment I’ve had in my short career, the only risk I really ran during this call with our client was the risk of embarrassment. Sure, someone might have found out that I didn’t have a broad network of press connections (I don’t), or that I’ve never run a marketing campaign (I haven’t), or that I’m doing most of what I do for the first time (I am).
Believe it or not, none of that mattered. After a couple of minutes of being uncertain about where to begin, we both left the call better off. We also had (dare I say it) a strong marketing plan.
It might not have turned out that way. If I had backed out of doing what I had to do because of fear, I’d have a much bigger problem. If, as a rule, I avoided situations where I could be embarrassed, I would be out of a job. Fortunately, I’ve been exposed to my own fear of embarrassment often enough to know that a few moments of feeling ridiculous are a good price to pay for taking on experiences well above my pay grade.
Unfortunately, too many people my age never get these experiences. They never find out how small their risk really is. The simple fear of embarrassment is too easily disguised as “fear of failure,” “fear of letting [X] down,” and “fear of the unknown.” Time and time again we let it keep us from doing anything, going anywhere, or growing at all beyond the limitations of age or experience other people have set for us.
At least as far as stereotypes go, young people are reckless and headstrong – dangers to ourselves, sometimes. Maybe we are. Maybe we’re too reckless in going after things that don’t matter and far too timid in going after things that do.
If I could make one wish, it would be that my generation would stop treating embarrassment like it’s a real danger. We should be thankful that failure and growth both come at the small price of occasionally looking like newbs, idiots, and imposters.
Think about what we could do in the world if we tolerated that. Not so bad, is it?