This year I am taking one of the biggest risks of my career and starting a new high school experience for girls with my best friend. We are both experts in educating young women, and we felt the time was right for a new program in our area, so we jumped into planning and publicizing. It has been an exciting and rewarding process, but we have also had to deal with our own personal fears of doing something new and rethinking what high school can look like for girls. In the process I have learned some things that have helped me cope with the nervousness or fear related to risk taking.
A Fool’s Mindset– Many people think that being a fool has a negative connotation, but for me, it means being a beginner. When you start something new, you are a fool, who doesn’t know what they don’t know yet, and are full of curiosity. Taking a risk requires being open to learning, seeing growth as a process, and accepting failure as part of the journey. Fools are learners. They research, read books, and talk to experts with humility.
Sometimes too when you take a risk, you have to be willing to look a little bit foolish. My co-founder and I hosted an open house on Zoom for prospective families. We had an incredible turnout and were very pleased when the screen was full of faces interested in our program. We waved hi to our audience, welcomed them, and began our presentation. We were sharing our screen for the presentation on Zoom and could not see the chat notifications. We did our introduction and even led a meditation before realizing we were on mute for 7 long minutes! I didn’t realize it until my stepmom called my cell phone. Here we were trying to look like experts in education and convince parents to trust us with their students and we missed a basic step of turning our sound on. I still can’t believe people didn’t sign off the Zoom. But, once we realized it, shone some light on our embarrassment, we modeled being graceful while making a mistake. We highlighted our humanity, laughed, and started our presentation again.
I certainly will never forget that moment of being a beginner and will always check my mute button from now on.
Surround Yourself With Supportive People– I recognize how fortunate I am to be surrounded by friends and family who are supporting me on this adventure. My husband and my parents are cheering me on and have been sounding boards for my big ideas. I am grateful for them and my friend who is experiencing all these firsts with me.
Recently, I learned the value of asking for more support when I needed it. I often feel like I have something to prove and that I have to do things on my own to show my worth. It is not just me who feels this way, women and girls have been conditioned to think that expressing their own needs is a sign of weakness. I consider myself a good communicator, but I am still working on expressing to other people how I am feeling in the moment of uncertainty and letting them know if I need advice or someone to just listen. I have been finding my own voice to express when I am nervous or feeling unsettled about doing something new and this is my way of showing up for myself. Communication is a never ending growth process.
The other side of this is that when doing something new and different, some people may not understand the value in the endeavor and they may say or do hurtful things. This is because they are jealous or scared and I have to remind myself that it is not personal. It is their own world view that is holding them back. When this is the case, I am learning to stay quiet, and not share my joy with them. Learning who supports you can be trial and error, and a risk on its own. When you do find your community, keep them close and show them gratitude.
Rely on Past Experiences as a Source of Confidence– Growing up as an athlete, I learned that practice makes you confident. When I was on the softball field in a game, I knew I could be successful because I had already practiced my skills and could look back on my past successes. This lesson is transferable out of sports. I have worked in schools for over 12 years. I know how to run a school and how a school should be run. I am finding that every day I am in situations where I can say, “oh yeah, I have experienced something like this before” and this helps me move forward in decision making and taking action. My past experiences make my risk feel a little less risky.
The journey of building a program for high school students has been full of learning and growth. It is hard at times, but I know the joy is on the horizon and will come when our students arrive in the fall. More than anything I am grateful for the processes we are creating for decision making and work style. We plan to encourage our students to take risks as well, so this experience has been invaluable. I have a blueprint to share with them of how to build something new. I am excited about the opportunity to share our experiences of starting something from scratch with our students and co-create our curriculum with them along the way. My hope is that our first hand experience of taking a risk and entrepreneurship, can be a source of inspiration for our students. They will have been a part of the process and this will give them the confidence to start their own endeavors too.