We have to realize that we are not perfect. I’m sure there was a time when Michael Jordan had an off game or when the greatest authors had a subpar book. Not everything that you do has to be game-changing or one of a kind. Sometimes you have to accept the fact that you can make mediocre things. There is no deadline. Just keep at your own pace to find inner peace so that you can create that amazing thing. Join your hosts, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen, in this conversation on how to lose the fear of failure. Learn how to maneuver around stress and anxiety so that you can move at your own pace, not at the pace of others. Listen in to today’s episode for a deeper understanding of self-care.
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Play At Your Own Pace
Give Yourself Permission To F*ck Up Despite Fear Of Failure
Typically, we get slap-happy on our second show, This Hits The Spot. If you have not followed yet, you can do that through signing up for our newsletter or supporting us on Patreon. However, I feel a little slap-happy and I’m hoping that some of that energy will be passed on to you, readers and Jason as well, because, behind the scenes, Jason expressed to me that he’s not in a great headspace. I’m not laughing at you, Jason. I’m laughing at your faces. I thought that this was a good topic to explore about honesty. I think it’s refreshing when people like yourself share what they’re struggling with because it’s very relatable. I know I can relate to it and maybe we can work through it and have some things to share that could help you. At the very least, maybe they’ll help someone reading this.
I thought it was interesting when you were expressing to me how you’re feeling because it’s an example of wanting something, getting it, and then suddenly you have a whole new set of problems. That’s my perspective. Does that feel right to you, Jason? I don’t want to share anything beyond what you’re comfortable sharing, so I will leave that up to you and you can be vague or detailed, whatever works, but that to me is part of this situation that sometimes stress follows us no matter what. We think that we’ll feel less stressed when we get X, Y, Z, and then we get that.
We feel stressed when maybe for a completely different reason and that in itself can cause stress or anxiety or depression. It’s like, “No matter what I do, I’m not feeling good or fulfilled.” I’m curious if that’s how you’re feeling. It reminds me of being in relationships. A lot of people think if I can find the right partner, I’m going to be happy, but then you get into a relationship and maybe you don’t feel lonely anymore. Now, you have to deal with the relationship, which is generally hard and a lot of work. It’s a different type of hard. I think this is important because taking away this idea that if we do this or get that, we will feel better. That’s a depressing reality that some hit and we’ve talked about this sprinkled in throughout the show, but clearly, Jason is still a challenge.
I’d love to hear if you’re willing to share where you’re at mentally and the reflections you’re having. I would love to, in real-time, share something with you. I probably would have shared behind the scenes that is worth trying out and seeing if it makes a difference for you. Maybe we can make some progress, but even if we don’t, Jason, it’s also important to take the pressure off as we’ve talked about in episodes about like trying to heal, to improve, to solve a problem. It’s more experimenting basically. Let’s begin with how you’re feeling.
Overwhelmed, stressed, I feel stress living in my body, anxiety. I feel like I get 8 to 10 hours of sleep and I still feel exhausted the next day, even though I’m sleeping, which is extremely troubling and worrying to me. I feel like my capacity to handle stress has somehow been compromised over the course of the pandemic in the sense that I think I’ve been battling so much of my own mental health issues and my recovery from my motorcycle accident being at home 95% to 99% of the time. Things like being out in Los Angeles traffic again and dealing with the stress of sitting in the car for hours on end to get across town coupled with some new career responsibilities that, on the one hand, are bringing in enough money for me to survive. It’s not a life-changing amount of money.
Let’s put it that way but it’s enough money to survive in the city. It’s a good lesson. We have no idea what life has waiting for us. It’s like we can have this idea of wanting things, a certain career, work, relationship, as you said. When we’re in the reality of it, at least what I found in my life is the reality rarely matches what I think is going to be like. My challenge right now is to move through my self-doubt, my anxiety, my stress, my worry about having so much on my plate because the way I look at my life is like there are five buckets in my life.
The five buckets are taking care of myself because if I don’t do that, everything is going to go to shit. I know that. If I don’t take care of me and take care of my basic needs, everything’s going to get fucked one way or the other. The second one is my personal relationships. If I don’t tend to nurturing and loving the people I care about and maintaining those connections, those can mutate, change, and whatever else. It’s self-care personal relationships. The third bucket is this show that we’re doing. Recording, promoting the show, booking guests, putting it out on social, and all the things we do behind the scenes. The fourth bucket is what I’m doing career-wise. I can’t get into too many details of what it is, but social media and digital marketing, food, and things like that. I’ve dipped my toe back in that world.
The fifth bucket is my music, which I’ve been working on, writing jingles, and doing my stuff. I don’t know how to maintain those five buckets. Where I’m at right now is I feel like I’m going to fail. I feel like I’m going to drop the ball, which is inevitable. I don’t think it’s humanly possible to put full focus on all aspects of our lives in an equal. I don’t think it’s possible to have an amount of tension and love and focus that is equal in each bucket of our life. Maybe it’s about me giving myself permission to fuck up and be like, “I might drop the ball on a text, calling someone back, not calling my mom for a few days,” but I know this.
If I don’t take care of me, things are going to get fucked up really quick. I know that about my life. No matter what, if I don’t take care of me first, my mental health, my physical health, and nourishing myself, everything else will suffer. The challenge I’m having is I feel a crippling amount of fear failure, will this stress and this anxiety and this overwhelm bring back my health issues, certain health issues that have been triggered by stress and anxiety in the past. Those are my two things. I’m worried I’m going to get out of balance, fail, and that my stress, anxiety and overwork is going to bring back some health issues that I do not want to fucking deal with.
