Just in time for Easter: I thought I’d talk about being aware of the fears that hold us back.
About four years ago, a good friend and I published a book called Stories Rabbits Tell: A Natural and Cultural History of a Misunderstood Creature. The book, which covered the natural history of both wild and domestic rabbits, as well as the use of rabbits as cultural icons (think Peter, Harvey, Brer, and, yes, both the Easter Rabbit and the Playboy Bunny) received great reviews, sold well on Amazon and the publisher’s website, and garnered my co-author and I a fair amount of attention in rabbit circles.
But there was one thing I couldn’t do: Walk into my local bookstore and say, “Hi, I live here in town and my friend and I wrote this interesting book on rabbits and we were wondering if you might want to carry it. ” I couldn’t even do it during Easter season, when most book stores have whole tables dedicated to bunny books and accessories.
Why? It’s partly because I’m from a long line of small-town New Englanders, who frown on chest thumping. And also I’m a little shy—even though the staff at this book store know me and my family quite well.
Whatever it was, I missed the Easter season at my local bookstore three years in a row, which meant that I missed a) sales; b) a chance for interviews in the local press; and c) an opportunity for local book-selling events.
So this year, I said, “enough is enough.” And I grabbed a copy of Stories Rabbits Tell – plus copies of some of the reviews –marched myself into that bookstore and said, yes, “Hi, I live here in town and my friend and I wrote this interesting book about rabbits and we were wondering if you might want to carry it this spring.”
Now understand, my heart was pounding and I had a bad case of butterflies. I was terrified the clerk would say, “pshaw.” But she didn’t. She took my materials, gave them to the buyer, and voila, within a week Stories Rabbits Tell, appeared right there on the shelf.
Moral of the story? We all have tasks that we avoid because we’re fearful. It could be a sales prospect that you’re nervous about calling. It could be a supplier who intimidates you. It could be an employee you put off reprimanding, a manager you’re afraid to confront, or an inventory mess you just don’t want to sort through.
But to develop business-related emotional intelligence, you need to be able to recognize your fear, understand its consequences (e.g., lost sales or inefficient workers), and then walk through it, so you can do what needs to be done.
This week’s homework: Try to identify one professional task you’re avoiding because you’re afraid. Write down why you’re afraid (i.e., what do you imagine will happen if you attempt this task?) and just how your procrastination is holding you back. Then figure out a way to do what needs to be done. You may have to break the task down into little steps, talk it over with a friend or colleague, or “just do it.” Whatever you need to do, find a way to help yourself get over this one internal hurdle.
(And post a comment about what you end up being able to do!)