By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here
"If only I were stronger, then I would be able to solve a lot of my own problems." This is what I would say to myself; initially as an excuse, always with regret. Regret that I was not living up to my capacity and that was directly affecting my ability to help myself. When I attempted to solve my own problems without changing anything about myself, I fulfilled my own prophecy of failure. Then I flipped the script.
Flipping the Script Is a Technique I Often Use When I Feel Stuck
I listen to my own script, then I change my position. Instead of ignoring problems and using my lack of strength as an excuse, I would directly address my weakness. Confronting my own excuses.
If I Can Improve Myself I Can Help Myself
I was once a financial advisor. As a new advisor, no one hands you a stack of clients, you have to get them yourself. That meant cold calling — the problem was I had this deathly fear of talking on the phone. I tried to avoid it and bring in new clients any other way I could, but being a new advisor with little name value, it proved rather difficult. My job was on the line at this point. I had to drop my defensive shield and really self reflect. My real issue wasn't the phone, my real issue was shyness. I had a hard time speaking to people in general. Eye contact made me nervous and social situations frightened me.
Do I Leave This Job and Find Another That Would Work Around My Shyness or Do I Try to Change My Shyness?
In weighing the pros and cons I decided that extreme shyness would eventually become an issue in any job I had. So I started very small. Some things require big quick changes, like pulling off a bandage. With this, I felt gradual incremental changes would best serve my purpose.
I Started With Hi
I would make the most briefest of eye contact, nod my head, and say hi. Even doing this to coworkers initially felt odd and took some amount of mental preparation. Then I replaced the nod with a smile. Then I slightly extended eye contact. I quickly learned that if you hold the gaze too long, you just come off as creepy. I interchanged the smile with a nod sometimes because some people responded better with smiles, some people who like myself had their guard up did better with nods.
I Kept Upping the Ante, Upping My Exposure to Extroversion
I began to shake some people's hands and began developing this social sixth sense. Knowing when to nod, when to smile, when to hold eye contact, and when to shake hands. People who were amazing in social situations and always coming off likable and charming made sense to me now. This wasn't just a fluke, this was a skill and it could be developed. I began giving the receptionist breaks and manning incoming calls. I began to collect some leads. Then I had to call on those leads. Eventually I was calling cold leads.
Now to be frank, I didn't enjoy cold calling but I didn't hate it either. I got myself to do something I found difficult because I was now strong enough for more difficult tasks. This whole lesson was never about cold calling, it was about overcoming one of my weaknesses to resolve many other day to day issues that kept me from living life the way I wanted to live it.
Rather than working on resolving one issue, working on yourself has influence over all other issues. That led not only to be able to use the phone without fear, but improved every other aspect of my life. I made myself better, and in doing so put myself in a position to help myself in many other situations. I can't wait for someone to give me fish. I can't wait for someone to teach me how to fish. Rather than relying on divine intervention, I taught myself how to fish so I could feed myself.
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