Thank you for expressing that because, first of all, being able to share and have someone listen, I think can be helpful and hopefully that is. It’s fascinating because it makes me wonder how much of this has burnt into us, this idea of failure, this mentality of we can never mess up and it’s disturbing. I feel that way too. When you had initially expressed how you were feeling, I was reflecting on whether I could relate to it. I can in subtler ways, as we’ve spoken about. I tend not to have quite the extremes at which you express but I sometimes wonder if I’m good at high functioning and coping. It’s more suppressed.
Who knows? Maybe I feel it even more than I consciously realize. My relatable experience was this underlying feeling of always having more to do, never catching up, I’m coming up on a bunch of travel and we’ll be doing a lot less work during that time. A) It’s rare that I ever take a full off and B) Taking time off in general. There’s that fear in my head that, to your point, if I don’t keep up, I’m going to fall back behind or be fired, let go, be rejected, and I’ve been practicing it. I think we’ve talked on the show about rejection therapy, but in case we haven’t, it is this concept that people experiment from time-to-time of purposely putting them in situations where they expect to be rejected so that they can train themselves to cope with it, be okay with it, and not fear it.
I didn’t purposefully do this but what I’ve examined is my reactions to all these fears that you’re expressing. I think you have an opportunity here if you’re willing to lean into it because I feel like a sense of anxiety. I have it right now in this moment because there are a few projects that are taking me a while to get to. My fear is similar. It’s a fear of failure, which is if I don’t do this fast enough, then I’m going to miss out. If I don’t do this fast enough, I’m going to disappoint people. I’ve started to observe it and recognize, first of all, we have such a bizarre focus on speed these days. If you don’t reply to texts or emails or whatever, fast enough, we have this idea on both ends, that somebody is lazy, unprofessional, and slow, all these weird associations we have with time.
I’ve gotten to this point to give myself permission to “fuck up” because who cares how quickly you get stuff done. I wonder if the old fragments of school. When else in your life have you been punished for not doing something fast enough, aside from a late payment or a fee, for example? Those are two times in life where in high school or school in general, college, too and younger. If you didn’t get turned in your grade, you would literally get a failing grade. There you are. A literal fear of failure if you have it. Some people, I don’t think even care if they fail but there are all these consequences throughout school, “If you don’t keep your grades up, you’re going to get in trouble.”
Your parents and your teachers are going to be disappointed. Maybe you won’t be able to continue to go to school. There’s the big one. If your grades aren’t at a certain level, you’re not going to get into college. If you don’t get into the college that you want, then you’re not going to have the career that you want. If you don’t have the career that you want, what’s your life worth? Going back to all that, the anxiety that’s been instilled in us to keep up. As I’ve talked about in my exploration of neurodiversity with myself, the anxiety that I had on top of that was I have a lot of trouble functioning at that speed. At those times of my life, I didn’t know how to verbalize it and to set boundaries. I think these are two important elements.
There are certain times you can’t set boundaries. With the government in terms of a consequence, not paying your taxes or the DMV, not renewing things, your credit card, you’re going to pay interest if you don’t pay your bills on time. There are those things. Rent, you can be kicked out. The consequences that are very tied to big punishments or survival. Even in those cases, especially now in 2021, you can express to somebody why you’re going to be late. Sometimes, they will not give you the consequences. If you use the word hardship with many companies and the government or they are set up well, they will understand and will give you a break. They will sometimes refund fees, lower your interest rates, and will give you more time.
I think communication is important. In school too, there was this one time in college when I had a little breakdown because I had this assignment that I could not complete. I remember going to the teacher feeling so defeated, embarrassed, and shamed. I don’t remember much of the details, but I recall this essence or energy within her of understanding. It wasn’t that big of a deal. I was so afraid of failing college. I was afraid of the consequences of that. I was afraid that my teacher would be disappointed in me and the shame in which going to class, all of those lingering things. I wonder how much of that you experienced and how much of it is real versus conditioned and how much of it could be worked through by simply communicating.
I don’t know. I think this is a conversation about what are other people’s standards and expectations of us versus our own internal standards and expectations. I don’t want to do shitty work. I don’t want to put shitty work out in the world, but I know that when I’m that overwhelmed and have that many things on my plate and that many people expecting things from me, that when I’m in that state of being, I’m not going to do my best work. If I’m honest about the internal struggle, it’s that I want to be able to do my best work yet. I know that if I’m exhausted, tired, over-compromised, being pulled in too many directions, I won’t do my best work. I know it.
Maybe it’s letting go of my ideas of what I think the standard of my work should be. When I woke up, I had heart palpitations. I was sweating. My heart was racing. I’m like, “Fuck, this is how we’re going to start the day?” I’m saying this because I’m still asking myself, I don’t know between total nihilism and caring about my work but having a fuck it attitude. There are levels to fuck it. Let’s talk about the phrase “Fuck it,” which can be a powerful mantra in context and depending on the intention, which is used. The highest level of fuck it to me is nihilism, who cares? We’re all going to die. Who gives a shit? Nothing matters because everything is going to be forgotten? We’re going to be dead. It’s total nihilism. There’s a version of fuck it that’s like, “I’m exhausted. I’m tired. I’m stressed. People want things from me. I’ve agreed to these certain relationships and career in business in life. I’m going to show up the best I can. If it’s not good enough and people don’t like it, fuck it.”
