Reading Time: 3 minutes

What Lies Beneath by Chrissanne Long

And other Hidden Secrets

The surface. What does it tell you about a structure? For example, the axiom “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” suggests that what’s inside matters more than what is on the outside.

And yet.

We spend most of the time we share with others avoiding depth.

I had a conversation with a dear dear friend the other day. It was safe, so we shared deep. We were talking about a change we want to see in the community, and in that dialogue, she said, “We won’t go this deep in the discussion, but we can talk about it on the surface levels.” I nodded in agreement, and yet, my deeper self asked “Why?”

The Case Against Depth

I get it, we can’t engage 100% of the time with 100% of the people on a deeper level. Because…. that would make people uncomfortable. Right? Could we maybe try for 1% to start?

Yes, we’re all uncomfortable about being put in uncomfortable situations, we avoid them…. but eventually,

It all comes to the surface. 

I have been plagued by this challenge for as long as I can remember. I know, it’s idealistic, not everyone wants to be honest, up front, direct. That’s not how it’s done in this world, Chrissanne. Come back to reality. 

But isn’t that what seems to be the biggest problem we’re dealing with today? We crave leaders that we can trust, but we won’t tell them we disagree with them, until it is something we feel personally about, and we still want objectivity, neutrality, justice, fairness, impartiality — unless it’s our personal agenda?

Special Agendas Abound.

This is NOT a political post, but I understand that it spills into that arena, and this challenges our safe zones. We want to be protected by our right to our opinion, and yet, we only share that opinion when something violates our own personal beliefs, and not sharing it means we’re not standing up for something we feel strongly about. Why do we need to feel strongly about what’s right? Isn’t that worth standing up for? Simply because it’s the right thing to do?

Step into my Utopian “pretend” world and imagine (just for a minute — you can go back to the other way in just a second). What challenges wouldn’t we be dealing with if we were able to be direct and straightforward about what lies beneath, instead of chatting about the weather, or how the Bucs are doing this season, and what the chances are of the Cubs going back to back again in the World Series this year?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that all we talk about is the deeper stuff, I am just suggesting that we stop avoiding it. 

We need to fix the economy, education, social unrest, prejudice, inequality, violence, mental illness, terrorism.

This isn’t something our “elected officials” can do on their own.

This isn’t just the responsibility of a chosen few.

This requires that we start leaning in. Having real conversations at the dinner table — heck are we even having dinner at the dinner table enough anymore? No worries, if there’s not a dinner table in your life today, but let’s just start talking — and listening. Maybe more listening first.

When is the last time you reached out to someone who disagrees with you and asked them to share their position? What brings them to this place? What makes them believe what they believe? It’s not about changing your mind. It’s about understanding theirs.

And, if we offer this beautiful gift to those in our circles, maybe we can ignite that in their circles. And eventually, we’re having conversations about the things that matter. Ripples, ya know?!

Aw, come on that’s such a buzz kill, Chrissanne. 

Yes, this isn’t fun. It’s not easy. It’s not even realistic at this point, but hey, this is my post, and I was dreaming for a minute.

I read a post today about a fellow altMBA alumnus being an Impresario, in which someone pointed out that his gift at connecting people is who he is. I related with this so much, and realized that we have to give ourselves permission to reach beyond the limitations of what we perceive we’re “supposed to do” and stop waiting to be invited. We have to invite ourselves. And, that is precisely why I am writing this post today.

It’s risky. You might not like it. You might not agree. But that isn’t what matters most. Today, I am acknowledging that what lies beneath the surface of the conversations is what matters the most.

So, what now?

Here’s a simple (not so simple) challenge — in the next 24 hours, talk to someone about something — anything uncomfortable. Don’t skirt away from the conversation, just this once. It might not work — but, then again….

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A Manifesto for Doers.

Don’t throw in the towel, don’t walk away. The hard work is already done. All that is needed now — is patience. (And a lot of deep breaths.)

(This might prove to be the hardest work of all.)

Waiting for movement. We’re ready to run, we have it all figured out. We are ready to move forward. Just need the green light and we’re off to the races.

