This week I leaped outside my comfort zone. Big-time! Friends and family know my basic uniform consists of sweat pants and a t-shirt. Jeans are an upgrade! Put me on a quiet trail through the woods and that’s my comfort zone. But all of a sudden, I have to present an image to the world. NOT my t-shirt image! And since the Early Exit Academy promotes a life beyond the traditional workplace, NOT my former professional image. Help! I have a photo shoot next week and I need a new image. What’s a girl to do? Well, this girl hired a stylist! Talk about escaping your comfort zone!
I really dislike shopping, especially clothes shopping. Throw in the fact that I’m not happy with my body at the moment, and I’d rather visit the dentist. And while I can coordinate paint colors, I can’t seem to do the same with clothing. So I didn’t give the poor stylist much to work with. And I didn’t know what to expect.
The stylist had three hours to work her magic, and she made every minute count. We went through my closet – way too many “casual” clothes of different sizes – and pulled together a couple of things that will work. Then it was time to shop. We visited two local stores (SteinMart, Dress Barn), where I tried on dozens of tops and bottoms that she selected. You know what bothered me the most? The size of the clothing she handed me! Ugghhh! Not happy. But by the end of our time together, I had several pretty nifty outfits, and my credit card wasn’t hit too badly. But gosh, I was worn out. I had to take a nap afterward!
The stylist gave me some assignments. So there I was messaging my sisters about the push-up bras at Victoria’s Secret! Ha, now that’s not our typical conversation. But I could hear the stylist saying, “Get a good push-up bra and you’ll look five pounds thinner.” I’m in! I added a nice pair of short black boots to my closet and then stepped even further outside my comfort zone. I got a manicure and my brows waxed! I’ve just gone wild…at least by my standards. Who knows what’s next?
I spent my career working in non-profit organizations that worked closely with the federal government. But now I’m an entrepreneur, so I’d better figure out this business stuff. This week I leaped in head first by entering a local contest – I have 90 seconds to pitch the Early Exit Academy – ten semi-finalists receive help developing a business model and the top three winners receive a check for $5,000. It’s a pretty big deal.
A few nights ago I attended a pitch workshop at LaunchPad, a local business incubator, where I met some of the competition. I was pretty amazed by the variety of talent. There was the retired military officer who sells his healthy sweet potato-based hummus. And the young woman who creates a line of personalized healing essential oils. Lots of ambitious creative people!
I presented a draft of my 90-second pitch, and I was more nervous than I’ve been in years. Mind you, I testified in front of Congress and gave presentations to state court Chief Justices. I was cool as a cucumber in those situations. So why on earth was I nervous? I thought back to when I was just beginning my career. I was nervous then because I had to prove myself – no one knew who I was. Hello! Here I am again. Just an anonymous face. How exciting! How scary! And thank goodness I was stylin’ in my fancy new clothes.
When I was in my 30s, I lived in poverty, struggling to find a decent job. And I began having a recurring nightmare in which my teeth turned into shards and kernels and fell out of my mouth. It turns out, it’s a pretty common dream that symbolizes change, powerlessness, and the fear of losing something important. It’s a sign of anxiety. This week, that nightmare returned. And I know exactly why! I am spending money and don’t have any income coming in. I’ve hit the point in my business where I have to start paying for marketing, graphics, and website design. Talk about discomfort … transforming from a saver to a spender is no easy task! I have to remind myself that I am investing, not spending. Still, every once in awhile, I’ll glance in the mirror to make sure all my teeth are smiling back at me!
I’ll be delivering my 90-second pitch on November 2. Hopefully, I’ll still be in the running when the winners are announced two days later. I’ll be tweaking and practicing and perfecting the pitch between now and then. And sometime next month, I hope to have the website functional and offer discounted pre-sales of my course. I may even test out a Facebook ad. As with any new business venture, I’m experiencing moments of self-doubt. I am way outside my comfort zone, but I’m not far from having my concept validated.
Creating a new identity is just hard work! I have to believe there is greatness ahead.