Note: The following is a blog/podcast hybrid post. Instead of show notes, you get the entire script! Read or listen, it’s up to you.
Welcome to Episode 95 of The Introvert Entrepreneur Podcast. I’m Beth Buelow. This is a special podcast episode that’s also a blogcast, in recognition of this week’s launch of my new book, The Introvert Entrepreneur: Amplify Your Strengths and Create Success on Your Own Terms. What does it mean that it’s also a blogcast? It means that you can find the complete transcript of the audio on my blog at theintrovertentrepreneur.com (in fact, right here!).
I’ve known for a while that I wanted to do a special podcast during book launch week, but what I haven’t known until today is what I wanted to say about the book. I’ve hemmed and hawed about it for weeks now, wondering what would be most interesting to share. I thought about sharing highlights from the book, but you can easily access that information online. I also considered talking about the journey from idea to publication, but I’d rather save that for a future post. Then there’s the stuff about self-promotion and being visible and judged; again, more fodder for a future post.
Finally I decided that I wanted to talk about the very introverted part of publishing a book: the introspection that it forces, my feelings about putting it out there, and clarifying my intentions and defining success.
In the end, it all comes down to confronting my relationship with vulnerability and ego… So that’s where I’m going to go, and my hope is that you can relate to what I share and find something useful to apply to your own life and work.
After all, I know my journey and feelings are not unique. You might have published a book, released a new product, launched a new service or submitted your art for a juried show… it doesn’t really matter what you’re putting out there. The fact is that putting something new out there that reflects even just a tiny piece of your private self will push every button you have. It’s been useful for me to unpack and look closely at those feelings. Don’t worry, this won’t sound like a very public therapy session. But I am going to be real with you, and it’s in service to us learning together.
I Believe My Own Hype…
Since the summer of 2014, when I knew that the book was going to be a reality, I’ve been wrestling with a range of questions about identity and ego. In the weeks leading up to publication, my reflection boiled down to one particular question: How do you handle being who you are?
We all play multiple roles and claim a range of identities: husband, wife, partner, friend, mother, father, employee, entrepreneur, sister, brother, introvert, extrovert, public, private, artist, coach, teacher, mentor… the list goes on and on.
Most of the time, we assume those roles and identities naturally, without thinking too much about it. It is what it is. We try to feel competent at the very least. We strive for excellence, and at our highest moments, we might even feel exceptional.
It’s those moments that I’ve been reflecting deeply on recently: that spectrum between competent and exceptional. Often, we aren’t the ones to make those judgments. Others make them for us. They tell us that we or what we’re doing (the role we’re playing) is OK, or great, or fantastic. And we don’t always know how to take that feedback.
Especially when it’s “what you’re doing is fantastic!”
Or maybe that’s just me. I am noticing the more that someone gushes, the more I shut down. “Gushing” can simply mean, “you’re doing great work.” It’s not even over-the-top. But yet I half-accept, half-dismiss the feedback. It’s a bit uncomfortable. That half-dismissal could be perceived as false humility, which is so far from the truth.
That’s why when I heard someone say recently that a turning point for her in her business was that “I started to believe my own hype,” I was really knocked for a loop.
The statement itself didn’t resonate with me; in fact, it repelled me a bit. But her explanation made complete sense. She was starting to step fully into her true gifts and presence. She was accepting the acknowledgement of others that she was doing great work and offering something of value. When someone reflected that back to her with enthusiasm, she’d decided to accept the gift.
I thought, I gotta get me some of that!
That’s the truth in experiences like that: the thing that repels us also has something to teach us.
…Or I Am Nothing.
One of the reasons it knocked me back was because I was still sitting with a powerful image I’d seen a few days before. It was shared in a tweet from actor Jim Carrey. If you didn’t know it was him in the picture, you wouldn’t recognize him.
It was a simple black and white photo, and at the top it said “I am nothing.” At the bottom, it continued, “What a relief.”
Grand Central, NYC. ;^} (photo by Cathriona White) pic.twitter.com/N8QbQQDFLu
— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) September 16, 2015
Think about that. “I am nothing. What a relief.”
I can scarcely imagine anything more opposite from “I started to believe my own hype.”
Those contrasting thoughts have been bouncing around in my head for weeks and weeks.
I’m a rock star. I am nothing.
As a coach, I always look for the both/and, rather than the either/or. Is it possible to be both a rock star and nothing?
I think it is.
I’ve thought about how I would answer that question about turning points, and for me, I hope it would sound like this: “I learned to trust myself and accept the ups and downs without getting too attached to either state.”
My ups – my “hype” moments – don’t define me.
My downs – insecurities and losses – don’t define me.
I want to be able to celebrate all of the good while still knowing it’s fleeting, cumulative, and resists being possessed.
By being able to sit in that both/and, “I’m a rock star/I am nothing” space, it’s possible to be vulnerable but release fear.
Remember: It’s Not About You!
I’ve only just begun to understand how that could be possible. Once you start reflecting on these topics, it seems like the universe starts putting message after message out there for you to hear, often in unlikely places. Or at least, I start reading a secret message into everything. It might be written on the fortune I pull out of a fortune cookie, or the paper tab on my Good Earth tea bag, or something a character says in my favorite tv show. It’s just like when you buy a red car, and then it seems like suddenly, every other car you see is red. Your heightened awareness allows you to see and hear things you might not have noticed before.