To me that’s where I’m at. I’m going to tell people I’m stressed, I’m tired, and I’m sick of hiding my mental health issues. If I produce things and people are like, “Yeah, it wasn’t that good.” I’m like, “I did my fucking best.” To me the “fuck it” mantra is more like, I need to do my best, even though I know I’m not in my best state of being. It’s almost like that. How can I show up, keep creating and contributing even though I know I am not at my optimal? I know I’m not right now, Whitney. I’m exhausted. I feel overwhelmed by everything that’s on my plate, but I still need to show up for life. As much as there’s a part of me that wants to like crawl in a corner and sleep for four weeks, I can’t do that. That’s not an option in my life.
I’ve agreed to show up, to create, to do things and maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s like, “This is where I’m at, in my state of being, my mental health, and this is the best I can do right now.” People either dig it or they don’t, I don’t know. I’m still trying to find the balance. I don’t want to default to nihilism, where I destroy the good things in my life. I don’t want that, but I do feel like other people’s expectations and work ethics, how everything is chaotic, disorganized, and overwhelming. It’s hard for me. In basketball because that’s an analogy I use sometimes. There is this guy who I like. His name is Luca Doncic. He plays for the Dallas Mavericks. He’s from Slovenia.
They always say like, “He plays at his own pace.” You’ll see guys around him on the basketball court, like frenetic and crazy. You see him taking his time, playing his pace and he’s a phenomenal player. The thing that I’m thinking about as that as a paradigm is like, “How can I play at my own pace? When everyone around me is fucking frenetic and acting like cuckoo birds. We need this. I’m going to play at my own motherfucking pace. You’re either going to deal with it or you’re not.” That’s where I think I’m at right now is I’m trying to figure out how to play at my own pace and not be subject to other people’s reactions or approval or disappointment. This is not easy. I’m struggling like hell with this right now. I am trying to figure out how to find balance and play the game the way that I want to play it. Not the way other people expect me to play it.
Has anybody directly asked you to do things differently in this position you have, Jason?
No, but it’s picking up on people’s energy. The other challenge is I’m a very empathic person. When I’m in a group of people and there’s this like, “I got to get it into deadlines and everything is crazy.” I stepped into a situation that’s a little bit crazy, which I did not expect. I’m like, “People are acting a bit manic.” There are these very short deadlines I’m trying to produce and stressed as fuck because I feel other people is stress around it. How can I not feel stressed when I’m easily picking up on other people’s stress, on their anxiety, and the frenetic chaos of getting things done in a certain time because there are deadlines to launch certain things. How do I play the game at my own pace? I don’t know. This is tough. When you’re on a team and things are expected of you and there are deadlines in that container of work, how do I play at my own pace and slow it down and not allow the anxiety, stress, and chaos to creep in that I feel from other people? That’s the point I want to make. No one said anything, but I feel that energy from other people. It’s difficult for me not to take it on.
What about this? Who says you have to match their energy? You’re a new team member. You’re somebody that they clearly appreciate respect enough to bring onto their team. Why can’t you say, “Guys, this doesn’t work for me and doesn’t feel good,” and formulate it in perhaps a different way? Although you could technically be that direct and say, “I struggle with my mental health, especially anxiety and the way of doing things feels like it’s bringing up a lot of anxiety for me. Would you be okay if I did things differently? Would you be okay if we tried it a different way?” I have a feeling that they would be open to that. I think it’d be incredibly refreshing for everybody because one thing that I’ve observed a lot, and I’ve mentioned this in some recent episodes, as I watch TikToks, there’s so much conversation right now in summer 2021 about people quitting jobs and basically creating boundaries say, “No, I don’t want to go back into the office. I’m only going to work from home.” If the boss says, “You have to come in,” then the person quits.
They stated a boundary. If the boss doesn’t like it, they quit. People in the service industry, this is happening more and more frequently. They’re not getting paid enough and treated well, they quit. The businesses have to shut down for the day as a result of this. As I’ve said before, I’m hoping that there’ll be a shift but even if the companies don’t take the initiative to shift, I don’t think they’re going to have a choice at a certain point because they need employees to function. I think a lot of employees end up in this place of submission where they feel like they have to submit and adapt. I don’t know if that’s as true as we think it is. It’s been programmed into us.
The more that I examine this, the more I recognize, right now, there’s also this commonality of people standing up for themselves and saying, “The old way of working does not work for me.” The confidence to say that can make a massive ripple effect but it also can be done in a way that improves the business because disorganization does not help a business. It’s likely that the person at the top has no idea what they’re doing or there are too many people at the top and it’s messy. I’m sure deep-down, they don’t want it to be, why would anyone want that chaotic energy?
I shouldn’t say that. Some people thrive in chaotic energy, that’s fine, but in general, there’s a desire for it and it takes time. I say that it could be beneficial and very possible for you to express how you’re feeling. The earlier you do it is ideal because sometimes it’s more shocking to try to change later on because somebody is wondering why you didn’t say something earlier. It’s like a relationship. If you state your boundary is for a relationship at the beginning, it’s often easier because that person’s more in this place of wanting to please you and create harmony versus energetically later on in a relationship, whether it’s romantic or professional, people feel more resistant to change because they think they can keep you around longer. My question to you is, why don’t you speak up about this?