We Are Ready to GOOOO!

But, what about the rest of the team?

What about the fears, tension, history that needs to be worked through? We can’t move forward until everyone in the office signs off on it. And, in the long run, we have to believe that consensus will make for a stronger decision. It is best for the team to challenge every angle of the idea, project, pitch or suggestion. Now is the time for them to ask the hard questions. 

Hard questions make us better. This will make us stronger. That’s what is in it for us. That is why we show up every day. We want to be better. We can always be better.

Let them poke holes, let them have the time they need. Let them sleep on it.

No pressure, sure, take all the time you need. No sweat. I understand!

If everything was smooth, without a hitch, we might not have the right people on the team. Everyone matters. And, that slows it down.

Everyone matters, and that slows it down. 

It’s not a stoppage of play. It’s simply a timeout. Make sure we’re calling the right play. Make sure we’re positioned the way we need to be.

This is what progress feels like. And, that’s what we’re here for — progress. Even if (when) it’s painful. (It’s always painful!)

Remember, no one said it would be easy. If it were easy, they wouldn’t need us to be here in the first place!

Progress is not about being wrong or right. It’s not really even about trust, but while we’re there, fists clenched and frustration mounting, it feels like everything we stand for is being challenged.

But, it’s not us. It’s not us. It’s not us. It’s not us. It’s not us.

What we need now is a little perspective. What we need now is a little “big picture thinking.” (What we need now… is a drink!)

Ok, now that we’re calm, now that we can remove ourselves from the emotions that we naturally tie to all things that matter, let us find our way through.

Because, on the other side, that’s where the magic happens.

And, bitterness, resentment, frustration and anger will only take away the joy that is inevitably going to be there waiting for us, when we get through the mud and the muck that we’re facing.

Don’t give away your power.

Don’t give away your joy.

The race isn’t over.

The only way out is through. 

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As long as we keep asking for opinions from the people who already agree with us, we’ll continue living (safely, and “right”) in an echo chamber of our own creation. We shouldn’t want everyone to agree with us —  honest, respectful and productive conversations are essential for growth — be it as an individual or as a community.

The very concept of Leadership, demands that we listen — not just to those who agree with us, but also to those who see a different story than the one we have painted and therefore believe — through our familiar lens.

We can’t grow without listening to another perspective.

But, if we don’t really want another person’s perspective, what’s the point of asking a question in the first place? Why have a public forum?

It might surprise us to discover that those with different opinions simply want their voices to be included, and once we’ve listened to all perspectives we can begin to make progress.

Begin by asking for feedback, and continue this process until it’s no longer uncomfortable to listen to a different opinion. It might take a while to get to the kind of openness that we seek, but it is possible — and essential.

100 Years ago, the back office called the shots, and everyone did what they were told. There were no other options. Cutting costs was the order of the day. “Only the strong survive,” and “Nice guys finish last,” were the tenets on which businesses were built. It was a dog eat dog world, and the only way to win was a race with rats.

Corrupt corporations were protected. They were untouchable. The rules didn’t apply to them.

After someone screwed their pal over to make a deal, it made sense to say, “Hey no hard feelings, buddy. It’s not personal, it’s business, you know?” “Yeah, buddy, no hard feelings.”

The 4 Pillars of the 20th Century Business Model: Product, price, marketing and distribution were all that counted. Leaders were selected based on who had the most money.

The business with the right product, at the right price, with enough money for marketing and getting their product into the hands of their customers quickly won the day.

Profit equaled success — and power.

Today, the new landscape brings considerations to the conversation that mean that even if the 4 pillars exist, success and power might not follow.

Today, the public demands something more. Transparency, authenticity, accessibility and honesty.

The marketplace has opened itself up to you, to me, to anyone who wants to put their skin in the game, and do the work — the emotional work that our culture has begun to expect.

To bypass these opportunities is absolutely a choice. But, as opposed to the past, today, it is a choice. We are no longer relegated to the back room, forced to play a lesser role, or wait to be picked.

