Suppose you were offered a bet that was practically a sure thing. If you win, you get smarter, you get access to more opportunities, and you feel more empowered and fulfilled. If you lose, you risk a small hit to your ego.
What would you do?
The game we play
This isn’t an abstract exercise. It’s a game you already play multiple times a day whenever you consider making a contribution.
When you have something you think is helpful, you hesitate even if your experience tells you that others would appreciate it. There’s a chance that someone won’t like it or won't like how you offered it. That person could be someone specific, like your manager, or it could be someone you imagine when you wonder “What will they think?”
Time after time after time, I come across people who are doing extraordinary things - people who are admired by colleagues and a network of people around the world - and they'll tell me privately, “My boss doesn’t like what I’m doing.” Yet even if it was upsetting for them at the time, they persisted.
More common is the person who doesn’t take a step at all. The mere possibility that someone may not approve is enough to prevent them from making the contributions they would like to make.
I say this without judgment. For me, all it takes is one contrary opinion to fuel my doubts, even in the face of a hundred expressions of support. It took me almost five decades to realize I was ceding control of my life to anyone who said “no.”
Take a spin
The truth is that we have a negative bias in our heads that amplifies our fears and causes us to hang back. We hesitate to reach out, to share our ideas and experiences, to offer what we have to offer. But when it comes to making contributions, “Better safe than sorry” is a terrible long-term strategy, one that leads to regret and a haunting lack of fulfillment. Instead, "it is better to ask for forgiveness than for permission" - advice commonly shared but seldom heeded.
The point isn't that you ignore feedback, or that you need to rebel against the system. It's just that you decide whether the negative opinions have merit, choose what adjustments you might make, and continue on with clarity and confidence.
It means you claim your right to having a voice and being heard, to realizing more of your potential, to living an authentic life.
The odds are clear. The benefits far outweigh the risks. What will you do?