Every August I go to summer camp for entrepreneurs. It's a trip I cherish because it's a chance for me to not only learn new business things, but be around people who run businesses the way I want to run my business - from the heart and to do good. The people who go to camp inspire something in me; they allow me to crack open my heart and my mind and let new ideas and feelings flow in, and I never know just what that's going to look like from year to year, but it's always powerful.
This year the mantra we were asked to repeat to ourselves throughout the weekend was "what if I..." (if you want to see more about what camp is like and hear Jonathan Fields' challenge to use "what if I" check out this amazing video).
Today I am sharing MY "what if I..." story from camp.
Camp for entrepreneurs has a lot of the same nostalgic pieces as camp for kids - arts and crafts, swimming in a lake, and of course, a talent show.
My first year at camp I sat in the talent show crowd and watched incredibly brave campers showcase an amazing number and variety of talents (there was poetry, singing, improv, and more) and I thought, "Now there is something I would never do!" My anxiety crept up my throat and had me covering my eyes with my hands. I couldn't fathom dealing with the potential embarrassment of "messing up" - I didn't even make it through the whole show and decided the talent show just wasn't for me.
In year two of camp, I watched in awe through a show that broke open every emotion I knew how to feel. Through the tears that wouldn't stop streaming down my face I thought, "I am so impressed with everyone going up and sharing pieces of themselves. Their hearts and their bravery are so appreciated and I'm glad someone else has the courage to do it because I will never be that person." I was there until the very end that year, so much more comfortable just being in the audience than I had the year before.
This year at camp I thought…what if I take a baby step and offer to just help out with someone else's talent show number. The idea terrified me, but it seemed like step one to possibly doing something myself in a future year.
The voices in my head tried to talk me out of it: "You don't have a talent to share in a future year anyways!" "There are more than enough people who want to participate in the talent show, you don't need to be one of them." So I did nothing…
Right before dinner on the night of the talent show I casually mentioned to my friend Marsha that I had thought about doing this but chickened out, but realized it needed to be my goal for next year.
And then she said, "Actually… I could really use your help today."
I almost panicked. But instead I brought myself back around...
What if I said yes even though I thought I was free and clear for this year?
What if I was brave and did a thing that pushed me out of comfort zones (and to be clear, it's not being up on stage that I was afraid of, it's being up on stage doing something I don't feel like an expert in or that I feel confident people want to learn from me)?
What if I let myself be open to possibilities?
I decided to say yes to Marsha - she was going to be doing a call and repeat song from her days at summer camp as a child and my role was to be the person the rest of the crowd would follow. I wouldn't have a mic and I wouldn't be in charge of anything, and I wouldn't be dancing or singing.
I spent the next two hours fretting, trying to memorize the complicated lines of the song and thinking, "What have I done? What have I done?"
I got up on stage and I clapped and repeated my little heart out. It was not only 'not terrible', it was actually fun.
When I was off stage (and even into the next morning) people came up to me and told me I'd done a great job; that I was charming up there. I fought every inclination to diminish my role and try to make my being up there more insignificant than it was - because it WAS significant.
Every time I look at this photo of Marsha and I from that night, I tear up, because I see a light in my eyes that I know is rarely there. One that only shows up when I've truly just let go.
Growth. Connection. Bravery. Fun. <- That's what I see in my face in this photo.
Camp in that first year helped me be true to myself and share that with the world. This year camp helped me remember there's even more of me that I don't even know, and I'm determined to dig her out and meet her.
This experience was yet another reminder to me that I need to be surrounded by the kind of people that I feel truly safe and supported with so that I can push out of comfort zones and really grow as a person.
It's why I will be going back to camp again next year (I'm already signed up!) and it's why I'm so passionate about creating safe spaces for other business owners to find that support and safety to be challenged out of comfort zones so they can grow as business people.
What if I own my true power.
What if I believe I can go really big.
What if I can be that safe space for others.
I'm going to keep practicing my what if Is... join me and comment and tell me one of yours.