The Upside of Taking it in the Ass

I was given an assignment to come up with 99 business ideas complete with micro business plans with a group of 3 strangers. The purpose was to set aside fear of failure and refresh our expectations of how much opportunity is available to me in the world.

I disagree a bit with the first purpose and the second one was not currently relevant to me. Since my paycheck is not dependent on this situation, I went rogue and am diving down the rabbit holes that gave me the most purpose.

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The Victim Hat

For my reflections to make sense, you must know what The Victim Hat is. Four years ago, my best friends and I became obsessed with playing Settlers of Catan and my boyfriend reluctantly tagged along. It’s a fantastic game with a nice combination of strategy and luck. But we made it an amazing demonstration of the depravity of the human ego. I cried, my boyfriend broke glassware, my friends accused my boyfriend of cheating, people said the most passive aggressive bullsh*t you can imagine. It was…AWESOME!

In the moment, we were complete asses. In our times of reflection, we struggled with, not only the shame of our behaviors, but the shame of what we felt being over a game played with the people we care most about.

Enter The Victim Hat. Any time one of us caught the other complaining, they were handed The Victim Hat. Not as a punishment (okay, a little as a punishment), but mostly to encourage the person to verbalize all the garbage feelings inside them, no matter how irrational. Rather than trying to repress feelings, we gave them voice. We also put them in their place as irrational and unhelpful. Ultimately, it became a marvelous training ground for our “real world” lives.

The Victim Hat has recently become Worst Foot Forward where we do the same circus without the game or hat. Think about this idea the next time you’re in a staff meeting or Thanksgiving dinner with your family. You’ll be so tempted to make a hat. Just remember to listen to the garbage coming out of your own mouth.

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OMG, I’m Wearing the Hat!

When doing this project, I had one of those magical experiences where people just come together and no one can tell who lead and who followed. We all took turns and flowed. One of my very generous reviewers, @Jaredscharf asked me to take my magical experience and try and bring that unicorn into the desolate wasteland of my regular work life. I immediately started typing out a response worthy of two Victim Hats. Upon a brief reflection, it was clear that work was a desolate wasteland where nothing can grow because I shit on everything before it can take root.

Not ONE paragraph later I had the very same experience. Jared tapped into my leadership PTSD. My leadership education has come from being around other people desperate not to lead and my willingness to take it in the ass. But it has done so much good for me. I just hate it because it means I’m constantly in an intimate lover’s death grip with my fear. You decide what that looks like but I will tell you what that feels like. DRAINING! It makes me want to put on The Victim Hat and tell the world to f*ck off.

At least that’s what it felt like the first few years. Once you get over the terror, fear can be a great partner. There is an amazing amount of information that comes from your fear — dare I say even wisdom and empathy. Your fear is your friend, if you learn how to speak its language. Your fear is trying to protect you. It tells you where you feel vulnerable. It tells you where you have opportunities for personal development (or the appropriate time to run screaming). It can push you to address your vulnerability. If you know your own fear intimately, you can more easily see and accept it in others. You are more likely to be able to access your capability for forgiveness when you see people do foolish things in response to fear.

The instinct to want to set aside fear is not a bad one. Too often we don’t walk with fear informing our decisions, but we give fear the wheel and just cover our eyes. But if set aside, you cut off access to part of who you are. You lose a little more clarity in your self-reflection.

My group was happy with my suggestion to contribute at least three TERRIBLE ideas each to our 99. It helped them break the ice and allow themselves to fail. It helped them take fear out of the driver’s seat and move forward. Where do you think I learned that lesson? It was a gift of embracing and listening to my fear.

So, this is my thank you to my fear. A wonderful, insightful adviser. I will do my best to keep my arms and legs wrapped around you for the rest of my life. Worst Foot Forward — I will resent you the whole damn time.

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Productivity/mastermind nerd, coach in Seth Godin’s Akimbo community, inbound digital marketer, former mental health professional, Hasher & Airbnb owner.

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