Chapter 15 of my First book:Maintaining MY momentum (on the career front). The evidence continues to come in

 In Book

CHAPTER 15: Maintaining MY momentum (on the career front). The evidence continues to come in


The dark figure on the right of the picture. The one with the black sword.
Dark as in Darkness. Dark as in Despair. Dark as in Depressed.
I am referring to him (and often, them) as my inner critic(s) (a.k.a. Gremlins).
They can be quite the adversary, if you let them.

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’,
then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
– Vincent van Gogh

Battling my inner critic.
When I think back on all of the time that I used to spend in my nasty zone, I also think back on someone who played a big part in me spending so much time in that nasty zone. I don’t like to blame others for my troubles, but in this case, I am going to cheat, and play the blame game. I am going to blame my inner critic.

Technically speaking, I am not really cheating since he, my inner critic, is technically speaking, me, or at least a part of me. Although, if he truly was a part of me, then why was he being so nasty with me in those days? And where was my inner coach? In hindsight, he seems to have been pretty much AWOL (Absent With Out Leave). He, my inner coach, should probably get some of the blame for my stay in my nasty zone as well. I don’t want to pick on him too much, because, in those days, he already had someone picking on him a whole lot, and that someone was, my inner critic. It was like a battle between my inner critic and my inner coach and my inner coach was not winning many, if any, of the battles.

Well, a few long stories short, my inner coach finally did gain the confidence to start speaking up for himself and before you knew it, he was doing most of the talking. It took time and effort, and lots of trying things out, but eventually, he, more like we, were able to get there. So, in this chapter, I thought that I would share a few short stories on how I was able to finally start shutting that other guy up.  Sharing a few stories with one common message, which is, “Just do it”. Don’t listen to him (or her). Just do it. He or she does not know what the future has in store. No one does. The only way to find things out is to try them on for size (a.k.a. try them out). I had started trying things on in the earlier stage of my transformation and that approach had served me well, so I decided to continue that approach, and here are the results. The results of standing up to my inner critic.

October, 2012. Standing up to my inner critic (and fears): Just showing up
It was time to face my fears. Many of them, in hindsight, apparently unfounded. Earlier on, I mentioned that I was a little bit on the shy side, especially around people that I thought were more senior than me. I think that the proper term would have been intimidated. Intimidated because I did not see myself as being on the same playing field as them. I just felt out of place with them. What value could little old me possibly offer? I had no confidence. I had no self-confidence. And here I was, the program director of a program targeting C-Suite Executives and the most senior partners in the firm that I worked for. And here I was, preparing to attend a meeting with a whole bunch of them, a whole bunch of senior partners. A whole bunch of senior partners and little old me. Yikes. Good thing that I still had a few cigarettes left.

Well long story short. Yes, I did end up inhaling one of the cigarettes right before the session. Yes, I did feel like an imposter in the room during the cocktail session, even after having inhaled a couple of cocktails of liquid courage, but you know what? I showed up. I conquered my fears and I just showed up. And guess what? Those senior partners, they were not that scary after all. As a matter of fact, the most senior of them all, the one I feared meeting the most, turned out to be the most approachable of them all. He even invited me to sit next to him at his table during dinner and seemed to rather enjoy himself in introducing me to as many people as possible. And the more people, a.k.a. partners that I met, the more I found to be as approachable as him. And best of all, they were interested in what I had to say. “Hey Dave, what did you say were the top 10 challenges facing CFO that your team has been sharing via your survey? Interesting stuff! Tell me more.” Wow. I actually had interesting things to share. Talk about a confidence boost. Talk about a great bunch of people. What a great bunch of leaders. What a great bunch of partners. I probably should have connected earlier on, and without the help of a cigarette and cocktail, but better late than never. You hear that inner coach! I should have started listening to you earlier on when you suggested I just do it, but better late than never. Although in hindsight, you could have spoken up more often and in a louder voice, my inner critic can be quite loud at times.