I don’t because A) I don’t know what I want to say yet and B) To your point, if people like, “How would you want us to change it?” I don’t have an answer to that question yet. I don’t mean this in career. I mean this in any relationship that if I have a boundary, a suggestion to change or evolve, a behavioral shift that I want to suggest, and again, this can be romantic, friendship, business partnership, whatever it is. I feel, for me, that if I don’t have a solution, proposal, or suggestion to pivot or alter or change, it’s not as effective. “I don’t like the way we’re doing X in this relationship,” and then the other person is like, “What would you suggest?” I don’t have any suggestions. You’re bringing this to criticize what is happening and you don’t have a suggestion to pivot or change.
I am reticent in any situation of any context of relationship that if I don’t have a response to, “How would you want to shift things? How would you want to change? What do you suggest?” If I don’t have an answer, I feel like an asshole because I’m like, “I don’t like this. Jason, what don’t you like? I don’t like this and this. Why don’t you like it? Because it makes me feel like this, and this is what I observed. What would you like to change? I don’t know.” To me, the conversation stops there. Until I have a more solidified concrete thing to suggest that’s very well thought out, the conversation is going to hit a brick wall at a certain point.
I would encourage you to look at it from a different viewpoint because I think that you’re still looking at it from this lens of people taking it the wrong way. The truth is you have no idea how they’re going to take it. It’s often about your delivery. It’s your tone of voice. I finished listening to the audiobook, Think Again, and there was a section that stood out for me. Adam Grant, the author, has done a lot of work outside of writing books. From listening to him, I believe I interpreted correctly that he was hired to go help Microsoft because what they would do or maybe they still do with their employees is give them opportunities to share their feedback and criticisms. As a company, the higher-ups, including Bill and Melinda Gates, would purposefully put themselves in places to be criticized so that they could hear the feedback from their employees.
They were calling it psychological safety. This was the idea that they wanted their culture to reflect authenticity, transparency, and honesty so that they could be better. The other thing that Adam Grant said is that they were very willing to experiment and mess up. This is what I have also heard from Jeff Bezos, whether or not you like him as a person and all of the flaws that he may have. One big thing I’ve heard about him is that at Amazon, it was all about speed, which might not be the most positive thing most of the time.
What the advantage of speed is that it’s better to get things done imperfectly but done. Done is better than perfect. A lot of the times, they would rush projects out and they would only be 30% “perfect” right, finished, but they would learn through the feedback of people after they put them out. I think from what I’ve studied around management that there are two elements that make a good company. One, the manager has to be willing to hear this feedback from their employees. If your manager at this company is not willing, it’s not going to be a good fit long-term. You’ll never feel emotionally safe enough there. I have a feeling that the manager might not be trained well enough to even encourage feedback as some companies do.
You might be giving them help by bringing this up because you’re giving them a teaching moment. They can become a stronger manager with your feedback, especially as a brand-new employee or a team member. The other element of you being afraid of not having the right words is it’s similar to what a lot of people said, especially white people, in 2020, they didn’t feel confident about being anti-racist because they were afraid of getting it wrong.
The most common feedback that I read was you have to say something. It doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong because if you keep waiting around, it’s not going to improve. It’s going to get worse. That’s true of your situation. You can start off by saying, “I don’t have the right words. I don’t know how to express this. I’m not trying to complain. I’m letting you know where I’m at. Can we figure this out together?” I think the same thing is true in relationships. It’s not like you have a guidebook to being the perfect partner romantically or professionally. Everybody’s messy. I bet you the manager probably feel insecure too, but you don’t give them the opportunity to help you if you don’t express what you need.
All of this is easier said than done, Jason. I’m not expecting this to be easy. I pulled up this book that I read, a few years ago, called The Assertiveness Workbook. One of the highlights I had here is that we’re trained from childhood to believe that our role is to accept and live up to the standards that other people impose, being visible, flawed, holding opinions, or having wishes of our own, all leave us open to attack. I would imagine, a lot of your fears right now are based in that conditioning from childhood. It’s important to recognize that it’s old conditioning, but maybe that doesn’t match up with who you are now.
What if you use this as a learning experience like, “Let’s see what happens when I express myself?” I imagine that any good company right now is not going to fire you because you let them know that you’re uncomfortable with their way of doing things. I imagine that they might be a little taken aback, perhaps even defensive at first, but if they’re a good company, they’re going to work through all that discomfort so that they can keep you around. Ultimately, you’re a huge asset to them and they need you more than you need them because you can go off and find another job, but they can’t go off and find another Jason Wrobel.
I feel that. Having my voice, my presence, and my creative input in a way that somehow aligns with the brand image and the messaging of what has come before. One of the challenges too, as creative as an artist that I have is when I work with clients, for companies, and businesses in the past, figuring out how to focus my creative impulses and my creative drive but in a container in a way that somehow makes sense for the context of the business. I’ve had some creative ideas that I can’t bring this to the table because it’s way too out there, bizarre and crazy. You might go, “Why not?” No, you as a person knows my mind very well. I have some crazy-ass ideas sometimes that I’m like, “This isn’t appropriate.”
The thing that I’m facing too is how to corral or focus the creative impulses and ideas that I have in a way that’s effective and appropriate for what I’m doing. If it’s me, there’s like this, “Who cares? We’re going to do whatever we want to do.” To a degree, there’s cancel culture. I feel like I’m scattered with this response. I’m feeling challenged because I don’t know that I can trust my creative impulses right now. I don’t think that I fully trust them, my creativity, and I’m going to be able to deliver something that’s effective and appropriate.
