Recently I was asked to do a three-hour workshop on failure, risk and success. My intention was to leave the group with a better understanding of the biases people have and assumptions they make about failure, risk and how they can achieve success.
I decided the best way to do this was to conduct an experiment.
Out of respect for all those in attendance, I decided to make myself the guinea pig of the experiment. This was both a brilliant and a catastrophic idea. See the experiment on video and find out what happened. (I sang.)
Aside from treasuring my family and striving to make money, I live for music. OK, the truth is that music is like an affair for me: I go to it whenever I am feeling unsure, down or need to feel loved. I always secretly wanted to be in a local band drumming or singing and have been singing for 29 years but never in front of anyone.
So I decided to take one of the biggest risks in my life and sing my music-loving heart out and see what the experience of taking that risk could teach me and a room full of 50 or so people.
Here is what I discovered:
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1. I can sweat through a shirt in less than 10 seconds.
2. Contrary to assumptions, not everyone was waiting to see me fail.
3. I was the person stopping myself from achieving all along.
Just 30 minutes earlier the individuals in the room had defined risk and failure with all manner of negative words and associations. Then I started singing, finished and asked them what they experienced from watching me take that risk. Not a negative word was uttered.
People had been nervous for me. Some had physiological reactions. Others had felt cautious. Some considered it a success before my singing voice even entered the room. Above all, the tone of their reactions was not negative but supportive.
So what had stopped me from singing in public all these years?
Fear of judgment.
I decided to expand my test to see if the positive result came about just because of the social expectation to lend support to someone stepping out in front of a full room of people. I posted the video for my social-media followers and asked them to share with me their experience of watching me take a risk, tempting failure and hoping for success.
These results were even better.
This time I not only received support but I also learned that people saw me in a new and different way and they shared that. They believed in my ability to lead even more. They liked me more. They thought I was inspiring and I became more human.
Better yet was what my doing this did for others. A lot of people shared that my experiment gave them permission to do something they had wanted to do. This was worth every second of the gut-wrenching fear of judgment that pumped through me as I posted -- and even now as I allow the post to remain out there in the world.
Most people have something that holds them back from doing stuff. You're thinking of one right now I’ll bet. A unifying reason for people not taking risks is the judgment of others.
Here’s what I know as a result of my experimentation: It's not others that hold people back.
Rather it's that some people believe that others will judge them. But they are not.
Sure, there's a hater in every crowd, but there are scores of supporters there, too.
Others are supporting you more than you want to admit.
It's your fear of showing others what you can or cannot do and maybe of showing it to yourself that keeps you from taking a risk. See her experiment documented in her Facebook post below.