November, 2013: Standing up to my inner critic (and fears): Just standing up
This is weird. I am going to be on stage in front of about 40 CFOs (Chief Financial Officers) in a couple of minutes and I don’t feel nervous. Not at all. I am co-presenting on the top priorities of the CFO with one of the partners, and she insists that I take the lead since I am more familiar with the priorities that we identified through our survey. Wow. Inner critic, where are you? I can’t hear you! Is this not the point in time when you tell me that I should not be up there speaking! That I am not a CFO! That I am not a partner! That I don’t know what I am talking about. That I am going to be asked a question for which I don’t have an answer. That I am going to screw up somehow. Etc. Where are you inner critic? Where are you hiding? Are you setting up an ambush? I am not nervous at all. I feel so confident and yet I am about to go up on stage any minute now. Wow!

Well, that minute passed, and I went up on that stage, and things went off without a hitch. Not only did no one call me out on any of my statements, but I had CFO’s coming up to me after the session and during the lunch, wanting to know more. These were senior level CFO’s and this was little old me. Turns out that my inner coach was right, when he told me to just get up there and do my best. He reminded me that no one has all the answers. He reminded me that I was probably the person in the room who was the most familiar with the CFO challenges having lived and breathed them as part of the program for the past year. He suggested that the CFO might be interested in knowing what challenges their fellow CFO were facing. My inner coach reminded me that if there was something that I did not know, then that was an opportunity to get to know it. That is how we grow. If we are unfamiliar with something, we learn about it and that learning then gives us the confidence to explore other areas and ask more questions. The more we learn, the more we grow, and the more we grow, the more confident we become. All you have to do, is, just do it. Just get out there and do it, or in this case, just stand up there. Stand up on that stage.

April, 2015: Standing up to my inner critic (and fears): Tackling the S word
Talking to partners and CFOs about the challenges of the role of the CFO was one thing, talking sales was quite another. Yes sales, the dreaded S word. My dreaded S-word. Well, guess what I discovered? There was a link between the S word and the relationship building program that I was becoming so passionate about.  It took me a while to figure out the link, but figure it out, I did. It turns out that connection is what my program was all about in the first place. It was about developing trusted relationships with CFOs in order to increase the sales that we did with them and their organizations. The theory was that trusted relationships ultimately lead to sales. And what better way to start developing trust than to engage in a discussion on the top priorities and challenges of the CFO. O.k. I get it now. That is why we had created that CFO survey. In order to better understand the challenges and priorities of the CFO. Interesting. Relationships lead to sales. So, selling is really about developing relationships, at least in this type of business. Wow. Cool. Talk about a mind shift, or in this case, a word shift, replacing the word sales with relationship building.  I am really getting into these developing relationships concept these days, a little late in the game, but I am catching up quickly.  And guess what? I was going to get a chance to catch up even quicker.

Another long story short. Someone reached out to me to see if I would be interested in helping to develop and deliver a national webinar on sales. I was the only non-partner invited to participate. At first, I was confused, “I am not a partner! Why me? Then I was flattered and then I was a bit sceptical that I could pull it off, but that is when my inner coach, once again, showed up and told me to just do it. So, I did. I tested it out on a bunch of peers. I solicited a bunch of feedback. But in the end, I ended up just doing it. And guess what? It was one of the most watched learning webinars with over 600 people tuning in to watch it at one point. Wow, thanks for the push inner coach! Take that inner critic!

May, 2015: Standing up to my inner critic (and fears): Just speaking up
Although I was making progress on tuning out my inner critic and focusing more on my inner coach, my inner critic was not ready to give up without a fight. He was not going to go away that easily. As I would later find out, he will likely never give up and go away, so I will have to manage him accordingly but that is a story for later, for now, back to the battle at hand. And that battle took place during another sales webinar. This time I was not leading it, I was just listening in on it.

It was a webinar whose audience included my colleagues and peers from across Canada. It was a webinar that was being recorded and would be available for any of the 9,000 plus partners and employees within the Canadian firm who cared to listen to it. It was a webinar that was being led by a partner who was one of my heroes on both the sales and leadership fronts at the firm. What a treat. It was about using storytelling to sell. Although I was just starting to get comfortable with the S word, I really liked storytelling, both telling and hearing stories. And here was one of my heroes telling one. Telling a story and then answering questions on it during the question and answer period at the end of the call. And guess what? I had a question. The question is not the important part of this story. What is important is that I was afraid to ask it.