If we choose to, we can hold back, we have that right. Just as we have the right to lean in, and contribute to bringing the playing field to another level. If we choose to, we can stay silent, we have that right as well. Just as we have the right to share our ideas, add value to the world, and shine our light in the world.

We’re still playing the game with antiquated rules. The world is no longer “according to Hoyle.”

It is 100% absolutely according to us. Isn’t it time we exercised our options?

But, if we make that choice, if we want to share our voice, if we exercise our options, we also have to be willing to do the emotional labor that comes with success. In some ways, it’s harder but, it is a lot more accessible for people like us, as long as we’re ready to put some skin in the game.

I used to think life was like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, but today, I believe the adventure chooses you. It’s just up to you to decide if you’re willing to accept the challenge.

Who the HECK do you think you are?!

There are days, actually, last Saturday was one of those days, when the Resistance comes in with such a force that I am paralyzed. I question everything. I won’t waste your time with the dialogue, but if you’d like to compare the voice of your Resistance with mine, I am sure it will be an easy victory for this guy over here.

It has been about 10 years since my adventure began, and I still can’t believe it. But, well, here we are. And, I am writing this post, and you are reading it, so there’s no pretending that it’s all made up.

The adventure began when I started asking, What if? I asked it when Craig, my boyfriend, business partner and best friend had sent me packing, tired of the ups and downs that were my reality back then. I was pathetic, and I knew it, but I didn’t want to be that way anymore. So, I asked, What if I can win Craig back? I set a goal, and a deadline, and began to work hard at being reliable, dependable, positive, courageous, likable and successful — something I should have already been, but sadly — was not. As if like clockwork, within 11 months (the deadline was 12 months), he had opened his heart and his arms to me again.

At about that same time — because part of the deal with winning Craig back was figuring out how to be an entrepreneur — I also asked, What if I can actually do this business owner thing? I still have the copy of the first check I earned, to remind me what happens when I stop listening to the resistance and start believing anything is possible.

Starting a business isn’t for everyone. Starting something different, new, challenging, scary, and meaningful, however — is.

And, that is when the adventure chose me.

It was as if the adventure was waiting for me to get to this point, I could try to explain it, but in her book Big Magic, author Elizabeth Gilbert, says it perfectly:

“Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.

Therefore, ideas spend an eternity swirling around us, searching for available and willing human partners.(I’m talking about all the ideas here — artistic, scientific, industrial, commercial, ethical, religious, political.) When an idea thinks it has found somebody — say, you — who might be able to bring it to the world, the idea will pay you a visit. It will try to get your attention. Mostly, you will not notice. This is likely because you’re so consumed by your own dramas, anxieties, distractions, insecurities, and duties that you aren’t receptive to inspiration. You might miss the signal… [but] the idea will try to wave you down (Perhaps for a few moments, perhaps for a few months; perhaps even for a few years), but when it finally realizes you’re oblivious to its message, it will move on to someone else.
But sometimes — rarely, but magnificently — there comes a day when you’re open and relaxed enough to actually receive something…. The idea will wake you up in the middle of the night, and distract you from your everyday routine. The idea will not leave you alone until it has your fullest attention.

And then, in a quiet moment, it will ask, “Do you want to work with me?”

Are you Ready to Say Yes?

When I opened my mind to the possibilities that came into my heart when I started saying “yes” to myself (and the adventure that awaited), and what I was capable of, and began refusing to allow the word “can’t” into my mind. It wasn’t just saying “can’t,” but actually stopping myself at the point that the thought creeped into my head.

The next “What if” came when I asked,

What if I could use my passion to connect the local community of Lakeland, around the idea that entrepreneurs, business owners, merchants, retailers and the community at large could have a place to share ideas, pass referrals, and support the local economy?

And, then I set about trying to see what would happen. And, that’s when Lakeland Business Leaders was born. That idea chose me.

Along the way, I have discovered a new kind of personal fulfillment and joy that comes from connecting. Since 2011, we’ve connected over 6,000 members of the local community around that one question. “What if” — and the journey with that adventure is only just beginning, thanks to the amazing people who have embraced the idea and leaned in to be part of the LBL community.