There’s a part of me that is trying to excavate confidence from within myself that I don’t know is there. However long this pandemic is going to last, but coming out of this whole global situation, I feel such a lack of confidence. I think more than anything that we’re talking about, that is the biggest issue is I feel a crippling lack of confidence right now. I don’t know what’s good, what’s bad, what the fuck I’m doing, but I keep doing things. I don’t know if they’re good or not. More so than anything, the thing that is coloring my difficulty and that is probably adding to the stress and anxiety is I don’t feel confident. It’s hard for me to even admit that. I don’t feel confidence in my abilities right now.
Are you a bit of imposter syndrome?
Yeah, I am. Other people see this potential in me, “You’re so great. You’re so talented.” I need to find a way to believe in myself because it’s becoming problematic. My lack of confidence is becoming problematic and I don’t know how to get it back. I don’t know how to feel confident again. I don’t know where to go with that.
What if that’s exactly what this position is for? It’s for you to reveal what you’re struggling with right now. What if it’s designed in a way? You could look at this as an experiment and continuously ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” That’s a question for you, Jason. What’s the worst that could happen right now?
I fail. I fuck up. I disappoint people. I lose money. I lose social status. People don’t regard me the same anymore. I don’t have income. All of that. It feels heavy to think about.
What would happen in those cases if it did happen? What’s the next level beyond that?
What would I do after that? When you say the next level beyond that, what do you mean?
Take one of those examples that you gave. Let’s say you lost your income because they fired you, then what?
I’d have to find more money, wouldn’t I or be homeless?
Didn’t you do that by getting this position?
In a way, did you prove to yourself that you’re capable of pulling yourself out from a tougher financial situation and finding it?
Yeah. You have a point.
You could do it again. What about this fear of disappointment? What’s the worst that’ll happen there?
People will have invested this perspective on who they think I am and I’m not that person. It’s like, “We thought you were like this creative genius with digital marketing, social media and creativity. You’re not.” It’s like this fear of not disappointing people, but also having that be reflective of my equity in a certain industry, like, “We thought he was great, but he sucks.” It’s not the internal disappointment. It’s like, “What would people say to their colleagues? Would that damage my reputation?” That’s what it’s about.
Let’s say that a few people talked poorly about you, then what?
That’s their opinion. It doesn’t mean it’s true.
You’ve been through that before too. You have people talking poorly about your TV show and your book. You’ve gone through tough times with one-on-one clients.
Yeah. Somehow, I’m still living, breathing, shitting, and eating.
What did you do? How did you respond when those things happened?
It depends on the severity. I’m still trying to figure out as a sensitive human being, again, who’s very empathic not to take on other people’s opinions, perspectives, online comments, or reviews as gospel. It’s their opinion. It doesn’t mean it is the truth with a capital T. Depending on my level of sensitivity or who says it or the context, sometimes I can have those things roll off my back like water rolls off a dock. Other times they hit me a lot harder. It is on a case-by-case basis. Do I ruminate on some of those perspectives and comments? Not often. Again, it depends on the level of impact that it’s had in my life. There are some things professionally and personally that still haunt me, to be quite honest, and most things don’t though. To your point, Whitney, most things don’t. I don’t know when I’m feeling weak, low and depressed, they come back to haunt me. Most of those situations, I don’t even ever think about.
Looking through some of my notes from The Assertiveness Workbook, there’s a number of great points in there. Jason, one thing that stood out for me is that when we react in a big emotional way to a relatively small event, it’s a reaction to what that means to us. Not about that person’s action. It’s worth coming back around to because somebody is disappointed in you. That’s not about them. Your reaction is about you and what that means to you. What does it mean to disappoint someone? I imagine that you, like many people, have major fears around disappointment. It could be old trauma, the conditioning of you have to please people, and have to satisfy them. We’ve talked about people-pleasing a lot on the show and it sounds a bit like that’s what you’re experiencing. You must have big emphasis in your life about approval.
Here’s the rub. We’ve talked about this in many previous episodes, but since we are social creatures, humanity is inextricably linked together. Whether you want to call it the butterfly factor or what have you, but I don’t know that it’s possible to operate in the world, in the context we have the way capitalism, money and survival work to fully unravel ourselves or disassociate ourselves from pleasing a person. Let’s be honest, whether you’re an entrepreneur or an employee or whatever your context is, there is some degree of fulfilling an expectation or pleasing another person to get rewarded. There is. Why does somebody pay you to do anything? It’s because they have an expectation of your skills, your talents, and your abilities that you’re going to deliver in a certain way on those promises.
If you don’t, you don’t get paid. There’s a level here of toxic people-pleasing, but I think on a foundational level, as a social contract between human beings, doing business and creating things in the world, expectation and pleasing a person, on a certain level, we can’t get around that. Think about it. It’s like you have people that you’re working for clients, jobs, and projects. If you don’t deliver, what happens? Like, “We hired you to do this thing. We took you on. We hired you as our coach, and you didn’t do the things you said you were going to do, but that’s okay.” It’s not how the world works.
