‘Here Be Dragons’ — How to Try New Things w/o Losing Your Nerve

I’ve been trying a lot of new things lately, from entering screenwriting contests to getting my first ‘real’ cell phone (I had a phone for three months for a trip once, but it was always to be temporary). I’ve used Fiverr for the first time, uploaded video to Youtubes, and am working on getting connections in Hollywood and starting to get jobs.

And it was this last bit ‘getting jobs in Hollywood’ that first inspired this post.

I am a ‘pioneer’ personality type — leaping forward and oft unafraid of what will happen. I’m also very open to new experiences. But I try to temper these traits by thinking things through, making good strategic choices, and learning what I can about new situations.

But — and this is the point I think is salient for all of us — the more you know about the untamed wilderness of the new, the more the likelihood you may lose your nerve.

I’d listened to over 70 podcasts talking with screenwriters and people ‘in the biz’ in Hollywood. And even though they mentioned the tough odds and hard work of breaking through, I didn’t find any of their words discouraging — they were pros who’d made it and I could too.

But more recently, I spent an afternoon reading Quora and articles on screenwriting and found it like being dragged over nails. Give up, go home, and be grateful you got out now seemed to be the common sentiment.

And that made me wonder if… even for people like me who have come this far, are some still turning back now?

Here Be Dragons

When we start something new, we are moving out of our comfort zone and — while we’re excited about all the good things that could happen — we are often also afraid. There are reasons we haven’t crossed these borders, had these conversations, moved to these countries.

Scott Adams, in his book ‘How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big’, talks about becoming a ‘5-minute expert’ — about how in a lot of cases you can learn what you need to in five minutes of Google searching. For bigger ideas, of course you’ll need more than that, but you don’t want to become paralyzed by too many choices and too much doubt.

So what is the perfect balance between preparedness and action? I’m glad you asked.

How to Try New Things w/o Losing Your Nerve

  1. Know you are not the first. Whatever you want to do, from turning clay to graduate school to crossing Antarctica, people like you have done these things before. Every great writer, athlete etc. was once a beginner. And even if you are the first, there’s probably an equivalent out there to inspire you.
  2. Study the map. Since you’re not the first, others have left clues, trail markers, suggestions, and way points to you to find. These days, a quick online search for ‘How to move across the country’ or ‘How to get out of debt’ will offer you quick and easy advice to get you started. It may be the ‘5-Minute’ answer but it will give you confidence and get you started.
  3. Plan. If you want to jump out of an airplane, make a plan for action. Decide to do it in the next 3 months. Plan to spend one day researching online (‘What I wished I’d known before I Jumped’ or best parachuting schools in {your state}). Then spend a day comparing places and getting quotes. Email any questions or concerns. Pick a date just for ‘Decide and make reservations’. Then you’re committed. You’re going to do it. Because you planned to.
  4. Be aware of how many people don’t act. In writing, they always say that of all the people that talk about writing a book, only a few ever start. Of those, less finish one chapter, and even less make it half way. So if you actually finish a book, it’s a huge accomplishment — almost everyone gets bogged down before that. So plan on DOING THE THING. It doesn’t have to be flawless, perfect — just commit to being the person who finishes.
  5. Let yourself be a beginner. Everyone knows beginners aren’t perfect! They’re just getting started. Everything from a new job to a revised exercise routine is going to feel wrong or awkward at first. As a beginner, just be open to learning, excited about the process, and gentle with yourself. You’ll get better.
  6. Think about what could go right. A classic problem is that the most you know, the more you’ll know what could go wrong. The rare disasters, the exhausted seekers, the rude door slams, all are there in bold print in the stories you’ll find. But there’s also the success stories, and everyone you admire and whose work you love once dared as you will dare, failed as you will fail, and eventually won as you will win.
  7. Let yourself be EXCITED! For myself, sometimes I tamp down on my natural enthusiasm while trying to ‘be smart’ about important choices and decisions. But there’s a lot of power from excitement! Let yourself imagine how it will feel to try the new experience. Which leads me to…
  8. Visualize success. One tactic that many success people use is visualization. See yourself standing by the ocean at the end of your journey, or holding your diploma, or typing ‘The End’ on that novel. I’ve also been doing some affirmations recently, which in general I’ve been resistant to in the past, but I’m enjoying them this time.
  9. Ignore the signs. If you’re like me, you’re already doing the things above. So what’s the advanced suggestions for the intrepid explorer? See the warnings, acknowledge them, and then move forward anyway. A classic motif in the Hero’s Journey is the Guardian at the Gates, a figure who warns you off this path by calling out how dangerous it is and how stupid you would be to continue on it. For the advanced adventurer, this is actually a good sign. You are going the right way, because the way is no longer easy or condoned. This is the way to the wilderness.
  10. Remember your death. Fear is supposed to protect us — warning us off when monsters, poisons, and highwayman threaten our path. But truthfully, most of the danger in life in the developed world comes from stress, anxiety, and living beneath your potential. In that context, the danger is in not acting, in letting time pass and never reaching out to try new things. We will all die someday, but we want to really live first — trying new things, going to amazing places, and truly experiencing all this world has to offer. ‘The only thing to fear is fear itself.’ — Franklin D. Roosevelt

You are going to get advice your whole life, from people who think they know what’s best. And while knowledge is always a good thing, having the nerve to follow your dreams, your passions, and your destiny is always a great thing.

Here be dragons, because here be gold.

4 Comments

  1. “You are going the right way…This is the way to the wilderness.”
    Now to that wilderness to finish that book! 😉

    1. Can’t see the full story w/o logging in but an interesting idea. Certainly Netflix and Amazon have done the reverse, showing movies a little in theaters while mostly making film for streaming.

      The US studios have always been unsure about diminishing the value of their films by showing them early at home, but I do think everything’s changing and it’s worth figuring out new business models.

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