Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Last night I was at a panel put on by the American Society of Journalists and Authors, which I’m a member of. Five editors of top magazines spoke about how to pitch them articles. There was a reception before the panel began. As each person arrived, the same question was asked—“Would you be willing to verbally pitch the panel with an idea for an article? They wanted the editors to critique verbal pitch and also give people a chance to get instant feedback.

For those of you who aren’t writers, it’s rare to have an opportunity to pitch an editor face-to-face. It’s often hard to even get a response to an email pitch. There are so many writers trying to get into editorial doors. So when I was asked, I said YES! without even thinking. I didn’t even know what I’d pitch. I wanted to hear their talks first. But how could I not put my name down?? What a great opportunity!

Yet I was the only writer in the room to think so!

During the reception I asked folks why they weren’t going to pitch. “I’m scared” was the common answer. People called me brave. Maybe they were thinking I was nuts to stand up in front of a room full of people and put my idea out. But to me it was a no-brainer. It’s how I live and how I’ve gotten so far in my career.

You MUST take risks if you want to be happier. You MUST take risks if you want to be really successful. You MUST take risks if you want to live to the fullest extent of life. You MUST take risks if you want to build confidence in yourself.

After the panel finished, I was the one and only called to the front of the audience and given a microphone. Oh, did I tell you this event was being webcast to our entire organization?? Some people thought it was easy for me since I’m a speaker and I’ve done lots of TV and radio appearances. But that didn’t prepare me to come up with an idea for a magazine article and pitch it on the spot.

There was pressure. What if I made a bad impression and was remembered as someone with a bad pitch? What if my idea was wrong for all of them? But I had to do what I recommend to people in all my books, for business and pleasure:

When a good opportunity is offered, say YES, and then figure out how to make it work.

In my music business books, I advise musicians to say YES to any opportunity that’s offered that can help their careers, no matter how scared they or how many excuses they can come up with. Then do what’s necessary to work out the logistics. If someone offers an artist the opportunity to open for a large name act at the last minute, there’s only one answer. It doesn’t matter if there hasn’t been a rehearsal in a while or the guitar player is sick or you’re flat out scared. Say YES!

I also tell men and women to force yourself to take risks in your personal lives to expand possibilities and to overcome fear successfully. Doing anything that scares you is taking a risk. Asking someone you like for a date can run the risk of being turned down. Trying something new might not work out. Your kids might not like the baby sitter you grab at the last minute. You might wish you hadn’t said YES. Your boss may turn your salary increase down.

But you also might get positive results that will make it worthwhile.

There’s so much written about learning to say no. I definitely encourage folks to turn down what they don’t want. But we also need to practice saying YES to ourselves. Too often no is an automatic response to situations that sound hard, scary, daunting, etc. But that immediately cancels the potential for something that could enhance your life. Why do that to you! Saying YES is an act of self-love.

That takes BALLS! A proud moment for me was when I was featured in an article in a woman’s magazine about “Women with Big Cojones.” ?

I advocate developing a bigger set of BALLS in order to say YES to taking more risks. That means developing a personal level of courage. We often go the distance more for others. When I was a DoorMat, I lived in the safety lane. Anything different was a risk. Even if it was something I wanted badly, I said no. Now I go for the gold because I love myself enough to not deny opportunities I might find valuable or just enjoy. Here are some things that helped me that could help you too:

Become more spontaneous. Accept more things on a spur of the moment basis and occasionally make plans at the last minute. Often being a bit too rigid keeps us in the habit of turning down everything if there isn’t lots of time to plan for it. Staying in the same patterns made me feel more secure when I lived in DoorMatville. Now I get out and play more whenever it occurs to me to try something. So take a deep breath and just do it! Initiate a social activity with someone you’d like to know better. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Expand your wardrobe with new colors and styles. Invite a friend for dinner and try a new recipe. Do things fast, without time to second-guess it.

Squash the excuses. It’s easy to find reasons for not saying YES. List your excuses for avoiding what you’re afraid of failing at. Put an X next to it each time you can catch yourself and don’t use it. Applaud yourself each time. When you have 10 X’s by an excuse, cross it out and give yourself a thumb’s up!

Ask yourself what you’re really scared of and what’s the worst that can happen. What specifically scares you? Looking silly? Most people don’t notice the things that make you feel silly. Asking for a raise? Your boss saying know won’t kill you. Speaking in front of a group? The worst that could happen is you forget a line or stammer over something. Laugh and the moment will pass.

Practice acting confident. You don’t have to be confident to act it. Last night I had MANY doubts about getting up to pitch my article. But I took deep breaths, put on a smile, and assured myself that it would be okay. I held my head high, spoke slowly, and seemed self-assured. That made me feel confident.

Become pro-active in situations where you lack confidence. Try something new, even if it doesn’t work, instead of complaining, indulging in self-pity, or convincing yourself you can’t. No matter what their facade, intimidating people are human. Picture them in very human situations and laugh. No one is better than you are, unless you make them so. And most situations can be conquered!

Talk to yourself in the mirror. People laugh when I say this but it really helps. I once had to demonstrate doing it for a TV show that did a feature segment on me. After hearing me tell a class about my mirror work, they came to my place and taped me talking to my reflection. “I’m Daylle Deanna Schwartz and I can do anything I choose!” You can do it too!

Applaud ever effort you make, even if you don’t get the results you hoped for. There is still success in having tried. So be proud
of every baby step you take and each little fear you conquer, even for the moment. It does get easier.

Tap into your spiritual support. When I was going to sleep the night before going on the Howard Stern show to talk about one of my books, I got scared. So I opened a spiritual book I often read from and knew that God had me go to that page at that moment. It said that He helps create situations and will be there to support the results. I’d said YES to doing the show because I knew it would help my book. I slept well just before it because I KNEW that I’d have the support I needed. Howard kept me on for 35 commercial free minutes and kept saying that I made a lot of sense and people should buy my books. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t said YES to being on the show. And, if I hadn’t had the faith that it would go well.

Ask yourself, “Would I prefer to feel safe or be happy?” Safe isn’t happy. I was very safe as a DoorMat. Miserably safe. But happy wasn’t in my vocabulary. I thought security was more important than happiness. Of course back then I didn’t feel deserving of things that would make me happy. Now I stay in oink mode because I feel deserving of all the goodies I can get on my own. I’ve learned that happiness rocks, while striving for safety by avoiding risks is just passing time. Plus, I never really felt safe. Avoiding risks doesn’t really create security.

If you’re busy trying not to goof up, there’s less energy for creating a happier life. I left the event last night feeling happy. Satisfied. The editors all liked my pitch and encouraged me to get it published. I just sent 2 requests to one of the editors. Now she knows me. It’s easier to be considered when editors know you. So I won last night. My first victory was saying YES, I’ll do the pitch.

CHOOSE to take more risks and see what happens. You can make your own miracles when you begin to say YES to things that scare you. That to me is also saying YES to life!

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