One of the most difficult challenges in life is to start something new, whether that means taking on a new hobby, starting your own business, changing careers, developing a healthier way of shopping and eating or something else entirely. Fear of failure, judgment or rejection can mean we barely have the courage to take the first step let alone all those steps after it that would lead to our eventual success.
That word “eventual” is important because in today’s world we’re inundated with quick fixes, miracle diets and instant success. Planning for and actually envisioning not just your eventual success but all the struggles that you will encounter on your way will allow you to maintain realistic expectations and establish contingency plans consisting of secondary and tertiary strategies. More than anything planning for success means planning to be relentless.
To overcome that nagging, persistent fear of starting out, I recommend my clients take the belly flop entry accompanied by the bumper bowling follow-up. What in the hell does that mean, exactly? Well, for starters it means that dipping your toe isn’t going to get it done. Toe-dipping is accompanied by too much time to over-reflect on how you’re just not ready yet, there will be a better time, you’ll be more prepared with another class or twenty…and so on. So even if in actuality we carefully orchestrate our first step, let’s think of it as a massive, bad-ass belly flop call to action.
On a bit of a side note / segue, you will find a good number of coaches and general “gurus” who recommend announcing your plans “to start a business” or “lose 50 lbs.” or “give up cigarettes” etc. on social media, but the science suggests otherwise. This is just another form of toe-dipping, the shameful variety. By announcing our plans to others we are hoping to shame ourselves into success, but this method has proven far inferior over the long-term to actually owning our desires and goals and acting on them…not waiting or hoping for someone else’s sanction or approval. The “shame ourselves” strategy actually makes us more reluctant to act on our own behalf by initiating our instinctual rebellion streak against outside instruction. By hoping for some outside pressure we’ve created imaginary parental figures with pointing, judgmental fingers. It’s not a long-term strategy for success.
So back to belly flopping and bumper bowling. Throwing ourselves into the deep end – what I call “belly flopping” is a great way to overcome all those nagging thoughts. Start by starting. It’s that simple, and it’s that damned hard. You start through action – any action you can take in a direction toward your ultimate goal. You’re not looking for style points, you’re looking to unsettle that excruciating “comfort” that you’ve been living in which in reality is anything but comfortable.
Before I go deeper into the belly flop, let’s visit the bumper bowling. Bumper bowling for those unfamiliar, is where they install long tubular barriers in both gutters of a bowling lane to ensure the ball hits some damn thing. We can ease the shock of our deep end flop by setting up some barriers against failure. How will that look? Well if you want to get fit but have trouble getting to the gym, you sign up for 6 personal training sessions…the pricey investment ensuring that you break through your “exercise later” barrier at least once a week. The right trainer may inspire you to increase your visits to the optimal 3-5 visits per week.
Bumper bowling in small business could mean renting a WeWork space that establishes a higher commitment level. Perhaps you’ll get a glimpse of Adam Neumann and be inspired…to grow your hair out into fabulous 80’s hair band locks or overvalue your company too, who knows? You might place an ad for this new side business of yours which ensures you’ll have to actually come up with a phone spiel, an elevator pitch, a brand, and a website.
It’s important to note that jumping in the deep end or belly flopping doesn’t mean you take foolish risks. You may start with an online class or certification that would act as your paddleboard and arm floats. You might just start your business after working hours and on the weekends at first, keeping your office rental to a couple days a week. Getting a separate space to kick start your fledgling business will give you some much needed headspace and seriously up your commitment level.
Let’s say you’ve been “thinking about” changing careers for as long as you can remember. Your belly flop into action may be contacting a killer resume writer and investing in his or her services…or contacting a career coach and sharpening up your interviewing and job search skills. I happen to know one hell of a career coach who just happens to also be a resume genius…not that I would ever shamelessly promote myself in such a scholarly column of course, but contact me and get a complimentary coaching session where I will give you the down and dirty on your current resume as well as a professional kick in the butt / pat on the back on everything related to your job search or career change.
The whole idea behind the belly flopping / bumper bowling method is to get you to acknowledge that you must take risks to move your life in a new direction, but you can also mitigate those risks by being smart in your preparation stages, planning for setbacks and visualizing what you will do when the crap hits the fan. Take a moment after reading this and close your eyes. Visualize yourself exactly where you want to be in one or two years, see the belly flop that will start the march toward real change, envision the bumpers you will put in place to keep yourself on track, think about a huge challenge or setback that could occur and how you will fight your way past this obstacle and remain relentless as you pursue your desired life. Take the time to really sit with your future success and acknowledge that it is a product of all the things you still have to learn; you will learn them. See the books you have to read. You will read them. Look at the courses you must take. You will take them. Embrace the difficulty and challenges you will have to overcome. You will overcome them all.
How did that feel? Pretty damn awesome, right? So, what’s stopping you from acting right now? Decide how you will belly flop and bumper bowl your way toward real, long-term change. And if you would like some professional guidance with all the above,