There’s a way to feel satisfied in these situations. It’s about finding a match. I don’t think you even know if something’s a match until you dig deeper. Otherwise, you’re sitting there feeling unhappy, resentful, anxious, and they have no idea, but we place all these assumptions. Another question I have for you. This is coming out of some of the sections in The Assertiveness Workbook, a distorted belief can cause you to bring about the precise consequences you fear. These experiences can confirm or strengthen your original belief, so you can say, “See, I was right.” Is it possible, Jason, that right now you’re caught up in this cycle of putting yourself in a position where you can prove to yourself that you disappoint others?
That can be a form of self-sabotage. Sometimes that causes us to not do things differently or to think differently because we want that confirmation bias, “I’m never going to do a good job. I guess I suck and I’m always going to disappoint people. See, I was right about it.” Right now, you have an opportunity, Jason, to do things differently, which in the long run helps you think differently. On any level, do you think right now that you’re in the situation, observing it from the lens to confirm your greatest fears?
That’s certainly possible. My lack of confidence in myself could be manifesting in the sense of like, “See, that’s why you don’t have confidence because you don’t do good work and you people expect things from you and you don’t deliver. Maybe you think your abilities to deliver on those things is greater than they are, AKA, imposter syndrome or there’s a part of me that wants something to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.” That’s like, “You’re a fuck up and worthless. You were right. You’re not good at anything.” I had a super on a note that it seems to me to be tangentially related. I had lunch with my friend and former assistant. She’s an acquaintance of yours. I had lunch with El. It’s her name. Give or take a year prior to my motorcycle accident, her brother died in a motorcycle accident. I had mine. We were talking about it. It was a raw conversation but beautiful.
I had never made a connection, Whitney. The connection was this. I think there was a part of me that over the years on a subconscious level, was riding motorcycles because I didn’t give a shit about whether I died or not. If I get hit and die on a motorcycle, fuck it, the world didn’t need me anyway. This is a hard thing for me to admit. I didn’t even understand until I was talking with her about her brother’s death. I think there’s a part of me that honestly was like, “Yeah, so what if I die?” Not like actively doing reckless things on the motorcycle, not to that extent, no, but this idea of, if I’m on a motorcycle and I ended up dying or getting her horrifically maimed, whatever, it’ll confirm my sense of worthlessness to myself. Who cares? I don’t care if I die, fuck it.
In a way, it’s tangentially related to this in the sense of like, “See, you are worthless. You didn’t deliver the way people expected you to do. You see, you did die on a motorcycle. Your life didn’t matter.” I don’t know if the connection is quite making sense, but for some reason, that realization during that conversation with El was like, “I didn’t even realize that was hanging out in my subconscious.” A sense of nihilism and worthlessness around myself was being reflected in this activity. Knowing that riding a motorcycle in Los Angeles, statistically in this city, is not so good for your health. You were on a motorcycle in a dense urban environment. Chances are pretty high. You’re going to get in an accident at some point. I’m saying that I want to look at it more, but what you said about this idea of confirmation bias may be true in this situation. Let me prove to everyone how much I suck because I think I suck. Let me show all of you how much I suck so I can prove that I’m correct about my suckiness.
I think a lot of us do that without even recognizing it. A lot of us do this in our relationships. It’s such a common thing, but career-wise, especially when there are patterns of never fulfilling and something never getting what you want and always feeling blank. I wonder if we seek out things that confirm what we fear the most and it’s a cycle we’re trying to get out of. Something’s got to change. That can change through your perspective, therapy, consciously making an effort to do something differently, to try. Right now, this rejection therapy could be worth experimenting with. It’s putting yourself in situations where you might fuck up. It’s allowing yourself to make mistakes and, and learning to feel okay about it. You get more confidence through that process.
I think not enough people talk about this. During the US Olympic trials, I saw a clip of Simone Biles. She is like the top of her game literally. She looks like someone that can do no wrong. She’s naturally gifted. First of all, I’m sure she has worked likely her entire life from the time that she was able to do gymnastics to get to the point where she’s at. Second of all, I saw a clip of her falling off the balance beam and I think it was from this one. I didn’t look far enough into it. The people in the comments were saying, “A) I think it’s important to see successful people fail because it shows that they’re human, but B) have a lot of compassion for her and how hard that must have been.” Even though she’s this huge famous Olympian, she messes up too. Does that mean that she’s a complete failure? Absolutely not. You know this about basketball too, Jason. Who was the basketball player who was on like Lewis House podcast or something? He was talking about how hard he works. You know who I’m talking about.
It was Kobe. It’s interesting sports as a metaphor for life because in basketball if you make 50% of your shots, that’s phenomenal. If you make 40% of your three-pointers, that’s world-class. If you think about something like baseball, which I always say. The magical number in that sport is you’re batting 400, which means you’re connecting on 4 out of every 10 pitches that are launched at you, think about that and you are a world-class batter in baseball. Yet in life, we sometimes have this expectation that every shot we take has to be a game-winner. Every single time, we go to the proverbial at batten life, we’ve got to hit a fucking home run. No one does that. I think about this too with some of the musicians and the actors that I love, the authors.
Someone will come out and they’ll write a life-changing book or an album or a song that changes my life literally. I can think about these pieces of art that have changed my life. Maybe the next record will come out or the next book. It doesn’t hit it. It’s like, “Wow, interesting.” No one has a hit record every single fucking time. No one has a New York Times bestseller. No one does. I’m saying this to walk myself through like, “Dude, not every single thing we do as humans are going to be great or life-changing.” Sometimes, we’re going to put out mediocre shit.
