What Simon Cowell can teach us about trying something new

Simon_Cowell_in_December_2011I’m taking my first, clumsy steps into the world of starting a ‘business’ – a world that for the longest time has (in my mind) been the domain of Other People. A world inhabited by those who know things I don’t, who know exactly what it is they’re offering, and how they’re going to go about asking people to pay money for that.

And as I stumble out of the cosy, yet constrictive, world of the employed into the harsh, exposing light that shines on those who want to get paid for doing something they love, the feelings are totally reminiscent of when I had my first baby.

It’s all so painfully familiar. I may be less sleep deprived, and truth be told, the physiological stuff is a heck of a lot less brutal. But the struggle, the self doubt, and the desire to do it my way (when everyone everywhere seems to be telling me how I ‘should’ be doing it) echoes a reality I thought I’d left behind nearly a decade ago.

When I’m all at sea and unsure of myself, I start searching for a guru or a book with Answers. And I’m finding them left right and centre right now. There’s some amazing stuff out there for people in my position, with awesome advice and resources. There are people writing books, e-books and articles that are inspiring and exciting me, and having me try things differently, and see things a different way. And my head is full of them, just as my head was once full of ‘new baby’ advice about feeding schedules, and approaches to sleep.

But right now, these ideas belong to other people. They’re great, but they’re not mine. They live in my head rather than my heart. And living out other people’s ideas about what I ‘should’ be doing is as exhausting and distracting as it was when I was lugging around a screaming infant in my arms for the first time.

It’s precarious when you’re living out someone else’s ideas of what you should be doing, or being. You’re on flimsy ground when your head is filled to the brim with the ideas of others. You’re utterly disconnected from your own intuition, your own resourcefulness and your own useful life experience. It’s like you hand yourself over to whoever you pick as your guru, and let them push you around, wagging their finger at you, telling what you ‘should’ be doing, how you ‘should’ be going about it and the mistakes you ‘need’ to avoid.

And if you’re anything like me, when you’re in this way of being, your source of support and inspiration can quickly become a gremlin, a saboteur – a pain in the butt inner critic. Inspiration quickly morphs into self recrimination. A potential leader becomes a punishing teacher. Not because of anything they’ve done, but because it’s still early days. Because you don’t yet know where you stand, or indeed what you think.

And as I did when I was a new mother, I feel enormous resistance to this process. As I did when parenthood was new and bewildering, I feel resentful and frustrated by how little I know, by how far I have to travel, and by the reality that no bugger out there is going to hand me a tidy answer on a plate – however hard I wish they would.

And at times like this, I am prone to handing my power over to others on a plate. I am prone to turning away from myself and toward those I think will help me get where I want to go. Which leaves me all destabilised and out of sorts. None of which is conducive to building something awesome, which is ultimately what I’m trying to do.

My favourite, and most unlikely guru in moments such as these is Simon Cowell. Really. Despite his monumental successes, he is clear that “the fun bit” was “getting there” not the successes themselves.

I like that. So much. It grounds me in the here and now. It soothes my agitated mind. It reminds me that what happens today, however inept I may feel, and regardless of where it is I’m aiming to get to, matters too. Better than that, it’s the “fun bit”. And I’d be crazy to squander the fun bit in a puddle of angst and self doubt.

I need that Simon Cowell wisdom now, and I sure as heck needed it in the early days of motherhood.

So if, like me, you’re starting something new (whatever it may be), and like me, you’re weaving and wobbling all over the shop, and living in the future rather than the present – turn away from the ‘experts’ in your field for a bit. Then suspend your disbelief. And turn toward Simon Cowell’s unexpected, but bang on insight. Even if its just for a moment.

Sit with it for a minute.

He’s onto something.

Sometimes help lurks in the most unlikely places.

Go figure.

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