Most recently, this question, has been swirling around me:

What if I could share my story, and begin to inspire others along the way, to begin their own adventures — writing a blog, or starting a reading group, teaching a class, planting a garden, raising money for people in need…. It doesn’t really matter what the adventure is, I just want to inspire people to begin believing in what they can do.

I am powered by this purpose. Because I believe, when I allowed the adventure to choose me, everything else lined up to make it possible for these things to occur.

If you don’t believe in magic, if this is all too ooey gooey for you, don’t worry, I get it. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just ask yourself that most powerful 2-word question, and then, see what happens when you say yes: to setting aside the doubts and the worries – and begin to make manifest that greatness that is within you.

If I didn’t have my story tell, I wouldn’t believe it either. What adventure is going to be your story? When will you be ready to tell it?

How good are you at living in the moment? Staying present isn’t always easy, especially in the fast-paced world we’re living in. There’s so much happening, and we have to make sure we’re keeping up, not falling behind. We’re accountable to so many different people, we find it hard to stay 100% focused on the present moment, and the goal at hand.

I was at my niece Anne’s softball tournament recently, when she was playing center field. Her team had fought their way back from the losers bracket and in one out, they would play for the championship. The adults stood in the bleachers, as the next batter approached the plate. The girl hit the ball into short center field, and Anne ran toward the ball, with the gracefulness of a professional. She moved with her instincts. It was as if she had no idea there was anything else in the world to worry about. Just an 11-year-old and the ball. She laid out her entire body, slid through the grass, and came up to find the ball right where she knew it would be, in her glove.

The crowd went wild.

Anne shrugged, as if it was no big deal. There was another game to play.

I think about that play, and the focus she had — she’s an incredible pitcher at a young age — and I think about what had to happen in order for her to make that play. The mechanics — the skill of catching the ball — was only a small part of that. After you learn to catch a ball, it’s not that hard. No, what had to happen was something that only comes when the circumstances are exactly right. In order to execute, whether it’s on the softball field, or in the office, or at home, optimal performance demands that you stay present.

If Anne had been thinking about her previous at-bat, or a ball she dropped a game ago, or having a dialogue in her head about the chances of winning the championship, she could not have been the linchpin in this moment. If she’d been afraid of missing the ball, or of getting hurt she might have pulled up and let the ball bounce, playing it safe, letting the game go on to an uncertain end. But she was present, laser-focused and intent on the goal.

In the movie, Perfect Game, with Kevin Costner, we can see the mental strength that Billy Chapel, the character played by Costner, has when he “clears the mechanism.” There’s a relationship at stake, and yet, there’s a job to do, and he controls the thoughts when he steps on the mound.

Does this only happen in the movies? Are 11-year-olds blessed with some advantage that is lost for most of the rest of the world?

No. But it is hard, isn’t it?

When we are our purest selves, allowing ourselves to be who we were born to be, the artist within us knows what to do. Laying out, for her, isn’t a question. It’s just who she is. But, the challenges of life, #adulting, and the fear of failure begin to infiltrate that unbridled, unfettered focus that all of us are capable of, and most of us talk our way out of laying out.

Why “can’t” we? What is the real reason we’re “too busy?” or distracted from the goal?

Staying present, and seeing things through — laying out — opens the doors to the life we were designed to live. It’s not in the opportunities we missed, or the balls we dropped. Most of us are still thinking about all of the errors we’ve made along the way, while the all-stars understand what Babe Ruth knew: that “every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

The next time you’re stuck thinking about the baggage — the failed attempts at meeting your goals, or the fear of making a mistake — take a breath, clear the mechanism, stay focused and give everything you have to this moment.

You are guaranteed one of two outcomes — you’ll come up with the ball, or you’ll be able to walk off the field knowing you laid out, giving your all to the effort, and you left it all on the field. And, if you decide to be present, you’ll know exactly what to do next time.

Once you do this a few times, you’re going to learn that whether or not you catch the ball has never been the point. 

Months later, I’ll bet Anne isn’t thinking about that remarkable catch. Because, to her, there’s another game to play, and that catch isn’t going to help her win the present game. We can learn a lot from sports — but the best lessons we can learn come from living in the present.

