Got a Big Goal? It’s Okay to be Scared.

I didn’t always have a job I loved. Far from it: At age 23, I got fired from my first job. I’ll never forget what my boss said the day she let me go: “You’ll never succeed except in a highly structured environment.”

Such was my lack of self-knowledge that I didn’t even grasp the meaning. But she was a seasoned, successful, businesswoman so I assumed she knew what she was talking about. And for the next seven excruciating years, I took that to heart.

For the rest of my 20s, I was gripped with anxiety that I’d never find work in which I excelled. I wanted desperately to be skillful at something—anything. I secretly envied people who mastered their craft and were successful at it. On my 30th birthday, I cried all day because I was so damn sure I’d never amount to anything. But by then I had already (slowly and unexpectedly) begun to piece together the elements that would lead me to my current role as a women’s leadership speaker.

By identifying role models who really inspired me, I found myself in breathtaking awe of two women whom I saw speak to large groups. They had such presence—on stage and during one-on-one conversations. They communicated honestly and fearlessly, in ways that energized and galvanized me, and felt transformational. I would experience a tremendous sense of accomplishment, I reasoned, if I could become good at that skill, even though it scared me almost to death. So I gritted my teeth and forced myself to volunteer for every opportunity to coach or train others.

The first time I was paid to lead a 12-week training course, two people quit after the first session because I was so terrible. But, I stuck with it, and my confidence increased every time I got positive feedback. With time and practice, I stopped feeling sick with fear before every presentation. The more I focused on developing my new skill, the more my anxiety faded.

Now, if I need an infusion of courage, or if I find myself hesitating to play big, I remember my role models and ask myself: “What would Andrea do? What would Sandra do?”

Eleanor Roosevelt famously said: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I’ll build on that and encourage you to do the thing that scares the crap out of you, but makes you feel tremendously accomplished, whether it’s learning a new skill, solving a big problem, leaving a toxic boss, or pitching a world-changing idea. Making your mark in the world is going to take some courage.

Growing into the leader you were meant to become can be downright terrifying.

It’s okay to be scared.

It’s okay to want to play it safe.

But don’t let that stop you. Find a goal that would make you feel you feel tremendously accomplished. Think of someone or something that truly inspires you. Summon the courage, and take a small action to move forward. It will get easier.

Jo Miller

Jo Miller is a globally renowned authority on women’s leadership. She’s dedicated two decades to helping women advance into positions of influence by leveraging their leadership strengths. Based on her work with hundreds of thousands of women, she developed a pragmatic and powerful roadmap that guides women to become the leaders they aspire to be. Jo shares this proven process in her book Woman of Influence: 9 Steps to Build Your Brand, Establish Your Legacy, and Thrive (McGraw Hill, 2019.)

Jo is CEO of leadership development, consulting and research firm Be Leaderly. Learn more about her speaking engagements at www.JoMiller.com and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.

25 Questions to Ask a Mentor

Whenever I’m asked “What are some of the best questions to ask a ...

25 Songs For Your Leadership Playlist

What are your all-time favorite leadership songs — the ones that make you ...

Four Types of Questions To Ask Your Mentor

Have conversations with your mentor gotten a bit repetitive lately? Perhaps you approached ...

How to Shut Down a Colleague Who Takes Credit for Your Work

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting and the unthinkable ...

11 Leadership Lessons Learned

Here are 11 lessons I’ve learned about leadership—mostly from much-admired colleagues, and just ...

5 Ways to be a Leader, Not a Manager

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a manager and a leader? ...

100 Leadership Qualities

What are your leadership strengths? That’s a question I ask in a survey ...

15 Leadership Quotes to Help You be a Leader, Not a Manager

Sometimes you need a reminder and some inspiration to be a leader, not ...

10 Killer Leadership Skills: The Great Differentiators?

Last week at Hallmark I hosted a couple gentlemen from a partner company. ...

Influencing Without Authority—Using Your Six Sources of Influence

I am in the difficult situation of being unofficial project lead, responsible for ...

Leaderly Quote: The tasks you let go of…
Leaderly Quote: The tasks you let go of…

“Shoulds” are tasks or obligations we take on, accompanied by an inner monologue that goes,

How to Write a Simple and Beautiful Manifesto
How to Write a Simple and Beautiful Manifesto

Traditionally, a manifesto is a written statement where you publicly declare your… – Intentions (what

Leaderly Quote: Leadership is not about doing more
Leaderly Quote: Leadership is not about doing more

You probably already had a to-do list longer than a CVS receipt before this global

What’s on Your Not-To-Do List?
What’s on Your Not-To-Do List?

Leadership is not about doing more. It’s about switching from doing to leading. From this

100 Leadership Qualities: What’s Your Signature Style of Leading?
100 Leadership Qualities: What’s Your Signature Style of Leading?

There’s an entire industry of books and seminars founded on the assumption that if you

20 Leadership Quotes by Women to Inspire You in 2020
20 Leadership Quotes by Women to Inspire You in 2020

20 of our favorite leadership quotes by women At Be Leaderly, we’re on a mission

Happy Holidays 2019
Happy Holidays 2019

May your Holidays sparkle with moments of love, laughter, and goodwill, and may the year

5 Ways to Shift From Doing to Leading
5 Ways to Shift From Doing to Leading

To become a leader, there is a series of key shifts in mindset and behavior

You Do You: Claim Your Leadership Strengths
You Do You: Claim Your Leadership Strengths

We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses that we neglect to

Leaderly Quote: We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses…
Leaderly Quote: We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses…

We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses that we neglect to

At Be Leaderly, our mission is a simple one: To provide proven career strategies that help you lead, climb, and thrive as a rising woman of influence. If you’re ready to lead, we’re here to support and inspire you.

Copyright 2020, Be Leaderly