On the rare occasion, maybe we put out a piece of art that every single aspect converges in this magical way, that is this transcendent thing. We see that. Again, pick an art form and you’re like, “This thing changed my life. It changed the lives of millions of people because it got them to think about life differently,” but not every single piece of art, music, film, or social media we create can have that. I don’t think it’s cosmically possible to do that. We’d be avatars or gods if we could do that, but we’re not. To your point, even the people that are at the top of their game “fuck up” sometimes, miss a shot, don’t hit the game-winner, say something maybe in the media that they regretted, and made a personal decision that was in bad taste. I’m saying this because it’s easy for me to say that about other people but to let myself off the hook is very challenging.
That’s only something that you can experience through practice, Jason. I think right now, as I mentioned earlier, you have a great opportunity to practice it. You have an opportunity to set boundaries, to be assertive, to practice all of these uncomfortable feelings that you didn’t have this opportunity to experiment with before you got this position. I didn’t finish sharing something earlier, which was that I’ve been reflecting on how long it takes me to do certain things and my fear around not doing something fast enough and missing out. I thought, “It’s okay if I miss out. There’s a certain pace that I’m at right now, that feels good to me or slightly out of my comfort zone, which is a sweet spot.” I could go faster to your point earlier. Do I perceive this to be my best? No, but A) Maybe it’s my best right now, B) Maybe we need to tweak what we view as our best.
Some people view their best when they’re super productive and going non-stop but that might mean sacrificing their sleep, their family, romantic relationships, and their health. There’s a lot of things that come at a compromise. You also use the word balance earlier, Jason. I recognize like even though I feel anxious right now about not doing things as quickly as I believe I “should be” as quickly as I want to from an older desire want, not a current desire. I feel anxious right now, but I think that anxiety is that old conditioning. It’s not real. There’s not a real reason to feel stressed and anxious. This is something that also comes up in The Assertiveness Workbook. It’s such a great resource for this topic. It talks a lot about how our stress response is rarely based in that deep need to survive. It’s probably connected somewhere, but we have all these old ways of feeling and thinking. Until we’re very conscious about it, we’re letting that rule us but that doesn’t serve us.
I have to recognize, as I said to you earlier, Jason, if somebody is upset with me because I didn’t move fast enough, I would like them to communicate that with me. It happened earlier. I’ve been delay in procrastinating a project and they emailed me and said, “Can you send it to me?” I was like, “Shit, I should get this done.” I went and I put the final touches on it. I sent it off and it wasn’t perfect. I told them it wasn’t perfect. I said, “Is it okay if I continue working on it a little bit longer? If so, what’s the deadline.” We worked it out and everything was fine. There are other people who maybe need me to do something done faster because they have a deadline on their own. If I can’t do it, then maybe it’s not going to happen. That’s all right because I know another opportunity will come along. A lot of the times, when someone has a deadline, that’s a made-up thing. That’s not an existence and it’s totally fine if you miss the deadline. To your point earlier, Jason, there’s a certain amount of structure that we need.
Our society probably wouldn’t function that well without organization. Your experiences firsthand what it’s like to be disorganized, but what if we structure it differently? What if the organization looks differently? What if we build in a slower pace? I think this would be a great thing for you and something that I encourage everyone to do. What if you set your own pace, you adjust that position to it and see what happens? Worst-case scenario you get fired, but my hunch is that they might say, “Jason, we’ve noticed that you didn’t get this done by this date.” You can say, “I wasn’t able to,” however you want to express it. I need to move at a certain pace due to my mental health and my physical health. You can even ask in advance, “Is this okay with you if I operate this way?” They might say no, and then you have to determine, is it okay? Do you still want to work with them if their answer is no? That’s also part of being assertive.
It’s recognized you can’t control how they’re going to react but you’re not going to even know how they react unless you express it. Many people in jobs submit and never know if things could be better because they weren’t assertive. What if you could continue on this job, get paid the way that you want to get paid, perhaps get their approval and also work at a pace that works well for you. I think that’s possible. In fact, I know it’s possible. I think it’s likely. If you think about it, if you shift your thinking from, “My gosh, I’m going to fail. I’m never going to be good enough” to, “What if I am good enough? They haven’t told me that because they haven’t given me feedback.” They might think you’re great. It could be completely in your head how they’re feeling, Jason. What if they love you? What if they think you’re going above and beyond? What if they are head over heels? What if you could find a fantastic balance and get paid the way that you want? What if you had that dream scenario?
I suppose the only way to do that is to communicate, set a boundary, and suggest new ways of doing things. It’s going to be a process. I think it’s also my nervous system is adjusting. I don’t want to label it. I was going to say poorly. It feels like it’s adjusting poorly to another bucket in my life. When there’s another major bucket, as I alluded to early in the episode, introduced in my life, it’s like, “There’s another thing that requires a lot of my attention in addition to the other things that required my attention. How am I going to do this and not fry myself?” The last thing that I want to have happen right now is to burn myself out or compromise my health, which will make tending to everything worse in more challenging.
It goes back to if the number one bucket in my life is taken care of myself, which it is because if I don’t do that, it affects everything else. How do I be mindful of making sure and ensuring that I can care for myself and communicate to people in my life, “I need to take a time out and go care for myself right now and I’ll get back to it when I can.” If it gets to that point again, whether that’s any aspect of these buckets of my life, having the courage and the love for myself to state those things when they need to be stated. The last thing I’m going to do, especially coming out of several months of a global pandemic is burned myself out. There is no fucking way I will allow myself to get burnt out. I can’t do it. I can’t go back to that place.