Before you read this, open up a new tab and Google yourself. Not your business — you — your first and last name. If your name is John or Nancy Smith, you might need to add a geographical detail like your city or community name.

What are the results? Is there a link to your LinkedIn profile? Your blog? Your Facebook account? Your Rotary/Kiwanis Club profile or your Chamber or BNI listing? Obviously, your website appears right?? (If not, and you’re a principal in your company, m̶a̶y̶b̶e̶ it’s time to do something about that!)

What else do you see? And, of those results, how many of them do you control/can you access? Depending on how long you’ve been navigating the “inter webs” you should see a few pages of results.

When you conduct a business analysis, I hope this is part of it. Because, whether we like it or not, the world we live in is PUBLIC. And, for the most part, our reputations hinge on what that public message says about us.

There’s a troubling attitude about brands, specifically personal brands that I think is resulting in a lot of money being left on the table.

It’s the attitude “I got this. I don’t need any help.”

It happens more often than you probably realize. Businesses get into year 2 or 3 and realize they need help. Everything is a mess. And they don’t value the importance of their brand’s message — because it has never brought them any business.


Any knowledgeable person, with a decent personality can start a business and generate revenue with a face-to-face sales strategy. The question that most people forget when they are first getting started is “How much is your time worth?” How much would it cost for a full time sales person to make outgoing calls, knock on doors, and shake the low-hanging fruit? (How do your customers/clients feel about being considered “low-hanging fruit?!”)

When you start to get weary, when your calendar requires that you pay attention to your newborn child, or your aging parents, how will your business fare? If you’re building a digital business, these transitions will not be detrimental to your bottom line.

Work smarter, not harder?

Is that just something you say, but not something you do?

Your content marketing strategy is not an option for leaders in today’s digital world. And, even if you aren’t in business at this moment, there’s no reason not to consider your personal brand — now. You have a reputation already. Why not do something to manage that? Being authentic is a valued characteristic — but if you don’t take ownership of your online brand as well, no matter how amazing you are in your business community offline, people won’t know you exist if you don’t create a plan for building your online reputation to go along with the one you have been building offline.

Where do I start?

It should absolutely start with a blog for your business, or if you work for a corporation that doesn’t have the ability for managers to have a blog channel, a personal blog will work great!

What do I blog about?

LIFE! This isn’t always about sales and promotion. This is about building relationships. The same things you spend time talking about in social circles would be perfect for you to discuss in your blog. Sports, cigars, wine, wood working, grand children, civic engagement, volunteering, your community, valuable educational information to help your readers with something related, or unrelated to your business. The point is to share and to bring value. To create a brand is to establish that you have something of value to bring to the table. And, when your audience sees who you are, and what you offer, and when your online presence can confirm that you are who you say you are on your “About us” page on your website, you’ll begin to see the results in the search engines, and that traffic — that channel — will become an asset for your sales funnel.

How do I Start?

The quick answer is — START. But if your website isn’t set up for blogging, you might need some help. Ask a trusted business advisor, conduct some Google searches. But, no matter what, commit to starting the process. You won’t be able to come back to this moment. And, if you’re ready, and you want to talk about it with me, I am here — I welcome to the opportunity to help you.

I refuse to make this a sales pitch — it’s not. I write this, and all of my posts to help people, to push them to move forward and overcome their fears about digital. If you’re interested in taking necessary steps to start blogging, I welcome the opportunity. But, if after this message I have you thinking about something “outside the box” I will consider my mission accomplished!

We’re disgusted by society. Disgust isn’t enough. A social media rant solves nothing. Society is a reflection of what we stand for as consumers. As long as we continue to accept it, the status quo and what is mainstream in our culture is merely a reflection of us.

As long as we continue to accept (or be indifferent to) the behaviors that disgust us the most, we will continue to find our attitudes reflected by the media. We’re appalled at the NFL players who openly disrespect our flag, and yet we have given them this platform. We continue to look on in dismay, but unwilling to change our behavior. I admit, this is much easier to say, than to act upon, but when our attention is given as much value as it has been given in today’s data-driven world, we have more power than we realize. We’re just unwilling to use it.

