The Girl at the Mall
In Rhode Island in the early 90’s there were four things to do if you were still in school. You could go to the movies, go mini-golfing, go out to eat, or go to the mall. I’d love to say that I can think of something else, but that was it. I’ll never forget this one time I went to the mall with one of my best friends. It was springtime and I was starting to think about girls and while I was walking around I noticed this beautiful girl on one of the floors above me and instantly stopped. My friend who was walking behind me crashed into me and asked me why I had stopped and all I could do was point. He took one look and said, “She’s pretty. Why don’t you go and say hi?”
I didn’t have an answer for him at first. I wasn’t sure what was keeping me rooted to the floor. I eventually managed to come up with a number of reasons why I shouldn’t say hi to her. I played out every scenario in my head of rejection I could think of. I imagined her calling for security or just laughing hysterically at me. When my visions subsided, I told my friend that I wasn’t a match for someone that beautiful. I know it sounds so ridiculous right? But that’s the kind of stuff you say when you’re in your early teens. My friend stopped me and said, “Mike, what is the worst that can happen? If you don’t go up there right now, you’ll never know what could have been. Are you cool with that?” I stood staring for a few more minutes and couldn’t muster up the courage to move. She eventually walked out of sight and I stayed there for a few more minutes. I can remember that day so vividly and how my friend just shook his head as we headed out of the mall. I was reminded of this scenario last night after speaking with someone about our fear of asking for things. My original impression was that the challenge is our relationship to asking, but what I realized after thinking about the girl in the mall is that it’s not about our relationship to asking.
It’s about our relationship to what we want.
Think of something that you want right now. How are you looking at that thing? Is it something that seems unattainable? Are you imagining all of the worst case scenarios if you actually decide to ask for it? Are you standing there frozen and letting it pass you by? The answer to these questions can help you get more comfortable with asking.
A number of years later when I was first interested in becoming a producer, I saw a number of people speak on a panel about Broadway producing. I was fascinated with what they had to say and I had decided that was the path I wanted to be on. After the event, the panelists were so crowded that I didn’t get a chance to talk to anyone, but as luck would have it, I was invited to a party and one of the producers on the panel was there. She was speaking with a number of other people and I was incredibly nervous about going up and interrupting her conversation. I looked across the room and suddenly I heard my friend’s voice saying, “If you don’t go up and start a conversation, you might as well forget about being a producer” I took a deep breath and walked across the room. This was the first time in my life I ever interrupted someone mid-conversation. It was the first time I had walked up to a group of people speaking that I didn’t know and did more than just hover. I introduced myself to this woman and to my surprise she started asking me questions about my interest in producing and my goals. She invited me to a gathering of other Broadway producers later that week and that was how I got to meet some of the people who helped me break into the industry. I did one thing that changed everything:
I changed my relationship with what I wanted.
Right now at this very moment there is probably something that you want and your relationship with that want is getting in the way. I had to learn that if you honestly want something that you will find a way to get it. You will fight all of the excuses and the voices inside your head. If you decide not to do that, you may have to ask yourself if you really want it as bad as you say you do.
Take some time today to evaluate your relationship with what you want.
Do you think it’s within reach?
Or is it one floor above you?
Most importantly ask yourself this:
Are you going to stand still staring or are you going to go up there?
The choice is yours.