“Nothing ventured, nothing gained” is one of my favorite expressions. I’m not a skydiver, flamethrower or globe-trotter who eats international cuisine that could wink at me, but I do believe in taking chances and stepping outside of my comfort zone.
What pushes me to do things that make my palms sweat and butterflies stir in my stomach? The amazing, fearless women in my life, who push boundaries and challenge themselves.
The Buck Stops with Me
A big risk I took several years ago was leaving a less-than-satisfactory job and starting my own business. I had thought about being an entrepreneur for a few years before that, but it seemed daunting and unrealistic financially. The recession was starting, many of my colleagues were getting laid off from newspaper jobs and I felt like I had nothing to lose.
My sister suggested I form an LLC, which I knew little about at the time. I made my own flyers and walked into unfamiliar businesses to pass them out, sometimes getting them handed back to me. Other times business owners were receptive to the idea of getting help with marketing/public relations, but reluctant to spend any money on it.
I knew I had a great product to offer: My many years experience as a journalist and ability to share stories to attract people to a business. I also had some public relations experience for a large company under my belt and lots of connections. Still I had never been my own boss before.
It was scary but very empowering, reaching out to hard-working business owners who put their trust in me and pitching news story ideas to editors I had just met. The best part about running a small business has been having the freedom to find and work with amazing people and to stay true to my beliefs and passion.
I know I’m not alone and I have admired and tried to emulate some of the practices of other female business owners. Several of my friends have also started their own companies, sticking it to the man, so to speak, as they market their writing, editing and public relations talents, to make livings. I take their advice and admire their spirit and strength, supporting them and reaching out to share war stories and laughs.
The Power of Sisterhood and Friendly Pushes
The women in business I know are not the only ones who inspire me to take chances. My mother motivates me every day with her wisdom, strength and ability to embrace the many changes in life. She went back to the workforce when I was in middle school, learning a new profession after several years of being a stay-at-home mother. She’s also taught me, as hard and scary as it can be that it’s better to leave a bad relationship, than stay in a negative situation. Her belief in me fuels me to take professional and personal risks.
Besides starting a new business, recently while I interviewed some jazz singers for a story I was working on, I did something even scarier. I sang in front of a group of people! The jazz ensemble director urged me to join in an improvisational song the singers made up, each adding a line as a pianist played a bluesy tune.
I am a horrible singer and rarely sing in front of anyone. When she said I’d be singing with them, my heart plummeted and I thought I’d rather jump out of a plane. But somehow I came up with a few somewhat funny lines I sang, off-key, but loud enough to draw smiles and laughter from the other singers. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and I had fun with it.
My girlfriends, all in their own unique way, have fun with the risks they take. One of them runs marathons and bravely travels to other cities, getting up at ungodly hours of the morning to cross finish lines. Another friend has traveled around the Southwest as an archaeologist and ventured to Europe and other faraway destinations.
Comfortable in my Own Skin
I like to try my hand at creative ventures, too. A few years ago, I decided to take an acting class. I signed up at a studio and anxiously walked through the doors, not having any idea what to expect.
As part of one skit, the teacher assigned me to portray a sexy wife pretending to be a stranger seducing her husband in a restaurant. I didn’t think I could pull it off. I was way out of my comfort zone, and felt my heart race as I read the lines.
When we performed the skit in front of the class, my legs got weak as I walked across the stage. But I pushed myself to dive in wholeheartedly and as soon as I heard the audience members laugh at the funny lines, I got an adrenaline rush. I experienced a new kind of high and realized I’d grown more comfortable in my own skin.
And speaking of skin, I had the opportunity a few years ago to feel the skin of an animal that scared me, a snake. I was at a Mother’s Day brunch at the Phoenix Zoo with my family, including my niece and nephew. A staff member there displayed birds and other animals, including a snake, available for petting.
My niece and nephew knew I was afraid of snakes and urged me to touch it anyway. With clammy hands, I slowly approached the reptile. It was dry and motionless, with its head kept safely out of hand’s reach for any of the visiting public. I wasn’t nearly as repulsed or frightened as I thought I’d be as I gingerly petted its rough skin.
I’ve found in recent years often things are not as scary as I think they will be. And other women in my life say the risks I have taken inspire them to take leaps of faith. When you have a great safety net of friends and family, jumping isn’t as hard.