Life is lived on the edge.
So much of life is mundane, monotonous – even boring.
But it’s punctuated by key moments – moments where your heart skips a beat, your breath catches in your throat and your fight-or-flight impulse is screaming for you to flee.
Swallow your pride, quiet the voices of doubt and move forward anyway.
Case Study: Me
I’m an introvert – I get quiet in new social situations.
Odd to say, given that I work in public relations, a field that requires near-constant media pitching, networking, and writing.
But put me in a room full of people I don’t know, and I have to play mental games with myself to stay upbeat and engaged with strangers.
Partially this is image management – it’s far easier to avoid embarrassment if you stay in the shadows, listening quietly to inventory the players, their connections to one another – learn the room before you open your mouth.
As Al Pacino’s character Richie Roma said in Glengarry Glenn Ross, “Don’t ever open your mouth until you know what the shot is.”
Or, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “Be better to stay silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”
But then there was DC.
Washington, DC has a way of curing introversion.
I was 23 years old and maybe on my third Saturday night house party on Capitol Hill when I realized this is a town full of extroverts. And to succeed in that environment, you at least have to at least smile and fake it to get by.
Fast forward a decade and few of my friends or acquaintances would call me an introvert.
What they don’t see is the work it took to get there.
The dozens of evenings of practice over the years, the many professional and social settings – from briefings at the Pentagon to (gulp!) speed-dating events, where I learned how to be social.
Doesn’t change my innate shyness, however.
Myers-Briggs defines Introversion vs. Extroversion as “where you get your energy.”
I get my energy, I recharge, at home curled up with a good book.
It takes effort to be social – to get “in the zone.”
But there, on that edge, is where the magic happens.
Outside the Door
My favorite place to be in life is “just outside the door.”
I’m standing on the knife’s edge, on the threshold, about to enter in the unknown – whether it was
- me at age 12, standing just outside a comic book convention with $15 of saved allowance burning a hole in my pocket; or
- me at 23 standing just outside a Congressional office about to enter and talk my way into a job as a staffer; or
- me at age 35 charged with pitching reporters at six top-tier publications by phone within in the next hour,
the feeling was the same.
Fear. Nerves. Anticipation. Exhilaration.
This is revelry in being on the knife’s edge – that final moment before you step off the high dive, or approach that attractive stranger.
It takes discipline to embrace your nerves and go forth anyway.
But in the end, boldness wins out. Always.
As Hockey legend Wayne Gretsky famously said:
“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
Put another way, most of the best things that have happened to me in my life so far have come from risk. Risking my pride and my ego to go ahead and ask.
So embrace the adrenaline rush that comes being just on the precipice – that feeling of being just outside the door.
Because life is short. And none of us is making it out alive.