As I wrote to you last week’s Weekly Letter, I had an odd convergence of life events last week. I met with the final critical player in the made to measure production, the group that will be digitizing the pattern in Pelzer, South Carolina. I was thrilled and not so slightly fearful to learn that they are topnotch and a fantastic partner to contribute to this critical step to making beautiful, bespoke garments for women. The part of me that was joyful thought: fantastic. We can proceed. We have this lined up so we are poised for the best possible chance of success. And the other part of me was thinking: We can PROCEED?!!?!?! We have to proceed!!!?? – with so much fear of the unknown to come.
And then we headed into the forest on our backpacking trip, unprepared for the grueling climbs and unmarked routes we encountered. Quite a parable for the apparel work, yes? We took very heavy packs up and down steep climbs, had to re-route for water, and then headed up another steep climb. And I hoped that in the solitude I would make peace with the next scary and uncertain steps in my business. That I would emerge from the forest with a Zen-like calm and dedication. No, instead our trip was emotionally and physically hard and beautiful all at once like life outside the forest. I got run down from the climb and heard my fear monkeys rattling around in my head and then would achieve the peace and exhilaration from climbing something steep and achieving a pace with it. Growing and getting stronger.
And another part of me hoped that this Zen-like figure that would emerge from the forest would emerge with the confidence that she was made for this work. That I would have no doubt during the upcoming pitches, meetings, and collaborations that I am the woman to make this happen. That I would see this woman when I looked in the mirror. Instead my appeals to intimately know that my person is capable of this work were met with silence. Instead I am learning, reinforced by the backpacking trip, that the self-confidence that I can do these things will quite simply come from doing them.
Unfortunately no magical moment will free us from the discomfort of doing things we are unfamiliar with. With the backpacking trip I learned that I can hike into the remote wilderness, push myself physically, carry my belongings, and meet my needs. I did not get lost, parish from dehydration or exposure, or get eaten by a bear. I faced those fears and returned home eagerly looking into our next backpacking adventure. Because now a whole world of adventures are available to me after overcoming those basic fears. And that is what we are doing with our work. We are courageously heading into the unknown, and each time we learn to overcome our fears the possibilities in this world become that much more vast (while running from our fears makes our world smaller and smaller).
When we have pitched our work often enough to no longer fear doing it, when we have successfully established partnerships, when we have overcome major work challenges, the possibilities for our work, minus the weight of our fear at these key tasks, become that much more vast.
And maybe you were holding your breath with me for some easing up of the discomfort of uncertainty – that I would find the magic key on my backpacking trip and no longer struggle to shine my creative light into the world. I feel your pain if I have disappointed you here. But I am bringing you along on this adventure, through all the discomfort, victories and set-backs so we may find some solidarity in the frightening and virtuous work of bringing our creativity to bear in this world.