How to Overcome 3 Fears

How to Overcome 3 Fears

Reviewed and Recommended: Christoph Niemann at 99u Conference: How to Overcome the 3 Fears Every Creative Faces

Christoph admits that when he did anything half decent in his life, he remembers being grumpy while doing it.  Self-deprecating in his approach, he reveals to the audience that he’s suffered from three main fears he has as a creative person.   His answers to solve these fears are brilliant.  

Top 3 Fears:

  1. “I’m not good enough” 
  2. “My work is irrelevant and soon I’ll be broke” 
  3. “I’m all out of ideas”

Watch his talk here.

Ready to Take That Risk?

Ready to Take That Risk?

Are you comfortable with risk?  Most people aren’t but if you are mid-career and want to pursue something different, there is a huge upside in taking the leap or several.  Even if you stay in your current position and you’re curious about another topic, that’s a great start.  Trying something outside of your comfort zone allows you to adapt and learn and creating that excitement might be exactly what you need.

What’s considered risk-taking? Anything that makes you stretch and makes you squirm.  Public speaking? Taking an Improv class?  If you happen to be an extreme introvert, that’s OK. Think of all the things you’ve always wanted to try and see where it takes you.

New & Novel

Learning a new skill definitely counts as putting yourself out there and taking a risk.

If it isn’t related to your job, it gives your mind a refresh and can help to see things differently. It’s also incredibly beneficial if you’re tuned into the skills you already have and how you can expand on them. If you have an interest in consumer behavior, how about taking a course on transformation in the retail industry?

As David Epstein, author of a book called, “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World” says, “Take your skills to a place that’s not doing the same sort of thing. Take your skills and apply them to a new problem or take your problem and try completely new skills.”  

My friend, Caroline, was a graphic designer working for a traditional media company.  She took several UI/UX courses and transitioned into a new job at age 55. Another friend, Ally, was so frustrated about finding a place for her mother to live that she decided to study innovation in senior living.  She envisioned and wrote about “mini compounds” where multigenerational families could be close but not in one house.  Her passion for the topic shone through and she was able to work with others who had a similar vision. At 57, she’s now working for a company headquartered in Europe that focuses on new (and less expensive) ways of living as people age.

If you find yourself wondering about things you’ve always wanted to try, take the time to study it and go for it.  Although uncomfortable at first, it will lead to areas that surprise you.


Oftentimes people will say they need the safety and security of a full-time job or some other thing in their life they feel is too stable to disrupt and that is understandable. The reality is that your life could change in an instant.  Whether it’s a job lay off or something else. If there’s no such thing as security, it makes it easier to take that risk you’ve always wanted to try. It may help position you to be more agile and adapt.

Fear or Possibility?

Instead of focusing on what might go wrong when you take that risk (everyone succumbs to Debbie Downer syndrome), try to focus on what could happen if you DO try something new.  Hold onto that thought.  Envision what could happen if you open up the possibilities for yourself.

Goal setting and writing those goals down is great but without taking the actual risks, real change won’t happen.  And the more risks you take, the more you get used to it, the more you enjoy the rush of something new and want to do it again.  An added benefit is that you’ll also get used to failure that may show up.  When it does come up in life, maybe it won’t look so devastating. Why?  Because you have been through failure and persevered.

Reviewed & Recommended:   "Decline Isn’t Inevitable"

Reviewed & Recommended: "Decline Isn’t Inevitable"

Podcast: WorkLife TED with Adam Grant

Career Decline Isn’t Inevitable

May 4, 2020

You might be completely turned off when listening to this podcast but stick with it.  At around eight minutes in, it gets more interesting and inspiring.

Adam Grant of the WorkLife TED with Adam Grant podcast interviews Arthur Brooks, age 56, who has a successful career as a professor of economics and social entrepreneurship at Syracuse University and has authored 11 books.  He also authored a piece in the Atlantic called, “Your Professional Decline is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think”.