Professional sports, mainstream media, pop-culture — everything we subscribe to as Americans is fueled by our adulation and idolization of the almighty dollar. And we’re bought into it, which continues to fuel the patterns and behaviors that we’ve allowed to become billion dollar industries.

If we really want to raise our standards, as a society, it will begin with raising our standards as individuals. And, in turn, holding our elected officials accountable to the standards we believe are right for our communities.

If we’re not willing to take a stand, and we’re just going to continue filling social media news feeds with rants that will not change anything, and will be drowned out by the noise, then we are contributing to the problem. Whether we realize it or not, our dissatisfaction is just making it worse. We have to find a way to change the rules. We have to demand something to change, and we have to be willing to sacrifice something to get there.

Is it too simplistic to suggest that the solution lies in love, acceptance and finally ending bigotry — in our neighborhoods and elementary schools? Could the next generation of superstars be different? I believe we are responsible for finding out.

I was leaving a leadership retreat this morning. I was in unfamiliar territory, and uncertain about my directions. (Shout out Leadership Polk – BCE!)

Being uncertain about my directions is nothing new to me. Navigation is not my strong suit. And, thankfully I live in a time where technology makes this weakness less of a liability than it was prior to GPS and smart phones.

However, for some reason, this morning, my phone signal was not connecting to the network, and I was on my own. I assumed it would be a temporary glitch, and would automatically self-correct. I just needed to make the initial decisions to avoid wasting too much time, once the voice stopped saying “GPS Signal Lost.”

I realized on this trip something that I felt was worth fleshing out in a little bit more detail today for my post that I thought might resonate with you. Here’s what I started to think about while I waited for the guiding voice to return:

Life is much like our GPS devices. We’re tuned into the signal, connected and sure about the voyage we are on. When we’re “on,” we have no doubts about our travels — we know where we’re going and we know how to get there.

But sometimes, the signal gets lost.

And our decisions require a little more intentional thought to get us “Somewhere more familiar,” so that we can continue our journey without wasting too much time.

When the GPS wasn’t calibrated, I had to rely on myself. I had to think a little more. And, after a few moments of “winging it,” I started to realize how little I had paid attention to the landmarks on my way. Luckily, I didn’t get lost (this time), and before too long, the familiar voice of the GPS navigation started to help me feel more confident about my directions. But there was definite uncertainty about where I was going, until her voice was there to reassure me.

This made me think about how similar this experience is to life, in general. When we’re confident about the path, sure of the direction we’re heading, are we paying attention to the little things — the smile of a stranger, or the innocent question of a child? When we’re driven (no pun intended) by our confidence that we have it all figured out, and we’re in our own element, it seems we start to tune out the periphery — all of the important details for us to truly comprehend the world from all angles.

When we are vulnerable (aka “lost”), we are forced to pay closer attention to the details.

So, this led me to the question — “Is our dependence on the familiar route limiting us somehow?”

And, if so, what actions do we need to take to make sure that this dependence doesn’t numb us to the world around us? If we stop paying attention to our surroundings, how will we be able to continue to grow, and build on our knowledge?

It takes confidence and experience to be able to make good decisions. If we’re not equipped to make those decisions without a computerized voice telling us to turn left in 500 feet, what else are we giving away when we give away this power?

And, what else are we missing along the way? Should we get lost more often?

The human brain is designed to protect us. This instinct is what drives us away from dangerous situations, and toward those circumstances that we understand and which provide us with comfort and satisfaction. Our belief that we will be safe, or comfortable allows us to proceed with behaviors that will maintain our safety, and drives us to avoid things for which we cannot control, predict or feel optimistic about.

Why does fear exist?

Fear only exists when whatever we’re afraid of hasn’t happened yet. We convince ourselves that it’s better to spend our energy worrying about the outcome of something than it would be to take the risk of whatever action we’re considering — and fail.

So, when we’re faced with a fear of an outcome, we withdraw.