I was so excited to have recently found the courage to deliver a webinar of my own and here I was, a short period later on, afraid to even ask a simple question. Yikes. My inner critic was back with a vengeance. “Don’t ask that question, it is foolish” he said. “Your hero is leading the call and will think that you are an idiot if you ask it. The rest of the learning team will think that you are a loser and that will mean no more webinars for you! Everyone else on the call, and everyone else who later tunes into the webinar will think that you don’t know what you are talking about. You are an idiot. You are a loser”. Woh! Maybe I should just bite my tongue on the question.

But before I could start biting, that is when my inner coach swooped in. “Dave, just do it. Just ask it. Just Trust me a.k.a. YOU.” My inner critic countered and told me not to listen to my inner coach. There was some back and forth, but eventually, I did, I trusted my inner coach and I sent in my question. There was only time for 1 more question when I finally got the nerve to send it in, and a whole bunch were sent in at the same time, but mine was selected. Before my hero responded to it, with some great insights, I might add, he first mentioned what a great question it was. Wow. How cool is that! And, to think, that I almost did not send in the question.

Oh, and what was the question? It was, “Do we learn more from hearing success stories or horror stories?” The response. Everyone is unique and different. Some prefer both. Some prefer one over the other. So, that is why, in the case of my book and my blogs, I have included both success and horror stories. The good, the bad, the just plain ugly and the great. What can I say, I am a big fan of inclusivity when it comes to storytelling.

July to November 2015: Standing up to my inner critic (and fears): Just plain having fun
Presentations to CFOs and partners. Design and delivery of webinars on relationship selling. What was the next challenge for the newly evolving Captain Courageous? Well, it turns out that, it also had to do with the S word. The firm was putting together a relationship selling professional development offering and I was asked if I would like to be one of the facilitators. I was the only person asked who did not have a sales role and background. I said yes. It sounded like fun, so after an initial conversation with my inner coach, I accepted the offer. And guess what? It was fun. Over the next six months, I led or co-led over a dozen sessions with several hundred partners and practitioners in the firm and I enjoyed each and every one of them. The days of hiding under a table at the mere mention of the S-word seemed to be over.

Well before you knew it, I had a new habit. I was now starting to get into the habit of believing in myself. And that belief in myself started to give me something else that I had not felt in a while, and that was courage. The courage to try out a whole bunch of things. And guess what? I actually ended up liking a bunch of them, even ones with the S word. How cool is that! Thank you inner coach. Thanks for nothing inner critic.

So, What did I learn?
How did I make change EASYer on myself 😊 (or not ☹)

——————————————————————————————————————————Sometimes when I think of my inner coach and my inner critic(s) or gremlins, as I sometimes like to call them, I picture a seesaw. On one side, the one with the coach on it, there is the word POSITIVITY and on the other side, the one with the critics and/or gremlins, there is the word NEGATIVITY. I want to keep the side of the seesaw that provides me with the positivity (i.e. positive energy) as high in the air as possible. EASYer said than done when I have all of these other nasty characters (i.e. my inner critics and gremlins) constantly trying to pull me and the seesaw down to their side, the one with the negative mindset.

How have I made it EASYer for my inner coach, and me, to keep that seesaw pointed in the right direction? One concept that comes to mind is the Power of Positivity and maintaining a positive mindset. I know, EASYer said than done. It can get pretty scary at times. And when those scary times come around, and, unless you have decided to stay in your comfort zone, rest assured, they will come around. When they do come around, it certainly does not hurt to have worked with your inner coach, and others, on building up a little self-confidence in yourself.  The type of self-confidence that is only obtainable by just moving forward and trying things on for size. As Henry Ford put it “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”



That was all about me. What about YOU?What are you doing to make your journey of change EASYer on YOU😊 (or not ☹)


Who is winning your battle with your inner critic(s) and/or gremlins?



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