Obviously, that title in the Atlantic grabbed people’s attention.  Brooks’ hypothesis is that there are two main ways of acquiring intelligence.  He says “fluid” learning is where people are more agile and quick (aka young) and that “crystallized” intelligence is more about having a library of intelligence (aka experienced individuals).  While both are good, he articulates the “crystallized” version as having a depth and breadth and that people with it have greater emotional intelligence and will-power.  All great attributes to have at work right?  

He goes on to say that since people with crystallized intelligence have accumulated knowledge over the years, they have the ability to transmit their knowledge to others, and he recommends finding a career that values this type of intelligence as they get older.  He encourages people to find roles that require - and reward - teaching and mentorship.

Want a more expansive view?  Adam Grant challenged him and said he believes it’s about an individual’s motivation and that a mid-career person has the ability to stick with something and succeed.  He feels this is a better measure of success.  The people he interviews in the podcast are amazing.

Key Insights:

  • Curiosity is the key factor that helps you find creative piques as you age
  • Find something new to explore
  • Get fully immersed
  • Trial and error is important.  Adopt the “test it and learn it” approach
  • It’s never too late to reinvent yourself

By the way, other people have disagreed with Brooks’ view as well.  Chris Farrell a contributor at Forbes, wrote, “But the tight link Brooks makes between aging and decline is a false one. Research by noted economists, sociologists, neuroscientists, scholars of creativity, students of innovation, and other disciplines is inclined towards a very different narrative about the second half of life than Brooks’ declinist view.”

As Adam says, “Don’t move to the slow lane.  As you get older, marathoners know how to persevere.”  Damn straight.  

Startup Curious? Take A Startup Course

Startup Curious? Take A Startup Course

A friend said to me, “What are you waiting for? Just go for it.” 

If you want to validate your business idea and go beyond reading about startups, one way is to apply for startup courses provided by what are called  “incubators”.  Some programs last a few months and it’s a great way to figure out how to get started and if you have a viable solution.  If you’re an underrepresented Founder (female, a veteran, person of color), you are especially encouraged to apply.  Why?  Because the world needs more people who have a different perspective and who see gaping problems that others may not see.  It’s a chance to have a spot at the table and to make an impact. There are loads of startup courses available (TiE Bootcamp, Founders Gym, Kauffman FastTrac, Techstars are a few). 

Read everything you can about things that interest you.  Not only about startup founders but also about business news and read as much as you can about trends.  In order to gain more insight about what it’s really like to put yourself out there and take the leap, read the book, “Lost and Founder”, by Rand Fiskin.  It’s brutally honest, exciting and humbling all rolled into one.

Here are a few things I learned during my TiE XL Bootcamp experience:

  1. Honest Feedback.  Some people thought my idea was terrible. Others thought it was disruptive and awesome.  Embrace all the feedback and keep going.  When one advisor challenged a student and asked him hard questions, he never returned to class.  And that was on day three. 
  1. Expect a Rollercoaster. I’d go from delusions of grandeur to crippling self-doubt on repeat a thousand times.  I’m told this is normal.
  1. Do your homework.   I had access to really bright advisors and took every opportunity to ask them questions.  Practice.  When they say the pitch is only 5 minutes, they mean it.
  1. You will not sleep soundly.  I wondered if I was meant to be on this path and couldn’t sleep.  If you are thinking about quitting a full-time job to be “all in”, expect even fewer REM moments. 
  1. Put yourself out there. I’m a firm believer that magic happens when you go outside the lines.  Do all the scary things. Meet interesting people and have no regrets.

People of all ages are starting companies.  When applying for a startup incubator, remember that the judges do not care how old you are when you apply.  They want good ideas and want to hear you articulate a problem you are passionate about and how you’ll move forward towards a solution.

Also, older founders tend to be more successful.  A 2018 study* found the “batting average” for creating successful firms rises dramatically with age. “A 50-year-old founder is 1.8 times more likely to achieve upper-tail growth than a 30-year-old founder” the research concluded. 

If you’ve always been startup curious, midlife is a great time to start.

*Source: by MIT, Northwestern and the Census Bureau Center for Research