And this is where ego and vulnerability intersect and offer a way out. This is how I’ve been able to experience the launching of my book as less pressure and more joyful. Because writing and having a book published is a mixed emotional bag. As I mentioned in the beginning, it’s exciting. And, it’s terrifying. But I’m closer to excited than terrified, and here’s why:
I’ve been reading a book called Spiritual Defiance by Robin Meyers. (Stay with me here, I’m not going to talk religion, that’s not what this is about. It’s about a single sentence I read that has completely shifted my perspective about ego.) In the first chapter, he talks about the role of ego in holding back the growth of the church. But I read it as the role of ego in holding back curiosity, creativity, adventure, and fully sharing one’s talents and message.
You see, the ego is a necessary part of every person. It’s what differentiates us, and it moves us to action because we want to leave our mark and make a difference. We can have a healthy or unhealthy relationship to ego. It’s often demonized because our unexamined relationship with it usually leads to it being an unhealthy relationship.
Meyers puts it this way; he wrote, “We should not be asking at the end of our [work], “How did I do?” Rather, we should ask, “Did anything happen?”
Let’s read that one more time:
“We should not be asking at the end of our [work], “How did I do?”
Rather, we should ask, “Did anything happen?”
That simple statement blew me away. It crystallized the difference between what an unhealthy and healthy ego sounds like. I thought about how perfectly it described my work with clients – coaching is not a performance, it’s a catalyst. It’s not about how well I coached my clients, if I’ve covered all of my core competencies and asked powerful questions; it’s about whether anything shifted for them. I’ve always known that, but reading Meyer’s statement was a succinct and powerful reminder that IT’S NOT ABOUT ME.
The same is true for my book. When you read it (and I hope you will), I’m not looking for feedback on how I did. I want to know, did anything happen? Did something change, even just a teeny tiny bit? Do you know something new about yourself or your business that you didn’t know before you picked up the book? And more importantly, did you put that new knowledge into action? Did anything happen?
The Finite and Infinite Nature of Success
And that brings me to the final piece, about how I define success. It’s so tempting to measure it in terms of sales, likes, reviews, follows, shares, comments, tweets, plus ones, and every other metric we have at our disposal with just the click of a mouse. And of course, you’d be hard pressed to find an author who didn’t say that the goal was to be a New York Times Best-Selling Author. (At first, that was my goal, I’ll just put that out there right now!) Those metrics are important, and the goal still worthy, but it’s oh-so easy to become obsessed with the numbers and allow them to dictate how we feel about our work and define success.
There are also the endless articles about promotional strategies you “should” be doing to promote your book. The more I read them, the more I realized I had the time, energy, and resources to only do a very small percentage of those strategies. It’s hard to look at all of that information and not focus on what I didn’t do, rather than what I did accomplish.
So in my heart and mind, I know all of the numbers and busy-ness are only a small fraction of what it means to be successful. Therefore, my new, simple measure of success is this: did anything happen? Was there a cosmic shift, large or small, that gave someone confidence, affirmed who they were, opened the door to new opportunities, or supported someone in feeling less fear and more courage?
I can’t make those things happen. Not even the book can make those things happen. Only you, reading and absorbing and acting, can make those things happen. It’s your choice, and it’s not up to me.
While I can share all of this now and sound pretty calm about it, it’s been a hard journey getting here. I’ve suffered from impostor syndrome, staggering insecurities, and fear of failure… you know, all the usual suspects. And I’m not immune to those going forward. I have yet to discover a vaccine that will inoculate any of us against those feelings. But I do take comfort in naming and claiming them. I feel stronger because I’ve acknowledged that I’m human. And when I suffer from a recurrence of any of those feelings, I have more tricks up my sleeve to help me move through them.
Speaking of which, here’s the trick I put up my sleeve on book launch day. It’s an infinity symbol temporary tattoo that I put on my right arm. It takes me back to the first days of this podcast, before it was really a podcast. I had posted my first few episodes, and the woman who was posting them let me know that in the first few weeks, I’d received 8 downloads. I’d spent hours on those episodes, and 8 wasn’t very many. So I decided to turn that 8 on its side and make it infinity: 8 to ∞. It reminds me that everything starts with zero – or eight! – and grows from there. The symbol reminds me that there is infinite possibility in the world, and there is an infinite universe that holds each of us as a tiny, precious speck exploding with potential. We are finite creatures in an infinite spectrum of life.
We are everything, and we are nothing.
For Your Consideration
In closing, I invite you to consider three simple questions, because for all of my reflecting, I still don’t have answers, only more questions. Take some time to think about the following:
- How do I define success?
- What’s my relationship to my ego, and how could that be holding me back?
- How can I be both a rock star and nothing when it comes to what I’m sharing with the world?
I leave you with a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke: “Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.”
If you’d like to get your own copy of The Introvert Entrepreneur, visit online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, and others, or check your local bookstore. It’s available in paperback, ebook, enhanced ebook, and audio versions. If you read it and want to tell others what you learned, what happened, please take a moment to leave a review online. There will also be a companion program, called the Amplify Your Strengths Online Learning Lab, that goes with the book and supports you in moving to action on what you learned; more about that in the coming weeks.
Thanks so much for listening (and reading!) today. It’s been great sharing this time with you, and I hope you’ll join me for future podcasts and blogcasts! This is Beth Buelow of The Introvert Entrepreneur, and until we meet again, remember that success is an inside job.