“How did I become so bad at a game I was doing so well at just a second ago?” That’s what it feels like when you start a new level in a video game….or when a new career opportunity challenges you. It’s daunting and discouraging at first, even downright terrifying, but that doesn’t mean we can’t master this new level.
After all, fear is nothing more than a chemical reaction, and when we refuse to back down from a new challenge, we grow professionally and personally.
How do we face a new level, and evolve from novice to master? In this episode, I share how to treat your career like a video game.
The first time you try a new level, you’ll suck at it, but you will master it and level up again. - Jen Thornton
[00:00:00] Do you manage your career like you play video games? One of the most popular workshops I host is about growth mindset. It focuses on the neuroscience of why we aren't naturally built to enjoy change and why we're hard programmed to stay comfortable. Now, there is a lot of important research and reasons on why we don't like change, and that evolves some really big words that frankly, I probably couldn't pronounce.
[00:00:28] But at the end of the day, our brains have one job and that job is to keep us alive. And to keep us alive. Your brain likes to keep you very, very comfortable. One of the main ways our brain keeps us alive is by using fear. You know that feeling you get when you stand too close to like the window of a super tall building and look down from, or look down from a high floor and the building and, ugh, that like that lovely flip-flop feeling in your belly.
[00:00:58] Well, that my friend, is your brain shooting off chemical reactions to tell you your actions are dangerous and you need to back it up. Your brain uses fear as a chemical reaction to get your attention. Now in the workplace, your brain also senses fear. Fear of failure, fear of being judged, fear of not being good enough, fear of getting in trouble.
[00:01:20] There are countless reasons why fear shows up in your brain every single day. I. Think about that feeling you get in your belly when your boss pings you and says, do you have a few minutes to talk? Ugh, yuck. It's that, that feeling, you start thinking about, oh my gosh, is there an email that I've missed?
[00:01:37] Did I say something wrong in that meeting this morning? Did I not turn something in on time? It's, it's that same feeling that you get kind of at the top of a tall building. Well, that is the same chemical reaction and it's just fear Now. Let's go back to that question I asked you at the beginning of the podcast.
[00:01:56] Do you manage your career like you play video games in life? We are consistently given opportunities to level up. We don't always see it at the time, but looking back when we jumped on an opportunity and forced ourselves to figure it out, it likely had a positive impact on our life and our career. For myself, looking back on my career, every time I did something that I was scared of, didn't know how to do or just thought, Hmm, I'll figure it out.
[00:02:27] Those are times my knowledge, my life, my career, they all leveled up and here is what leveling up actually looks like. You get really good at your job, you become efficient. You might become an expert, you might be getting invited to bigger conversations, bigger tables. You're just awesome and it feels good to wake up every day and know that you are frigging awesome and then you're assigned a new project and you think, holy beep, beep beep.
[00:02:57] There is no way that I can do that, and this is like leveling up in a video game. A video game, just when you become a master, it's like your hands and brains. Everything's like moving like magic. It's like you don't even have to think. It's just intuitive and then you level up. In a split second. You go from being a master to being really bad at the game you love, but it's a game and we know we're just level up.
[00:03:26] Again. We know the first time we try a new level, we'll just suck at it and our brain kind of expects it and it doesn't freak out. We might be frustrated, but we keep going. Well, In life too many times, we level back down when we are uncomfortable, we tell ourselves that something must be wrong with us, or something wrong with the people around us because there's no reason in our logical mind that we could be going from being just awesome and feeling so good about ourselves to the next day overnight, feeling horrible.
[00:04:03] And this is your brain using fear to trick you. Remember, fear is just a chemical reaction. Just this week, I was working with a client I worked with for a while, and if you are listening, you know who you are. Eight months ago when we started working together, she had just gotten promoted. She had really, really clear, um, objectives for her coaching session.
[00:04:29] She knew what she wanted to get from a recent promotion. She knew she was at a new level and her career, and she wanted to get really good at her new job. And she worked so hard on building relationships, learning new information, trying new things, saying the hard stuff in meetings, and then our sessions got easy.
[00:04:49] She'd bring a list of things she was proud of versus a list of things she wanted to work on. She was celebrating every day. She could see how well she was doing in her new role.
[00:05:00] Then this week she came with a list of things she was struggling with. She had that look of leveling up. Over the last few weeks, she was invited to two more meetings.
[00:05:13] The stakes were getting higher. She was having to have conversations with people she typically wouldn't have conversations with, and she was assigned a really, really important project that will have a major long-term impact on her company. Leading became hard again. Now, remember, she was just promoted eight months ago.
[00:05:34] She had leveled up at that point. It was a new job, so it made sense for it to be hard, and she did the work and she did really, really good work. So now she has leveled up again with this recent assignment. When I explained to her, she was just leveling up again, gosh, you could see she could just see her relax into it.
[00:05:56] You could see the fear slip away. She understood that in a career when you put the work into development, you will always, always be leveling up. And that chemical reaction to fear started to slip away. She stopped saying to herself, why am I having such a bad week? Why does this seem so hard when last month everything was going my way?
[00:06:21] No, she's not saying that now. She's saying to herself, I'm excited to level up. See where this next chapter of my career will take me. I am not sure how to handle this project, but let's brainstorm it on it and figure it out. She's saying, I'm excited to know that I've been trusted with such an important project.
[00:06:41] You can see where these two very different trains of thoughts could have a major impact on how someone thinks about themselves and how they perform. And I tell you this story because I want you to know two things. One, I want you to know fear [00:07:00] is just a chemical reaction and you can choose how you respond to it.
[00:07:06] And two, in life, when you have a chance to level up, take it, be uncomfortable, because if you mastered the level before this one, there is a very, very good chance you will master this new level of life you've been given. Because no one ever fixed leadership by leveling down and playing it safe.