A tour of my email inbox three years ago
43 new emails since yesterday. Sigh.
- Someone invited me to do something I don’t really want to do, but I don’t want to be rude…
- Yay! I’ve got a new Pathfinding client! That will be awesome. But… now I’ve got to handle all the scheduling. I hate logistics…
- Sigh, an unsubscribe notification. Why did he unsub from my mailing list? Am I writing too often? Not often enough? Are my subject lines not engaging enough? My open rate is pretty low… has it been going down? *checks statistics*
- A comment on my most recent blog post! Yay! Now I need to think of something nice to say in reply. The comment was basically a long-winded way of saying “great post”, so I don’t have a lot to work with, but I want to make people feel welcome and appreciated. I guess I’ll just say “Thanks!” Is that lame? Will she ever even notice that I replied? I don’t know if the comment notification system is working properly… *investigates WordPress settings*
- Oi. Some troublemaker is fighting with nice people on my Facebook page. Let me see if I can talk to her and make peace… oh. It looks like this isn’t going to be easy or pleasant.
- Archive. I’d like to unsubscribe but I like this blogger and I don’t want to hurt her feelings if she sees that I unsubscribed. So I’ll just archive it.
- I gave away a few scholarships to the World-Changing Writing Workshop, and now I’m getting tons of emails asking for scholarships, even though I’ve already given them all out. But their stories are really touching and I want to help them… what do I do?
- A blogger liked my guest post and now they want another one. That’s great! But where am I going to find the time to write it?
- Ooh, my hold on The Lies of Locke Lamora came in at the library. Awesome.
- Someone wrote a blog post about “fear of success” and how it can block your business from growing. Pish and tosh. I’m not afraid of success. Success would be awesome. It’s all this tedious bullshit that gets in the way of success – that’s what I’m tired of.
We interrupt this email inbox for a news flash.
Fear of tedious bullshit is fear of success.
“Fear of success” means fear of what success brings.
If you were more successful, what would happen?
Would you feel crushed by the additional responsibility?
Would you be more visible, and have more people asking you for things? Would you feel forced into either an awkward no or a halfhearted yes?
Would you become busier, and feel less spacious and more stressed?
Would you feel more pressure when you write if you knew you were writing to a larger audience?
Would you have many more opportunities to let people down, in bigger and more terrifying ways?
Would you make more money, and then feel guilty about what you do with that money?
When you think it through, “success” is a double-edged sword, isn’t it?
Take a moment to visualize what success would really look like for you. Not rainbows-and-unicorns visualization, but an honest imagining of what a typical day might be like if you were more successful.
Don’t visualize the awards ceremony, visualize the email inbox.
Notice how success magnifies everything – both the good and the bad.
Whatever annoys you now might incapacitate you if you were successful.
Whatever you fear now could terrify you if you were successful.
Whatever you find tedious now might bore you to tears if you were successful.
Whatever you find uncomfortable now might panic you if you were successful.
Whatever you dislike now, you might hate if you were successful.
You’ve got to make room for success before you can want it wholeheartedly.
If part of you believes that “success = more troubles”, then that part of you will drag its heels, being understandably reticent about seeking out more troubles.
If all this is happening subconsciously, it can be especially frustrating to your conscious mind, which can’t understand why all your best-laid plans get subtly self-sabotaged by that well-meaning part of you that’s so earnestly trying to save you from all those troubles.
Here’s what making room for success looks like.
- I wrote a “polite no” form letter and practiced saying no, so that people asking me for things no longer has the ability to incapacitate me.
- I bought a subscription to YouCanBookMe to automate a lot of my scheduling and logistics. Now getting a new Pathfinding client feels entirely great instead of mostly-great-and-slightly-horrible.
- I opted out of getting unsubscribe notifications. They only made me worry and were never helpful. I set a weekly reminder to look at my metrics and think about how to act on them, and that feels empowering instead of demoralizing.
- I let go of trying to say the right thing in blog comments and social media. I write quickly, I don’t edit, and I let it go when I’m done. I practice resilience, not perfection.
- If someone stirs up trouble on social media, I block them and move on. It takes about 10 seconds and I only feel a little bit bad about it, instead of engaging with them which takes hours and usually ends up with me feeling horrible.
- I unsubscribed from lists I don’t read. They probably won’t notice, and if they do, I’ll assume they’ll understand. Now my email inbox is less cluttered and feels less tedious.
- I started managing my time better, so that I make time for the most important things and I know how much time I have available so I can say yes or no to opportunities.
This was a long process that took a lot of work, both logistical and emotional. But it’s work worth doing.
I made room for success. My business grew. And now I need to make more room for more success so that my business can grow again.
It’s like climbing a ladder.
You grab one rung with your left hand – you make room.
You grab the next rung with your right hand – your business grows.
You grab the next rung with your left hand – you make more room.
You grab the next rung with your right hand – your business grows more.
Hand over hand. Left, right, left, right. You can’t grow more until you make more room.
What’s one thing you could do to make more room?