It’s True: Highly Talented People Can Get Scared at Work, Too

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Aug 3, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about this, and there are so many new followers of this blog (thank you and welcome!), so I wanted to write this short blog because I think it’s really important to share this:

Everyone gets scared. Executives get scared. Every time I got a big promotion, I was scared.

If you are human, you will get scared when you face a new, big challenge or opportunity. (Unless you are a psychopath — those are basically your two choices: 1. human and scared; or, 2. psychopath).

While it’s OK to be scared, what’s not OK is if every time you feel scared, you disqualify yourself and don’t allow yourself to move forward. Don’t use scared as an excuse not to move forward. That’s how you get stuck.

Successful people get scared, too

The reality is that successful people spend as much (or more) time being scared as they do feeling confident and comfortable.
This often comes up when considering taking on a big new project, or going for a promotion. If you look at the opportunity and think, “Wow that would be really exciting, but that seems too scary,” that is totally normal.

The problem arises if you equate “that seems scary” to “that must mean I’m not qualified, because a person who IS qualified wouldn’t be scared.

This is simply not true.

Remember, everyone is scared.

The difference is that successful people do it anyway.

A couple of years ago, I wrote about the scariest, most embarrassing, worst moment in my career. Bottom line: I was scared. I failed. I survived. I learned. I moved forward.

The invisible risk

It breaks my heart when I see gifted people hold themselves back simply because they are too nervous to step forward.

Staying in the background because it is more comfortable means you fade into the background. In reality, that should be the scary thing, because you are actually much more vulnerable if you are invisible.

Being out there and being imperfect, trying to move things forward, and committing to contribute is actually a much less risky way to behave in your career, because you are moving forward.

That scared-try-fail-learn cycle is far more valuable than the safer-feeling, opt-out approach, where you learn and accomplish nothing. People who try, get real knowledge and can make real progress. People who don’t try get at most, theoretical knowledge.

There are always people who can help you

The good news is that you never have to suffer alone. You can get a mentor. You can simply find smart people and ask them for help.

If you are afraid of losing credibility, you can simply say, “do you know someone who has done something similar? I am looking for best practices.”

Asking for help is actually a skill that successful people develop. Successful people get a lot of help. That’s why they are so successful!

In fact, I have become accustomed to asking for help even when I think I know what I want to do, because I’m always better off (and far less scared) with the help of experts.

I wrote about another time in my career when I thought I was going to get fired for not knowing how to do my job. I was really scared, but instead of staying paralyzed, I got help, and found a way to move forward.

Don’t disqualify yourself

Don’t ever disqualify yourself from going after something you want. You don’t have to. You are not doing anyone any favors by disqualifying yourself — especially yourself.

If you put yourself forward for judgement and let other people tell you if you are not ready, then you’ll learn something important for next time. Don’t get discouraged. Everyone who moves forward hears NO sometimes. Don’t ever give up your own power by being the one to tell yourself you are not good enough.

It’s hard advice to take, to “do it scared,” but it’s worth it. Don’t build your own cage.

This was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog. Her latest book is Rise: How to be Really Successful at Work and LIKE Your Life.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.