I’m sitting on the plane and the next night I sleep will be in Liberia. I’ll be in Charles de Gaulle airport soon – and part of me wants to just head straight out of the Paris airport to the south of France, meet a dear friend and stay on the beach for the next week. Instead my destination is the world’s second poorest country – a place my mom reminds me had Ebola just a month ago and is only 11 years post a 15 year civil war.
I’m excited – awake and alert on this overnight flight but also feeling nervous jumpy and mind racing – thinking about my dad’s last question – are you ready?
Great question – and there feels like a lot more to it than simply having my bags packed.
It reminds me of my inquiry about simply launching this blog. See I’ve been thinking about launching for at least 18 months – since I left the steady certainty of my corporate job. Each time friends have encouraged me with a “hey Jeanine you should write a blog” – I’d invariably nod my head – “yes – absolutely!” because part of me knew it made sense and wanted to capture the adventure. But even as my head was bouncing up and down I found myself curling inward thinking – I’d love to but I’m not quite ready . . .
When I know how this plays out,
When I can show the end of the story -
Then I’ll be ready.
(Can you relate to that feeling – the – I just have a little more to learn, to do, to know – and then I’ll step out?)
And the last 18 months were filled with stories worth sharing and twists I never imagined (how did this former corporate lawyer end up in an ashram in the jungle of India? Or on a stage in front of 2000 people talking about the power of connection for business impact?)
But I “wasn’t ready”
What changed? I have some solid evidence of how this leap will play out, from contracts signed for the very next step for work, to bags packed and itinerary in hand for this trip. But feeling ready – I realize now comes from deeper shifts.
What does it mean to be ready anyway? In the past, in my ideal world I could get the instruction book (it’s my ideal world – so yes there is an instruction book for everything) and I could go to my room and learn in private and come out once I have some degree of competence. Not needing to necessarily be an expert but please can I just learn and not embarrass myself?
So “ready” used to mean — I knew I wouldn’t fail or embarrass myself (which were pretty synonymous by the way.) Hmmm not the most inspiring standard. And I know I’m not alone. Research shows that men on average will apply for a job if they meet 60% of the criteria in the job posting. But women – we often hold out until we meet 100% seriously !?!? 100%?
So unless we know absolutely we won’t fail or embarrass ourselves we sit tight and wait. . . (Anything you’re waiting for coming to mind?)
Letting the opportunity pass, failing to offer our contribution until we just feel ready – that’s one option . . .
What else is possible? What are those deeper shifts that empower us to leap?
1) For me the first shift has been recognizing that being ready doesn’t mean I know I can have the outcome I want, I won’t necessarily land the client, or write the best post, or know how exactly to make the biggest impact while I am in Liberia -
Instead it means I trust in my capacity to respond to what emerges, I can give my all to the experiment – it can “succeed” or “fail” but either way I am ok – and that knowing makes it possible to commit to the next step that calls me, learn from it and grow – and from there feel into what’s next.
2) Because being ready doesn’t mean I need to have the next 10 steps planned out in order to take that first step. I didn’t know what was next when I left my corporate job, I don’t have the next post ready and I don’t know exactly what I want to cover in the workshop I will lead this week in Liberia. Being “ready” now means to me that the very next step is clear and I trust when I take it the following step will emerge - when I land in Liberia and meet the people we are serving, when I write and just show up – the next step will become clear.
3) And I don’t have to wait in my room ’til I have it figured out – just trying not to embarrass myself. I have a community that is on my side and will love me no matter how things turn out – and even if it feels scary and uncomfortable and I can feel the pull to hide – I also feel tingly, alive and grateful – I can let myself be seen and held while I am on my way.
4) And that is where curiosity and courage come in. Feeling scared and unsure doesn’t mean I’m not ready. That feeling in my gut is not necessarily a red light telling me to stop but it might just be a blinking light inviting me to slow down and get curious – to look both ways – except instead of left and right I want to look inside and out. I don’t just want to override that feeling and push forward but I can get curious and ask – what is it telling me? That desire to hide? Oh – I really care what people think and I feel vulnerable when I step out. Good to know – how can I be supported? What help can I ask for? Those butterflies in my stomach about actually landing in Liberia — well objectively there are risks – so I gathered more information connecting with a friend of a client who works for UNICEF in Liberia. And I made decisions to address the risks – to travel with people and security, to bring enough of my own food that I can take care of myself, to take the vaccines and bring lots of herbs to stay well and to make sure my insurance includes emergency evacuation. And I bought trip insurance so if Ebola were again found in the country close to departure or if some new factors had me decide I was a no – I could cancel the trip. But the nervousness isn’t just about those external factors – inside I feel that this experience will be potent in ways I can’t imagine yet. I know this kind of travel can push me – it can be disorienting, confronting, transformative. Ok – so I can get support and meditate, I can set clear intentions and pray, I can wear my Kali mala beads from India that remind me of a fierce feminine power. And I still feel nervous. So I can decide to hold the nerves and fear with compassion – heading up the escalator in the airport and gently repeating – just breathe Jeanine, it is all ok, just breathe and remember – you love an adventure, you are choosing to be courageous – and it is worth it.
5) Because it’s worth it – that might be the deepest catalyst for taking the leap. I realize it doesn’t really matter if I’m ready – it is not about me – not about whether I look good or “succeed.” It doesn’t matter if I’m the best person for this and it is not something I need to effort and make work on my own. The mere fact that I feel inextricably called, pulled means something is coming through me. I have something to offer. I will write even if I don’t yet have a plan on what I’ll say. I am boarding the plane to the first country in Africa with a woman president to meet & collaborate with 400 civic leaders to collectively impact the profound needs in their country. I don’t know exactly how I will make a difference but I know it is worth it to show up and to share their stories. And I trust that if I simply add my piece of the puzzle, my truth, that is enough.
So – yes dad, I’m ready and I’m taking the leap.
”Ready” or not – here I come.