If Boyz 2 Men taught us anything, it’s hard to say goodbye. Any time we leave a team or company, we can’t help but feel some sadness. We leave behind what we’ve built, the relationships we formed, and the comfort of the familiar. Even when we leave our role by choice, we need to take a minute to reflect, appreciate, and even mourn a little if we want to gain the closure before moving on to our next adventure.
For some, the future is filled with excitement over new possibilities. For most, I believe fear holds us back. The problem with the unknown is just that, we can’t know what it will bring. We know our next role will be filled with new challenges and increased responsibility. How do we find the courage to take those new steps?
Why are we afraid of the new?
If it has value, it isn’t easy
If all you are going to do is the same thing every day, without much thought or change, then work is just a process of going through the same motions and not adding value. Eventually, that process will be automated. If you are reading this article, then that doesn’t describe you. You look for opportunities to make things better. Creating value requires taking measured risks, using your talent, and putting in the extra effort when it’s easier to ignore what needs to be done. If it was easy, then anyone would do it.
Stranger in a strange land
In our last roles, we built a network of people, processes, and tools to help us solve problems and get things done. When we tackle a new challenge, much of that network may not be available. The support we’ve come to rely on isn’t in place yet and will take additional effort to build again. The combined effort of building your support structure and getting the right things done means even more effort in the beginning.
It takes a village
It takes a village to build success. The lone wolf contributor can be effective in the short term or on focused tasks, but for long term success, a robust team must be developed. Teams must be aligned around a common and shared goal (Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Good to Great, Switch) and all members must buy in to how they contribute to the goal. This means fostering a team that can build long term, sustainable success. In some cases, you will need to help existing teams redefine the goal or how they will reach it.
Putting one foot in front of the other
In Variable Star, by Spider Robinson/Robert A. Heinlein, the narrator, Joel, tells the reader how to move forward when frozen in place with fear. You simply lean forward until you are about to fall over. Your body won’t let you fall, so one foot will move out to catch you. Repeat this process until you are walking on your own. Similarly, Emily Knight (Adams), a multiyear NCAA and USAV volleyball national champion, shared advice her team at USC followed: “Fake it, till you make it.” Follow the motions that look like success until you regain your momentum and are doing it for real.
The key to overcoming our fear of the unknown is to do just that: lean into our fear until everything we’ve built into our careers reaches out to catch us. We’ve spent our lives developing our abilities, tools, and personal networks to help us tackle any challenge. Trust that your foundation will support you moving forward and lean into it.
You’ll soon find that you are running again on familiar ground.