The value of moving forward into uncertainty.

I have personally been living in a season of “real life” as we have navigated a cancer diagnosis of a close family member, a pending move to an assisted living facility for a loved one, and making the decision to firmly close the door to future children. 

I originally thought, “Kate, this is the intro to a company newsletter so you probably shouldn’t talk about this heavy stuff.” But the thing is, we bring everything associated with who we are in our personal lives to our work. And for me, there is a lesson in all of it that does actually apply to my marketing philosophy. So, stay with me.

Recently we were at the beach on a family vacation (although I definitely use the term “vacation” extremely lightly with a three-year-old and one-year-old). My daughter (the one-year-old) does not yet walk but was dead set on charging into the ocean repeatedly like a sea turtle emerging from its nest and following the sounds and light of the crashing waves. 

It shook me, to see this little person who lives about seven inches off the ground encounter zero fear from this vast ocean she cannot even understand. She just took off because she wanted to know what was there. 

When it comes to life, fear is a common thread. We fear what a medical diagnosis might mean. We fear the responsibility of caring for a family member in their final years. We fear what could happen to our children and people we love when we aren’t there to watch over them. 

In my own discussions with my husband about moving forward with a medical procedure that will confirm we are done with children, I pondered, “But what if something happens to one of our kids? Wouldn’t we want to have the opportunity to have another so our other child isn’t raised without a sibling?” He quickly and wisely rebuked me. “Kate, I am not going to live my life in fear of the worst thing that could happen. What kind of life is that, and what makes you think you can control any of it?”

Fear and control are often inextricably linked, even though it doesn’t make any sense. The idea that we can control anything to lessen our fears is comical when you consider the fact that every single one of us will die, and there is nothing we can do about it. 

I recently read a book called Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb. It is a book written by a therapist about some of her patients, as well as her own journey through therapy. One of the stories traced through the book recounts the journey of helping her patient navigate a terminal diagnosis. Once the patient recognized that she absolutely had zero control over her life and the fear was worthless when she knew firmly what her ending would look like, she found incredible freedom in her last days. 

So, what does this have to do with marketing now that I have made you perhaps both sad and pondering your own demise? 

Here is the thing. Fear is certainly a real emotion, and it does help create healthy guardrails in our lives. However, sometimes the fear is misplaced or develops because of a story we are telling ourselves that might not even be true. 

Maybe we should instead be moving forward in our fear, literally doing it afraid, as the adage goes. 

In the business world, here is how I see this playing out: On any given day, there is dark news in the media about the chance for economic downfall or a defaulting government budget … there are pandemics, wars, and mass shootings. There is so much to be afraid of, it can be paralyzing. 

If we let these fears dictate our decisions to not hire, to not invest in a marketing campaign that makes so much sense for our overall economic goals, we are missing the big picture. We are letting the world tell us what our story should be instead of writing our own.

Lindsay and I have had this same internal debate about TealHaus. Do we hire new team members knowing the economy could falter? Do we reduce our fees on upcoming proposals to ensure we get the business even though we are undermining our value? 

Of course, any of these decisions could lead to failures in a small sense. But isn’t that what life is all about? A series of tiny experiments that go one way or another, and teach us the path that we should follow moving forward? 

My point is this: 

Don’t let your fear get in the way of your progress. Maybe you don’t need to barrel towards the ocean with a complete disregard for danger. But don’t fool yourself into thinking you can avoid a negative outcome if you hold the line and do nothing. Sometimes staying the course means becoming paralyzed. And what good will that do? 

Go be bold. Do it afraid. Let go of the fear of control. And I would question: If it doesn’t make you afraid, is it even worth doing?

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