Recently I was honored with an invitation to speak at the National Association of Women MBA's. As a side note, I should mention that I am not an MBA, nor do I think I have such an impressive story that I should be garnered with such an invitation. As a matter of fact, this morning I started to have a bit of a panic attack about what I would say that could matter to this group of highly motivated women.
I re-read the email the President of the San Diego State University chapter sent to me;
"It would be a great privilege to have you share your story as an entrepreneur and to inspire other women to pursue their dreams. We would love to hear your advice, how you overcame various challenges, and what your recipe for success is."
My stomach started to twist into knots, and I could feel my throat go dry. That familiar stage fright feeling was gripping me again, as my first instinct to run & hide began to bubble to the surface of my mind.
Then, something changed. It's a switch I am so used to flipping in my mind, that I am almost unaware of it the moment that it happens.
"I am not afraid, I'm excited." I said to myself, then I repeated it out loud a second and a third time.
My thoughts began to follow my words and within seconds, I realized what I wanted to share with this group that might inspire them, or, at least, make them think outside their own box for just a few moments.
There was a moment in my life where everything changed. It's one of those pivotal moments you don't forget, like your first kiss, or the moment you realize you can ride a bike with no training wheels (that was a big one for me!)
It was almost ten years ago now, but I can remember the precise moment the shift happened. I was driving to meet a wedding planner to discuss the details of my upcoming nuptials. The cars in front of me slowed, and for a moment, I couldn't tell what was causing the pause. Just then a group of three girls who looked to be in their teens appeared from behind the cars. Each was perched on the back of a horse.
As their horses slowly walked across the paved road, I was in awe of not only how gorgeous the animals were, but also how perfectly put together each of the girls riding attire was. I was mesmerized by each detail; their shiny black boots, the fitted beige riding pants and little black helmets, and the way they all seemed so supremely at ease as they moved with their steeds.
As traffic started to move forward, I thought to myself "I wish I would've had the opportunity to learn to ride." I sighed as I glanced backward in my rearview mirror and I thought, "It's too late now, I'm almost forty. No one learns to ride at my age."
Then it happened.
Something inside me said, "Why Not?"
Why not learn to ride? What is stopping you from doing what you want to do right now?
And at the moment, I realized the answer...I am.
I am stopping me from doing what I want.
As I drove closer to my destination, I passed a sign that said RIDING LESSONS HERE. It was as if the sign was speaking directly to me...taunting me.
and I thought again, "Why not?"
I pulled the car over and sat silently for a moment. "Am I really doing this?" and the answer was "YES, Why Not?"
From that moment, my life took on a different trajectory.
I promised myself to continue to use my "why not" moment for the rest of my life, to open doors, to push myself past my own insecurities and imagined limitations, and to consistently embrace newness.
There are countless moments in any entrepreneur's life when people around you will offer reasons why they think your idea isn't meant for success. They see the safety of what you have been doing as the better bet. The easier path.
Of all the people that will offer 'helpful' advice and even sometimes outright criticism, don't let YOU be the one that brings down your own idea.
Continue to push past the self-doubt, the fear, the what-if's and the stage fright and (as Nike so famously said) just do it. Just continue to use the "why not?" mantra to strike out and forge your new path.
Start today with shaky hands, and a trembling voice, but just start.
If you're like me, you may even start with "Why Not?"
(And in case you're wondering, I took riding lessons for the next four years, and even learned to jump fences on my beautiful horse named Pacifico.)