A client of mine was holding himself back from applying for a promotion…
He was excited by the content of the role and the fact that it would play to his strengths, yet still stretch him. He became animated when he talked about it and seemed genuinely enthused by the contribution he could make to the organisation by stepping up to this role.
However, alongside this enthusiasm sat doubts. He began to list all the people in the company who were more suited to the role — naming people who had more experience in managing teams. He wondered aloud how many more people in the wider business community could do it better than he could. As he thought ‘reasonably’ about his chances, his shoulders began to slump and the twinkle went out of his eyes.
Whenever a client doubts the value of their unique contribution, I always tell the same story:
At a busy crossroads in a bustling shopping town, there are 7 coffee shops right next to each other.. Seven. I’ve been going to the area for years and (apart from a short period when one of them closed) there have always been seven. And they’re usually full of people. How can seven coffee places survive right next to each other? By being unique. They each have a slightly different offering, aimed at a slightly different type of customer.
The famous “our deepest fear” quote by Marianne Williamson sits well here. Who are we not to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Who are we to hold ourselves back? If we have an urge to do something, we should go for it. It will not be like anyone else’s. It will be uniquely ours and the way we do it will be unparalleled.
Of course we must train, study, research, experiment, tweak … whatever it takes to make our ‘thing’ the best it can be. If we’re committed to this work, why shouldn’t we throw our hat in the ring? Why shouldn’t we open the 8th coffee shop?
If we take the coffee shop metaphor literally for a moment, I’m sure there are lots of examples of new coffee shop businesses failing, so I’m not suggesting we blindly go into a venture completely un prepared. I am suggesting we objectively evaluate the unique value we could bring.
Calculate the risk. What’s stopping you applying for the promotion? Or starting your own business? What’s the worst that could happen? What might improve your chances of success? E.g. ask your boss for some mentoring or start the business at the weekend and test the market.
In what areas of your life or work do you value your uniqueness? Take some time to reflect (maybe ask people around you what unique value you bring: to a relationship, to a team, to a group of friends). How can you leverage this?
Spend a few minutes (don’t dwell) thinking back on how you’ve held yourself back in the past —because you thought someone else had already ‘sewn up the market’ or that you had nothing to add. What might you do differently now?