Our brain is telling us that this is not a safe space to be, we don’t have control of the outcome, and, when we can’t feel good about the predictability of the outcome, we lose optimism about it’s likelihood to work out the way we’re hoping. And, we base our decisions on this fear to act, change, move, pivot, take on a new challenge because we cannot comfortably answer the question “What if?” in a way that will satisfy our need to be safe.

A New Approach?

Today, I was offered a new way to consider how I approach decisions that require something to change. A new job, or opportunity, or an internal, organizational change that will be adopted within an organization. The usual way we tend to approach big decisions is by creating a pros and cons list. We list the reasons we should make a decision, and the risks associated with making that decision, that we shouldn’t make the decision. We’re allowing the FEAR to be the force that drives our decisions, and that creates negative energy, which will lead us to make the safe decision. After all, if the pros don’t weigh strongly enough, we won’t do anything, right?

What if we take the fear and turn it into a positive force instead?

The new approach would require that we look at the decision from a different perspective. What will I regret not having done at some future date? In other words, If I don’t make this decision, what will I regret not getting an opportunity to do?

When I was a Junior in college, I had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica for a summer abroad program through Florida State University. It was a way for me to take some extra courses, strengthen my Spanish, and enjoy a six week long adventure. While I was there, we had weekend excursions that provided us opportunities to explore Costa Rica and see the various points of interest throughout the country. One of those excursions was a weekend of White Water Rafting on the Pacuare River.

This was my first experience doing anything as adrenaline-pumping and I was instantly hooked! During that experience, I met Gaby, a guide that was on the trip with us. I was working on practicing my Spanish, so I spent these trips chatting with the local guides and employees that we met along the way. I asked Gaby about how she became a guide, learned about the process, and as we talked, I was intrigued about her life, and how much fun it would be to do what she did every day. At one point, she looked at me and said, “Chrissanne, tienes que ser guia! (Chrissanne, you need to be a guide!) It was a preposterous suggestion — completely irrational, impossible — or was it?

The statement gnawed at me for an entire week, and instead of traveling with the students on the following weekend’s excursion, I opted to take another trip down the river with some friends. After this trip, I had decided — I was going to do it! And, I ended up staying in Costa Rica, living and working as a guide, for an entire year.

Stay or Go?

In retrospect, I realize how incredible that decision was and how much it impacted me, shaped my life and created an opportunity for me to find myself in a country far from home, with only the resources I had, and no help from my family. This was completely me — on my own — growing up. Discovering resilience, strength and grit that I didn’t know I had. If I had not made this decision, I am convinced that I would not be the person I am today. But the decision was riddled with risk. Where would I live? How would I get around? How would I survive, while I trained, and received no compensation? What about college?

All of these fears were legitimate, and I had no answers, but everything was figureoutable — and I figured them all out.

I had received some money from my grandmother that would allow me to live comfortably during that time; I found a room to rent, I made money as the transit guide that picked up the rafting guests from their hotels and accompanied them on the bus ride to the river; instead of graduating in 4 years from FSU, I took 5 years.

When I am faced with decisions today, there are a lot more layers to consider — 21 and 42 are very different places in one’s life journey — but the lesson remains — What would I have missed in my life, who would I have been, (or not been) as a result of that decision?

I believe this renewed lens might be helpful to consider again, and often.

Instead of a fear of failure, what if we focused our energy on a fear of regret? What will be missing if we don’t make this decision? How will be grow, learn, adapt, adjust, if we don’t take this step today? And, 5 years from now, will this decision be permanent?

Nothing in our lives is permanent. Everything is fluid, can be re-visited and tweaked. But we look at everything as if it is immovable. Stuck, unchangeable. I suggest that a shift in mindset is in order. If you don’t make this decision toward change, will you still be right where you are five, or ten years from now? Will you miss an opportunity to learn a new way, or maybe discover a way that isn’t a good fit. Can you come back here later, if the decision doesn’t work out for your organization?

Is this decision really permanent? Or is just your mindset that makes you think that the fear of the risk of failure is more powerful than the reward that may exist on the other side?