St Augustins Swimming Pool, Norwich
Back when I was first starting out – as a fresh faced, black suited, door knocking salesman working for an East end telecoms company – I could not exactly have been described as ‘outgoing’.
In fact, talking to people I didn’t know needed something akin to a ‘run-up’ and speaking to more than one person just brought back bad memories.
Cue traumatic flashback, speaking in Norwich Cathedral at 16 years old with knees knocking, and around a 1000 people feeling uncomfortable (both for me and themselves). All as a favour for a friend who was ill and couldn’t read his part in a Christmas charity event (I remember thinking at the time ‘why not, how bad could it be?’).
Norwich Cathedral, Pulpit eye view.
Shortly after the aforementioned palpitating public pulpit presentation I had also made the decision that I would try and master another fear in my life. That of jumping off the top board at the main public swimming pool.
My recollections have that top board as being a straight drop off into oblivion; jumping off it was absolutely off the menu. And yet, others were doing it – and they were just fine, even racing back up for another go.
Somehow I found myself up there and looking down – it was now or never. I vaguely remember preferring the risk to living with the fear of the thing. I jumped. I was very quickly just another kid running back up the ladder to have another exhilarating drop into the deep end.
Since then I have found the phrase ‘always in at the deep-end’ to be one I’ve used time and again when faced with a serious learning curve. It just so happens that total immersion is a highly effective way to learn. Flash forward to my first days and weeks as a door to door salesman and I was to get an awful lot of deep-end and not a lot of exhilaration.
If by exhilaration you mean getting told to F-OFF!! at the top of someone’s lungs then ok, I’ll give you that one. My response at the time was to look over my shoulder, then look back to the customer and say ‘I think they’ve gone’ and just continue walking into their office – and sell them some lines and calls. I couldn’t tell you why I looked over my shoulder when I did, other than that the force of the shout kind of made my body swerve.
Walking out of that meeting high on success, having sold a product I knew next to nothing about, to a hostile customer that didn’t know me from Adam, I was never going to fear another customer again.
In fact I was beginning to really get an idea of what my then (and now) hero, Anthony Robbins, was talking about in his blockbuster books. He had (and still has) an electric passion for the phrase “playing full out”.
The concept that a fearless approach to life might be a serious advantage was fully dawning on me – and ‘playing full out’ was just the kind of attitude adjustment I needed in order to get my head around the transformation my life needed back then. In that sales pitch I had experienced the kind of creativity available when you let go in the moment, give yourself to the task and open up to the possibilities – I had played full out.
Since then, and at three subsequent times in my life, I have left secure and nicely paid jobs to start, and then drive new businesses to increasing levels of success. Each time has been a lot like the view from the top board. Each first set of new customer pitches with a new brand a little bit like the moment in the pulpit at Norwich Cathedral (only with slightly more positive exhilaration!).
When it comes to your moment, when the fear of the leap is all that is stopping you from meeting your purpose and living your dream – I fully encourage you to ‘play full out’, embrace the exhilaration and jump. Most of all I encourage you to enjoy the experience as it’s all invaluable knowledge for the next time.
And there’s always a next time.