Two simple words, one powerful message.
I recently discovered these two words are what got me my current job, a seemingly simple statement that gave me the edge over another final applicant and, ultimately, a career I love. The statement was in response to my boss’s only hesitation in hiring me over the other person: “I worry you might be too quiet to lead a group of people, and wonder if you can come out of your shell to have a strong presence.”
Upon finding this out, I started to reflect on that interview over a year ago, as I honestly don’t remember that particular question. Though, it doesn’t surprise me that it was my answer. “Watch me,” in some form or another, has been my mantra for a long time now, and after this conversation with my boss came up, I started thinking about how it should be everyone’s personal mantra.
People love to cast doubt, tell you something can’t be done, you’re not good/smart/old/rich/connected/*another annoying adjective* enough to accomplish a goal. It seems, more often than not, we hear why we can’t do something instead of why or how we can. Worse, it starts from a young age. The first paper I wrote for my sixth grade Language Arts teacher spoke of my goals of publishing my first book before I graduated high school, to which she wrote on my essay, “Nice paper, but let’s see some goals you can actually accomplish.”
Talk about a blow to a kid’s ego! I distinctly remember staring down at the red-scribbled words, annoyed and disappointed and a little hurt. Incidentally, that teacher would later become one of my favorites, a personal inspiration and one of my biggest fans – once she saw what I could do with my words. But at the time, her response, her doubt, was met with a stubborn and arrogant “Watch me” as I pouted in my head that someone didn’t think I could do it.
For many years after, I used those same two words – either out loud or in my head – in response to people’s doubt. “You can’t publish a book before you graduate high school.” – “You’re too shy/quiet to be on a panel.” – “That rock is way too tall and slippery to climb.” – “You can’t lead a team.” – “You can’t achieve that goal.”
Can’t. One word to match my two. Watch me.
Whether a lack of time, ability, or resource, there are many things it seems like we can’t do. Maybe we don’t know how to complete a specific task. Maybe there isn’t enough time. Maybe we are quiet, or bad rock climbers, or don’t have the money to do something. But so what?
Looking back on it now, I suppose I can understand why my teacher wouldn’t think my goal was achievable. I was just a kid with lofty dreams and no real clue how to achieve them. But even if you think a goal is silly, why discourage someone, especially a kid, and say it can’t be done? Why discredit someone’s dreams from the get-go, and only choose to believe in them later on down the road? Granted, I’m not really a kumbuya kind of person who gathers everyone in a group hug, but who is any one person to cut down another’s dreams?
I’ve been working with authors for a long time, either through editing or coaching or just plain support. I’ve gone to many school talks and heard kids say their parents or friends don’t think they can be writers because it’s too hard or too unachievable. And I’ve had new authors tell me how happy they are to see their dream finally come true. One thing we all have in common – that damn Doubt Monster sitting on our shoulders, making it seem like dreams are just that, something we think about in passing with a wistful “Wouldn’t it be nice if…”
A couple years ago, my husband and I were sitting on the couch, chatting about our days. Conversation somehow led to my books, and I spoke of my dream of one day walking the red carpet as a screenwriter, having had the chance to turn one of my books into a movie. A lofty dream, I told him, probably a ridiculous dream.
“It’s not a dream,” he replied, serious as could be, “it’s a possibility.”
I remember this as a pivotal moment in my life, and I don’t think he even realized how powerful his words were. It was a moment I realized that even though I always said, “Watch me,” I still truly believed I was only dreaming, not working toward a real possibility. But my husband’s reply, which was made in his casual way that told me he thought his words should have been obvious, not an epiphany, showed me the possibilities the future held. In a way, his response gave me confidence over the Doubt Monster, and self-assurance that I was on the right track. I just needed a little nudge in the right direction.
So now I give this message to you. Believe in possibilities and what dreams can turn into. Take advantage of opportunity, even if you don’t think you can do it, or don’t know how – figure the “how” out later. See not what could happen, but what will happen if you work hard enough. Believe in yourself, because Lord knows there are enough people out there all too willing to doubt.
And if someone does doubt you, simply tell them, “Watch me.”
(Photo by Bobbie Devereux)
(*Unless your dream is to be a serial killer or something. In that case, listen to the Doubt Monster.)