Sweaty armpits. Endless worry. Paralyzing self-doubt. And, of course, the inevitable question that comes to mind before any anxiety-inducing event: “Um. Is it too late to cancel?”
This is what my husband Brian and I experienced in the days leading up to the debut of his brand new comic book series at a local comic book convention.
I think I was more nervous than he was. Failure at Comic Con could mean my husband’s mental and emotional collapse.
Fortunately, we got our anxiety under control after coming up with a few strategies that made this important event virtually fail-proof:
1. Ditch your unrealistic, fear-driven expectations.
Brian spent a pretty penny on the printing of his comic book and accompanying stickers. His biggest fear was not making his money back, which put pressure on how well his products would sell at this event.
In comes wife with a reality check: He is an unknown artist debuting his first comic ever, at a relatively small convention expected to draw a modest crowd. I told him he’d be setting himself up for failure if his definition of success was too narrow.
And boy did he take my advice to heart: “My goal is to sell ONE comic book,” he finally decided.
(And he did. Times ten.)
No, Brian didn’t make back all of his money. But he feels the event far exceeded his expectations because he expanded his definition of success and had realistic expectations.
Fear says your goal should be a “vanity metric” – a tangible show of your worth, one that the world will easily recognize. Fear says you must get back exactly what you put in. Fear makes you cling to goals in an unhealthy way.
But Courageous Confidence acknowledges intangible goals (like learning, building relationships, and enjoying the moment), as well as smaller goals.
2. Plan to empower people, even if the big event has nothing to do with empowering others.
So here’s what happens when an artist and a therapist play the role of salesmen: we epically failed at pitching our product to quasi-interested passers by.
But it didn’t take long to realize that we had to switch our focus from what we wanted to say to people to what others needed and wanted from this event.
Yup, we had to serve and inspire. At a comic book convention. Who knew?
So we welcomed people to talk to us about who they are and what they love. We learned about people’s careers, passions, and their families, including someone’s niece in the Navy who serves on a ship named “The Moo”. (Guess who’s getting stickers mailed to her ship this week?)
Anxiety disappears when you take the focus off yourself. If you seek human connection and strive to serve others, peace of mind will be yours.
3. Be yourself. You’ll get better results.
I packed two outfits to wear to Brian’s big day: one that made me “fit in” with the comic book crowd, and one that was a bit more consistent with the rest of my wardrobe. Brian encouraged me to be myself.
Which, in his words, is “a city girl who looks like she bought new boots just so she could ride a horse during her one-day visit to the country”:
But I do love hearing about people’s lives. I am good at finding meaning in the most important parts of someone’s story, making them feel validated and at ease. This is the role I played at our table, and it ended up being an unconventional yet effective way of gaining customers and growing our email list.
But I cannot do what I do best if I’m not at peace with who I am, wishing I had a different set of skills or a different personality.
And Brian? He’s no therapist or motivational speaker. But people like him for the same reasons I do: he is unpretentious, open, friendly, and expressive. That’s why he flourished while networking at the event, while I flourished at building relationships with potential customers.
You can’t be good at everything, and you’re certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. But there will always be people who appreciate the specific gift you have to offer, and you will never regret choosing ahead of time to focus primarily on these individuals.