Is fear holding your writing career back? When I asked writers about that a while back, I was concerned with the responses I got.
I’ve learned fear is an epidemic in the freelance-writing world.
Fear your work will be laughed at.
Fear you won’t be able to deliver the quality writing a gig demands.
Fear that one flubbed assignment will spell the end of your freelance writing career. That you’ll never be able to earn your living through that thing you love…writing.
Well, fear not.
I met someone at SOBCon who knows all about fear and how to beat it to unleash a life of achievement and prosperity — and below is his system for growing self-confidence. He is Tim Sanders, a former Yahoo! executive, author of the popular book Love is the Killer App and a new book, Today We Are Rich: Harnessing the Power of Total Confidence. Tim gave me permission to share the gist of his inspiring talk with you.
Tim related to the SOBCon audience the story of his hardscrabble childhood. He was basically a throwaway kid and ended up raised by his grandma, Billye, from the age of four. She brought him up on her farm by herself and put him on a solid path to college, but his world fell apart in his twenties, when his dad was murdered.
After 15 years of floundering with his self-esteem in the tank, he finally got back on track by returning to the basic values Billye instilled in him from childhood. Here are his rules:
- Fight scarcity thinking. Often fear comes from a “small pie” mentality that says there’s only so much to go around. Billye taught Tim there’s always enough — and we can bake up more. Bravely share what you have, even when it’s not much, and you will build your self-worth and unleash abundance. Once, Tim recalls, a homeless man came to their door, begging for work. Though they had little, Billye fed him and gave him chores to do, then paid him $20. The magic of giving is it makes you realize your good fortune.
- Screen out the bad news. Billye rarely watched the TV news, preferring inspirational readings. In an age where you can surf the ‘net and see alarming stuff 24 hours a day, Tim advises staying off Twitter and online news sites that first hour or so when you wake up. Instead, read something uplifting — maybe a book about writing. Keep a diary of how much time you spend consuming negative and troubling information — then cut it way back.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Chase more negativity out by avoiding snarky social-media conversations and people who gossip. Find mentors and friends who will build you up.
- Remember the good times. Tim says what you park by the “front door” of your mind — the memories you keep fresh — should be uplifting memories of past achievements. When you’re feeling scared or down, review these past successes to remind yourself of your abilities. Personally, I loved this point, as when I am flummoxed by a big feature article, I’ll still sometimes get out my old portfolio and flip through some of my favorite past clips. Reading those stories makes me realize if I wrote those complicated pieces, I can do this one, too. The only emotion that’s as strong as fear, Tim says, is validation.
- Learn the pecan method for dealing with criticism. When Tim came home stung by classmates’ criticism, Billye handed him a pecan. She taught him criticism is an opportunity to learn something valuable — whether it’s about you or maybe the other person. Swallow the useful part of the feedback — the nut. Then, throw away the rest — the shells.
- Exercise your gratitude muscles. People who feel down aren’t taking the time to appreciate all the good things that happen to them each day, Tim says. It’s been said the biggest natural-resource shortage these days — especially in America — is gratitude. Billye kept a dusty old dimestore “horn of plenty” centerpiece on her table, a Depression-era reminder that abundance is all in your perception of things.
- Prepare for loss. Tim was doing well until the unexpected loss of his father knocked him for a loop. Know that bad things will happen, and rehearse in your head how you would cope. We all have setbacks in our personal lives and our writing careers — that query you thought was so terrific that never got a response, or the client who dropped you without explanation. Think about the resources you could draw on to bounce back from setbacks before they happen, and you’ll be ready.
Know that success is not a destination — it’s a direction. Keep moving forward.