“If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.”
– Richard Branson
When I read Richard Branson’s quote, I thought of opportunities I passed on because I didn’t have as much confidence in myself as someone else had in me. Ranging from assignments that had the potential for positive exposure, to freelance work I thought was too much of a stretch, I avoided scenarios where the possibility of failure loomed overhead.
It’s not that I never took a risk or challenged myself, but when I did the decision came from within. External confidence expressed by others was the core of the issue. This reminds me of the Groucho Marx quote, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” If someone thinks I’m worthy, does it mean they know me better than I know myself or they’re not as smart as they seem?
Branson’s quote reminds me that high achievers weren’t born that way. Likely, an undercurrent of tenacity, luck and timing propelled them to the pinnacle of success. I would make a conjecture that along the way there were times when these superstars were ill-prepared for the task at hand; that trial by fire set the course for the day; that they exposed themselves to risk; and that someone else took a risk by investing in them, their product or service.
Fear of failure prevails when there is an illusive notion that successful people are on a higher plain, elevated and showered with angel dust by the success fairy who passed over the rest of us. The realization that this is a delusion hits me when I meet professionals who lack professionalism, managers who cannot manage and executives who fail to execute. When I have a negative experience with someone at the top, it serves as a reminder that there’s room for me in the club of success. Maybe, it’s not an exclusive club after all. This is not meant to downplay what accomplished people have attained, but to bolster those who are reticent when invited to join the desired club that would have them as a member.
The next time someone I respect offers me an opportunity that leaves me dubious about my capability, I vow to err on the side of imprudence rather than caution, and tell myself, “You can do it!” How about you?