I've been thinking recently about fear and confidence. I believe that a large part of confidence comes when you let go of fear. I was particularly thinking about it when I was driving home from tango tonight. It's only the end of my fourth month of tango and although I'm improving, I have a long, long way to go. Part of my trouble is that I get afraid- it's not a conscious decision, but I do know that I worry about keeping up, worry about following and remembering steps. There are moments when I just focus on simply following and I forget everything else- those are the moments when I feel myself moving well, when I feel the confidence start to build because the fear is pushed away.
There are parallels between my experiences with learning tango and with work. I have grown tremendously more confident with Project Smile as the years have progressed- that confidence comes from our success and our success makes me let go of the fear. What am I afraid of? Ultimately, I'm afraid of Project Smile never becoming a national organization, of all the energy, the hard work, the sacrifices that I make and the successes that we've had- for all of that to not add up to my goal. I've always believed that if you work really hard, there is nothing you can't achieve, but deep down, there is a part of me that is afraid that one can work super hard, but still not get where you want to go. Part of the reason that I want Project Smile to become a national charity is perhaps a little selfish- I want to live a life that matters beyond the few short years that we all have on this planet. I want to know that I made things a little better right now and that can continue beyond me. It isn't about people knowing my name after I'm dead- I have no idea who started any of the major non profits in the country- outside of the ones that bear their name- it's about creating an organization whose mission will flourish and will expand beyond anything that I've imagined. Right now, we are far from that place. I know that should I die tomorrow, Project Smile will go with me. It's not that I'm so special that no one else could do my job, it's the simple fact that I have no one to take it over and it would be highly unlikely to find someone to work full time with a salary that is so uncompetitive.
However, there is an upside to fear- it keeps you on your toes and makes you highly competitive and alert. I do get afraid of losing Project Smile- of the donations drying up and the business that I've been working on since I was 23 years old, disappearing before my eyes. It is a somewhat irrational fear, but it drives me everyday to work my hardest and it pushes me through when things are tough. Every time I speak in public I get extremely nervous, my stomach gets in knots, my eyesight gets a little blurry, my heart races- but it is for the best, because it keeps me focused.
Why is confidence so important? Besides all of the obvious reasons, it is important because it opens your mind to bigger and bigger possibilities. A year ago, I was initially prepared to partner with another organization for the date auction because I didn't trust my instinct that we could have a huge success on our own. Thankfully, I listened to myself and we had an awesome event. Now, with the confidence that has built from our success, I am thinking of things that I hadn't even considered- gift bags, bigger sponsorship support, higher ticket price, outfits for the bachelorettes and other things. When I ask for donations, I ask for more than I ever would have asked for before. It's not that I never thought we deserved bigger support before- I always believe we deserve every donation we ask for, it's that our success has given me the confidence to think bigger and to ask bigger.
Confidence also keeps you hungry for more- it keeps pushing the bar on how one defines success. 4 years ago, our first Halloween event raised $500 for us- I was happy. Today, that would be a disaster. In 2005, our first grant of $1,000 from the Wal Mart Foundation sent me through the roof- today, it takes a grant of $5000 to get that same feeling. In a couple of years, it will probably take $10k to feel the same way. This has nothing to do with being arrogant or taking things for granted- I am very grateful and happy for every dollar we receive and I never take a single donation for granted. It is about that personal drive that keeps you hungry, keeps you wanting more and working to get it.
Anyways, that's it for tonight. Perhaps I was a bit on the rambling side, but it is all things that have been on my mind. It is coming up on 1am and I should be going. Tomorrow morning, I'm off to Orange to do a PD donation. I love the name of that town- however, I keep wishing that it had a sister town of Peach. How cool would that be? Until tomorrow friends..