We Are All at Different Stages: Help Someone Below You Up!

A student of mine came to me after class today. He is a bright student pursuing what I believe to be an interesting idea. Specifically, he is interested in opening an Urban Lounge. This student spent the last five weeks attending a weekly meeting of entrepreneurs which culminates in all attendees giving a 90-second elevator pitch for cash ($500 / $1,000 / $1,500 for 3rd, 2nd, and 1st place, respectively). Yet, he told me that despite preparing to pitch his Urban Lounge he now wanted to pitch a new idea altogether.

After talking over his second idea, it was clear it hadn’t been thought out as well as the first. Further, something seemed fishy about the sudden change of heart. After probing into the logic behind moving away from the first idea, I found that the only reason he switched was because he was afraid that the judges weren’t interested in Lounge concepts! He was willing to give up on his dream, despite never pitching this idea even once, purely because of the fear associated with sharing his idea. If this isn’t prove of the power behind fear, I don’t know what it is. Thankfully, when I noted to him that this was not a good reason to avoid pitching his Lounge, he stepped up to the challenge and decided he would pitch his Lounge after all. If I would have let him back down from his pursuits, I would not be doing an adequate job as his teacher and mentor.

Despite my capability to help my student with his fear, I am struggling with my own. With my dissertation defense quickly approaching (March 15th!), stress levels are at an all-time high. Everyone things I shouldn’t be stressed given that I am meant to be an “expert” on stress; however, we have all seen overweight doctors, haven’t we? Unfortunately, this is no different. I can understand the stress process, but it doesn’t necessarily make me immune to its effects. I am human, after all.

Fortunately, two things happened today. First, Nick, an entrepreneur that I have had the pleasure of working towards my PhD with, gave me some strong words of encouragement. Second, I happened to stumble upon an intriguing Facebook post. It was written by an entrepreneur who I once had the great pleasure of working for:

“Some of you have and are probably working through ideas yourself. If I can do anything for you, I hope that I can encourage you to believe in the unbelievable. Work on your idea. Spend time with it. If you don’t have time then MAKE TIME. No idea is too crazy. Like I told [my son] last night. Nearly Everything that you see around you was once just an “idea”. Some crazier than others. But they all share one thing in common. They started as just an idea. And I’m damn thankful that they didn’t give up. Get the most of yourself. Surround yourself with people who make you better. And play with your ideas. Someday people you don’t even know may be as thankful as I am for what you’ve done!”

Both my conversation with Nick and this Facebook post were therapeutic for me. They’ve given me atleast a temporary sense of calm in what has been a stressful period. Namely, it has helped me to see that while my dissertation is not perfect in any way, it is the kernel of an idea that could grow into a respectable idea someday. Although my expectations for myself are high, and I have lofty goals, it is okay that I’m not there yet. As I told my student through an email later in the day: “Overall, I think you have a good idea and you are a good writer! Confidence is something that is built by persisting through struggles. Nobody has ever been confident who did not struggle beforehand. You are going to do well at the pitch, but, the fact that you are doing the pitch at all is what really matters! “

So don’t forget to do your put to help those that are below you; and don’t forget that those ahead of you will share their help in kind!

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