Moreover, I don’t ever want to feel burnt out again, ever. I fucking hate that feeling. It’s a horrible place to be physically and mentally. I think one of the things that I want to work on as a cause and again, this might sound privileged as fuck. I understand. There are people who are living in poverty who have no choice, but to grind themselves into the ground to provide for themselves and their family. I realize I’m coming from a massively privileged position for a variety of reasons. There are some people that necessarily can’t mitigate burnout for certain socioeconomic or ethnic factors. There’s a whole another episode I wanted to do about the farm-workers in this country and what they go through to put food on the table for Americans that they can’t even afford to buy the food that they pick in the fields for us.
I say this because I realized that I am not a farmhand working 80 hours a week in the sweltering sun to provide for my kids. I get that. Burnout is a motherfucker and I don’t know ever want to go through it again, because I’ve been there. In some cases, with certain health things, it’s taken me years to rebound from them. I know you know what I’m talking about, but I do not want to put myself in a position where it’s going to take me years to rebound from the physical and mental symptoms of burnout. To me, I think if there’s any situation, where it’s my health and sanity versus maintaining a status quo, I will always choose my health and sanity. That’s clear to me now after years, that has to be number one.
I think this is part of the root of why you’re feeling the way you are. You’re afraid of this as well. You’re afraid of burning out again, and that’s a very valid fear. You can use it as an opportunity and maybe Jason, it’s an opportunity to set the bar lower. Maybe you can express the manager, “This is what I’m able to do.” Do your minimum viable work and then perhaps you will go above it. Now is the time for you to set that standard for your work versus a lot of people like in relationships, jump in guns blazing, and the best version of themself. When people started to see the other sides of you, they think, “What happened to that best version?” That is one of our biggest challenges is that we often present us at our optimal everything when we start any relationship personally or professionally.
We are terrified of somebody seen us at our worst. When the truth is, if they care enough about us, they’re going to be completely accepting of us at our worst. Maybe what if you switched it around and you did your worst performance as you started off with the job. They’re like, “Look at him improve.” That could work out in your favor because you could get a bonus when they see you at your best versus the other way around. If you start at your best, and then you underperform based on what’s relative to you, then the only option is to give you consequences. It’s funny, but in all seriousness, I think it takes a lot of weight off your shoulders. If you set a standard that is low because you can only go up from there. You can always come down to that standard that is at your “worst.”
It might not be perfectly easy to implement. It can be counterintuitive. It’s like teaching people how to treat you through text messages and emails. You become known as the friend who a week to respond. That person might be annoyed at you because you always take a week to respond, but at least you’re consistent now that they expect that of you. You’re always the friend that’s late. They expect you to be late. That’s where you’re at. They might be disappointed and frustrated, but they still care enough to have you in their life. You can’t control whether or not someone’s disappointed or frustrated. That might seem scary to you, Jason, but it might not be as bad. It might not result in the consequences that you fear, but it does protect you from that fear of burnout because you’re doing things in a way that’s sustainable. I think sustainability is the big keyword here versus blowing your load at the beginning. You’re never able to ever able to keep up in the long run.
It’s an interesting approach. I don’t want to intentionally do shitty work, but to your point, I think the analogy you used of going into any new relationship. I had a joke about this in my standup of like, you start dating someone. You’re like, “Yeah. I graduated with Harvard with a 4.0, summa cum laude. I rescued 55 Somalian refugees in my overseas program. I’ve discovered the cure for COVID, but it hasn’t been released yet. What do you do?” There’s that thing. To your point, maybe I do what I do. That’s it. It comes down to me being unattached to the outcome and unattached to how people react to my work.
It’s easier said than done to go back to your quote from earlier. I think to your point, this situation and this moment I’m in life is a great, great teacher. It’s showing me a lot of shit that I still have lingering around on my subconscious. It shows me that I still have a lot of limiting beliefs. It’s showing me a lot of my fears that I need to face. It’s like, “Dude, you got to face it.” It’s been a good episode. I appreciate you inviting this conversation. Hopefully, it helps people and other people feel the same that are reading. I don’t know. You got to let us know if this episode resonated with you, let us know. We don’t know shit until you tell us. If this episode resonated, if you’re vibing on the fear of failure, worried about people’s expectations, having self-fulfilling prophecies, that show much of how much you suck because you believe you suck like I do, which I’m working on, let us know.
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An energetic buck would be sending us a positive DM or sending us a nice greeting card. That’s something. If you want to write us a letter or a greeting card or send us chocolate, maybe you want to bake some cookies. I don’t fucking know, something, that would be an energetic buck, a batch of cookies. How about vegan chocolate-covered croissants? This is a challenge. We’re at the end of the episode, if anyone out there still reading, you want to send us gluten-free vegan chocolate croissants, fucking drop that shit in the mail. We’ll scarf that shit up. No one’s ever sent us any food, but that would be a form of an energetic buck, a token of your appreciation. We’ll take it all. That’s probably it for now, Whit. We’re done with this episode. Thanks for your readership, your viewership, your love, your energetic bucks, your physical bucks, your cookies, your croissants, all that shit. We appreciate you. We’ll catch you again soon with another episode of this show!
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