“What is the biggest risk you’ve taken?”
The question took me by surprise…
“What’s your biggest regret?” That one I’ve heard.
“What five items would you want with you on a deserted island?” Heard that one, too.
“Would you rather be mauled by a bear or watch a buddy-cop movie starring Nicolas Cage and a monkey?” Heard that one earlier in the day.
But my biggest risk? No, that was a new one.
As I laid in bed that night, trying not to focus on the Nicolas-Cage-themed nightmares I would soon be having, my mind drifted to my senior year of college and the time I made the craziest, silliest, and riskiest decision of my life.
45 Credits in Two Semesters
It was October.
The president and assistant principal of my old high school were in my living room, gauging my interest in a teaching job after I graduated from college the following August.
“Yes, I’m very interested,” I told them.
What I didn’t realize at the time was how many credits I had remaining. Sure, my “plan” was to graduate after the summer semester in August. But my plan was based on wishful thinking – not rational thought or reality.
At the end of the current semester already underway, I would have 45 semester hours remaining before I could graduate.
And only two semesters to earn them. Only two semesters before my new teaching job was to begin. Only two semesters to complete four semesters worth of work.
The idea was so crazy, I had to convince the Dean of Students to sign a waiver so I could attempt it.
“No one does this,” he told me. “Are you sure?”
“It’ll be a piece of cake,” I assured him, as my mind wandered to thoughts of cake.
He gave me a knowing nod – the kind one gives when they, too, are thinking about cake.
Then he signed the waiver.
I wish I could tell you I fought the good fight and the semesters were a breeze. I wish I could tell you that, but college is no fairy-tale world.
Those two semesters were insanely difficult.
I questioned my intelligence and sanity on numerous occasions. I lost weight due to the stress. I received my first – and, to date, lone (knock on wood) – gray hair.
But then, one Tuesday evening in August, I sat down for my last college exam. When I turned in the exam, I knew I had aced it.
It was finally over.
I had bet on me. And I had won.
For my reward, I woke up the following morning and began my first day of work as a teacher.
I Immediately Regret This Decision
Yes, I had less than 12 hours between my final college exam and my first day as a teacher.
This wouldn’t have been an issue if not for the little matter of my being totally and completely unprepared for the gig.
For starters, I had a crippling fear of speaking in public.
Such a phobia wouldn’t have been such a big deal if, like most of my fellow graduates in the Information Technology department at college, I was embarking on a career of sitting behind a desk.
However, it’s sort of a big deal when you’re embarking on a job that asks you to speak in front of people all day long.
So I had stage fright. No big deal. Certainly not when compared to the fact I had no curriculum to teach.
You see, I wasn’t just beginning a career as a teacher at my old high school. I was introducing an entirely-new department at my old high school:
I was to be my school’s first-ever computer teacher. As such, there was no existing curriculum. No fellow computer teachers to mentor me or show me the ropes. We didn’t even have textbooks.
Everything I would teach, every project I would assign, every exam I would give…
…were all to come out of my lil’ head.
So, to recap:
- Crippling fear of speaking
- No curriculum to follow
- No textbooks
- No wise, veteran teachers to help me
- No time to prepare
But other than all that, I was good to go.
Looking back, it amazes me I did these things.
What possessed me to do the work of two full-time students?
What possessed me to sign a teaching contract when I knew there was a chance I might not graduate on time?
What possessed me to choose to teach even though the mere idea of teaching terrified me?
I did these things for one simple reason: I believed I could.
I believed I could do the work of two full-time students. I believed I would graduate on time. I believed I would overcome my fear of public speaking.
Was it easy? Absolutely not. Were there trials and tribulations? You better believe it.
But you also better believe that, three years later, when I finished graduate school and “retired” from teaching, I was one darn good teacher.
That’s what tends to happen when you’re not afraid to bet on yourself.
You climb mountains. You swim oceans. You prove Doubting Thomases wrong.
You accomplish things and reach heights you didn’t believe were possible.
Betting On Yourself
As a blogger, do you ever bet on yourself?
The most successful bloggers I know — scratch that, the most successful individuals — aren’t afraid to bet on themselves.
Adam Connell of Blogging Wizard quit his job to focus on blogging.
Jaime Buckley, after a car accident took away his lifelong dream of being a comic book writer, brought his visions back to life through novels.
Darren Rowse worked three jobs in the early days of ProBlogger before it took off and started making money.
Jon Morrow, wheelchair bound due to a type of muscular dystrophy, built a blogging empire.
Each bet on himself, and each was rewarded.
What about you?
How have you bet on yourself and your blog? Better question: have you bet on yourself and your blog?
It’s okay if you haven’t.
After all, it can be risky. If we’re talking about upgrading web hosting and purchasing a blogging course, it can be expensive. Mostly, it can be scary.
What if you fail? What if you look foolish? What if you lose readership or subscribers?
True, you might fail. True, you might look like a fool. True, you could lose fans.
But you might not.
You might fly. You might do something awesome. You might just surprise yourself.
Years ago, I bet on myself and it changed the course of my life.
Teaching gave me confidence. It made me grow up. It helped me learn how to use humor to captivate an audience. It gave me the perfect job to continue my education, and the Master’s Degree I earned led me to my next job — a job I still have and enjoy.
It helped make me the man I am now — a man who, three years ago today, was worthy of marrying my wonderful wife.
Amazing things can happen when you take chances and dream big.
Are you ready to bet on you?
Flickr Creative Commons Image via TaxRebate.org.uk.