By David Ly Khim
I can’t believe we’re doing this. This is really happening.
I’ve found myself saying this phrase more frequently than ever before.
This phrase is important to me because it means that:
1. I’m doing something different.
2. What I’m doing is something I have not done before.
3. I’m scared and really uncomfortable.
In the fall of 2012, my friend, Kendrick, and I developed a fashion consulting business on a whim. Fashion consulting, although admittedly a bit strange of an idea, seemed to be the perfect service for us to provide. We went over details and logistics, scheduled photoshoots, and created a timeline to launch the business.
“I can’t believe we’re doing this. This might not work. What if we don’t get any clients?” Doubtful thoughts crossed my mind every few minutes. “This is really happening. We’re really doing this.”
Then, the one potential-squandering thought came to me–you’ve probably thought it to yourself a few times.
“What if this fails?”
Luckily, I had Kendrick to reassure me. We both agreed that the business could fall through, but we decided to continue with it. Both of us knew that it would be a great learning experience and–with the right attitude–we had everything to gain.
The consulting aspect taught us about customer service and how to work with clients on a one-on-one basis. The need for publicity opened our eyes to the immense power of social media. We realized the extensive support network we never knew we had.
We decided to continue, knowing the business had a low success rate, because we saw it as an opportunity to grow, not as an opportunity to fail.
We didn’t let our fear of failure paralyze us.
A month later, I found an opportunity to inspire others–another face-off with doubt. I stumbled upon a TED talk given by Candy Chang about the Before I Die movement. It looked like a project that UCI needed to break students out of routine and create an environment for contemplation. Inspired by the message, I desired to create a wall at my college campus. I brought the idea up to a few friends and it was received with encouragement. Some even offered to help. After getting a solid team, I contacted Candy Chang, developed a budget, and created a timeline for the project. I submitted a proposal and received funding to make it a reality.
Then it was time to panic.
“Are we really doing this?”
“All the steps have already been taken.”
“I can’t believe we’re doing this.”
Our six-person team spent the next three weekends constructing chalkboard panels and each lucky individual had the pleasure of hearing my doubts verbalized. It’s not often that I share my self-deprecating, negative thoughts with others.
“What if people think this is a stupid idea? What if no one writes on the wall? What if people write offensive things? What if the wall falls over and hurts someone and we get sued?”
I was fortunate enough to have an amazing team that was completely dedicated to the project and believed in its potential to help the community. They responded with affirmation, “It won’t fail.”
The first day of the project was the most nerve wracking of all. We met at 6:30 AM to begin the set up. One, slow, nerve-wracking hour passed by, and the anticipation was almost unbearable. All our fears compounded together as we anxiously waited to see peoples’ first reactions.
Everything turned out well. We had the pleasure of watching the project evolve over the course of a week. People shared their aspirations on the wall, no one was crushed by a falling panel, and people loved the project.
The wall after the first day.
Through both projects, I’ve realized first-hand how important it is to find people who support you. These people will help you get over your doubts or at least help you face them. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I didn’t have a partner or a team to keep me going through the stress of self-doubt and fear.
Each success I’ve had came with doubts and fears. Those negative thoughts usually hung around until success was obvious–and many times it wasn’t. Doubts rang in my head the way you have a ringing in your ears after leaving a concert. The only difference was that the ringing didn’t stop for me; I was stuck at a concert and doubt was the headliner.
“A man’s doubts and fears are his worst enemies.” – William Wrigley Jr.
Doubt told me, “This is stupid. No one is going to understand you. This is too much work. This is going to fail.”
It didn’t stop. “Don’t you have classes to study for? You won’t make a living off of this. Stop wasting your time.”
The key, I found, is to not let fear and doubt prevent you from making an attempt at something that has potential–and everything has potential. Again, it helps if you surround yourself with people who believe in you.
Don’t let fear prevent you from doing something remarkable.
Don’t let the fear of failure paralyze you. Fear is good. It means you’re about to push your limits. Use that fear to ignite your own potential to new heights.
The UP Lab was a risk. I had ideas for the project almost a year before we launched and even bought the domain name, but the project quickly fell down my list of priorities. My good friend, Justin, contacted me a few months after the initial idea and told me he had some ideas of his own. With a phone call, the project was revived and The UP Lab was born.
Then it began again. “I can’t believe we’re doing this. What if people don’t understand what we’re trying to do?”
Despite my previous attempts at projects and a few successes, fear and doubt still showed up at my doorstep. They weren’t as threatening this time around, but they made their presence known by knocking on my door every now and then. You too may find that, with all your successes, doubt will continue to somehow seep into the work you do in the future. However, it’s a matter of looking past those fears and maintaining focus.
The first blog post by us was met with encouragement, but even as we continue to develop The UP Lab, my fears are still present. “Why would people pay attention to what I write? What if this is a waste of time?” However, it’s much easier to ignore those fears because both Justin and I see The UP Lab not as a chance to fail, but an opportunity to motivate and inspire others.
I’ll continue to push those fears aside.
You will have impulses to attempt something out of the ordinary and with those impulses will come doubts. I challenge you to put those doubts aside. I challenge you to push away your fears and to try something different. Do something you’ve planned on doing but haven’t yet. Don’t fear or doubt hold you back. Take a leap of faith.
The idea of failure doesn’t exist without the possibility of success. If you think failure is possible, then so is success.
Those “I can’t believe we’re doing this” moments will be the moments that you remember, that you will learn the most from, that you will tell stories of in the future. Those moments that tell you that you are on the way to becoming remarkable.
When was the last time you had a “I can’t believe we’re doing this” moment? What do you plan on doing? Share your stories with us in the comments below!