“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” – Steve Jobs
My friends may disagree, but I’m shy – an introvert.
I often prefer a quiet evening at home with a book to an evening out at a friend’s house party.
But boldness is rewarded – in business and in life.
To quote James Altucher, “You get authority by taking it.”
No one is going to give you anything in this life, certainly not power or respect.
To make your mark, in whatever your field, you need to work your tail off – yes.
But equally important is your presentation – you have to believe in yourself and own it – strut your stuff with confidence.
Think about karaoke – it’s roughly 1/3 skill (knowing the words and being a not-horrible singer) and 2/3s presentation (owning that stage like you’re the ghost of Janis Joplin or Freddy Mercury reincarnated).
There’s a distinction here, however. “Fake it ‘til you make it” isn’t enough.
You must have the skills, the substance, the experience to be of value.
But too many people stop there, building their reservoir of skills without following through and knowing how (and when) to assert themselves & properly announce those skills to the world.
Back to the Steve Jobs quote – it pays to remember that this life is incredibly short and could end much sooner than you think.
This is the big picture.
Don’t waste time fretting over the many small daily inconveniences or negative energy (or people) that bring you down.
Choose to be happy.
Find it within yourself and then spread that happiness to others – trust me – it’s infectious.
But also – don’t hesitate. Take that adventure. Make yourself uncomfortable.
It’s not just that uncomfortable experiences (and failures) force us to grow.
It’s that only by putting yourself out there can you discover new people and experiences that can supercharge your path.
I’m afraid of heights. Very much so. To the point that I don’t like to fly.
The key? I don’t let that stop me.
I’ve flown to Japan, Cuba, the West Bank, and Italy.
More importantly, I’ve flown to Lebanon, New Hampshire – freaking terrifying.
Those of you who are Dartmouth alums probably know what I’m talking about.
Cape Air flies from Boston, MA to Lebanon, NH. The trip takes roughly 45 minutes.
But it’s in a Cessna 402, a 9-seater prop plane that never really breaks 130 knots – the type of plane where they weigh both you and your luggage before boarding to ensure everything balances out properly.
The first time I took the flight, I was seated next to the pilot. As in, I could reach out and jostle him, or the throttle.
As we were taxiing down the runway, he opened the window to manually check wind speed and adjust.
But I did it – and the trips were well worth it.
A few weeks ago I enjoyed an amazing vacation in Budapest.
But there were parts that were uncomfortable.
It took me a few days to realize why.
It wasn’t the flights there, although that first leg took 11.5 hours. (Four engines and 10 seats across means it takes a lot to disturb your plane).
I realized only later that, despite all of those countries listed above, it had been 15 years since I’d done any real international travel.
Yeah – I vacationed in the Dominican Republic last December. But that doesn’t count. It was one of those all-inclusive deals in Punta Cana where everything is paid-for in advance and you’re shuttled from the airport directly to a resort / compound filled with other wealthy American tourists.
Not that I’m complaining, but it might as well have been a Club Med beach resort in any of a dozen other countries for all the contact I had with the locals or their culture.
It was the epitome of easy.
Before that, I realized the last time I left the U.S. was 2006, when I visited a friend in London. Again, easy – western Europe and they speak English. Huzzah!
So, as someone who prides himself on being a seasoned world traveler (India, Belize, Japan, etc.) I was genuinely surprised at how off-balance I initially felt in Budapest.
Jet lag aside, it took me a few days to realize that this was the first real travel I’d done in awhile – as in, learned the metro system, ordered food at local pubs, and allowed myself to get lost while heading from one tourist destination to another.
Not to overstate it – an amazing local friend not only helped design my itinerary but also proved one of the best tour guides a visitor could have.
But I left five days later feeling less confident in my ability to tackle foreign travel than I had the week before.
I soon realized the only way to overcome that discomfort is through practice.
It took less than 24 hours from arriving home for me to begin planning my next European trip.
Tinder in Budapest
Speaking of discomfort, due to a scheduling conflict, my Hungarian friend had to leave me a day early.
I found myself with an extra ticket to the opera.
My friend encouraged me to look for a potential date via Tinder, the mobile dating app that is now about as ubiquitous as a business card, at least in the harried workaholic region of DC.
Still – remember line one?
I’m shy – an introvert.
Offering to share even a few hours of cultural entertainment (no strings attached) with a perfect stranger isn’t my style in the U.S., let alone in Hungary, where I can’t even speak the language.
Still – I was on vacation – what did I have to lose?
Enter Sunday morning, and the swiping commenced.
By mid-afternoon the swiping had given way to messaging with several other ex-pats in Budapest, as well as a few natives.
Soon messaging led to logistical plans, etc.
The next morning I left Budapest for home.
But it was all a vacation should be – I felt refreshed, recharged, and with a renewed sense of adventure and of boldness.
Studies show we regret the things we don’t do more than the things we do.
So the next time you are faced with a difficult decision, or you feel shy, or embarrassed—
Find that courage. Take that leap.
Because, as Steve Jobs said:
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”