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Last month, I got scared shitless.

I got intimidated, which, if you know me, will shock you. After years of feeling like a pro, a situation arose that made me afraid of messing up. I was afraid of looking like an idiot and disappointing everyone involved, but worse, I was afraid of disappointing myself.

Here’s what was going on: Last fall, one of my LinkedIn contacts reached out asking if I – or any copywriters I knew – had experience with a very specialized area of trading (as in Wall Street, not, like, bartering at the old trading post). “Can you believe that this is exactly what one of my clients does?” I replied. “So yes, I can absolutely help you out.”

Fast forward to January, and I was about to jump on a call to learn more about this big, ongoing project on which I’d be working. Even though I was quite familiar with the topic, it became very clear that I’d be working at a whole new, and much higher, level.

Despite feeling like I should bow out, I took a deep breath, and I jumped in.

The first couple of weeks were bumpy. I asked questions. Lots and lots of basic, probably annoying, questions. But I had decided that no matter what, I was going to succeed and prove to everyone – myself included – that I was more than capable of handling this.

The experience didn’t come without some agony, so you might ask, why bother? In my niche, I am established and good at what I do – I don’t need to step out of my comfort zone.

But, just like a mountaineer who sees Everest or an astronaut who gazes upon the moon, I knew in my gut that I had to do it.

In fact, we all have to be scared shitless about doing something every once in a while. It prevents boredom. It ensures we are always learning and growing. It stops us from sitting back, becoming complacent, and – heaven forbid – becoming obsolete. Once you stop growing, you might as well be dead – which is especially true in today’s business world.

And yes, I already have plenty on my plate. I manage two wonderful team members, keep tabs on my clients, deliver client work every day of every week, and tackle all the back end stuff that no business owner loves to do. Then there’s my family, house, friends, and me to take care of (not necessarily in that order).

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The next time you’re faced with a huge opportunity that scares you, here’s what you do:

Ask yourself if the experience will make you a better person

“Better” can take on different meanings for different people, but if you’re faced with a transformative opportunity that can positively change your personal or professional life, it’s worth swallowing the fear and pushing forward. Just be sure to assess the opportunity based on your goals and standards – not those of an outside party.

Look at the alternatives

If you’ve worked really, really hard to get to where you are and you only just arrived at your destination, it might not be the right time to jump into something new. However, if the alternative is the status quo – and you don’t love the status quo – you know your answer.

Don’t torture yourself – make a decision

If you’ve been approached with a risky opportunity, it’s likely that you already know your answer intuitively. Trust your instincts – don’t hem and haw and overanalyze. Just say yes or no and move on.

When the opportunity is scary and exciting – in a good way – grasp on to it and get ready for a wild ride! The first month of my big, shiny, new project I required much more hand holding than I ever ask for, but now I feel more confident moving forward. I’ve unlocked a new dimension of my career and I am so glad I said “Yes.”

Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be freelancers, tech companies and small business owners. She is also a blogger for Groupon and Web.com. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.


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