What would you do if you could do anything?
That’s the question I often ask myself as a way to ignore that pesky little inner critic who is always trying to get in the way and hold things up.
Asking this question has led me in all sorts of directions. By asking, I started my own consulting practice with a trusted friend and colleague. Asking gave me the moxie to put paint on a brush and paint the furniture my family sits on which led to painting real paintings that real people have actually purchased. Asking made it possible to reach out to 100 plus women business partners, some I knew and many I didn’t, to ask if my business partner and I could interview them for our book. Their resounding yesses gave us the oomph we needed to keep on writing and weathering the ups and downs, the almosts and the rejections until, finally, the golden moment came when a publisher said “yes!” – inspiring us to hunker down and get Power through Partnership written so it can be on bookshelves next fall (2014).
By asking myself this question, I’ve stretched and used my voice in ways that quelled that inner critic. And perhaps the bravest thing of all? Four years ago, I asked myself what I’d do if I could do anything and the answer was “sing?! So, I did and, not only that, I wrote about it, too. See below.
This is my birthday present to me – celebrating 43 by doing the bravest thing I’ve done in a long time. See, up until last week (back when I was 42) I was happy to be an in-the-shower singer. I’d been one for 30 + years, magnificently belting out tunes in the privacy of my own space, entertaining myself with a full repertoire of lusty, talky songs requiring great expression and few high notes. My last public performance was in fifth grade, right around the time I overheard my father whisper to my mother, “She doesn’t really think she can sing, does she?” I did. Until then.
But this isn’t a story about a girl who got her confidence squashed by a well intentioned, whispering father. It’s a story about a woman who kept singing by herself in private places until one day when she was asked to sing on a stage in a room full of people and was shocked to find a “yes” coming out of her mouth.
So next Saturday I’ll stand on a stage and sing a parody of “Look at me I’m Sandra Dee, “a song I’ve sung a thousand of times alone and now five thousand times for my daughter, son, husband and anyone else who will listen. The first times I asked for assurance – please tell me I’m ok. And they did. But with every rehearsal, I’ve grown braver. Next Saturday I’ll breathe deep and try to remember to sing slowly, with feeling. The audience, filled with friends and family, may wonder if I really think I can sing. It won’t matter. My knees might quake, my voice quiver, but only for a moment. Because alone or not, it’s the same — I’ll sing with my whole heart, just like a real singer.
Betsy Polk Joseph is a writer, painter, reader, thinker, wonderer, dreamer, talker, planner, mother and sometimes singer. The Mulberry Partners, the consulting practice, she co-founded in 2002 with Maggie Chotas, provides strategic design, facilitation and coaching to community-focused businesses and individuals in North Carolina and beyond. The partnership at the core of Mulberry inspired Betsy and Maggie to co-author Power Through Partnership: How Women Lead Better Together, to be published by Berrett-Koehler, Fall 2014.
https://www.facebook.com/BetsyandMaggie — a facebook page that’s all about women pondering and pursuing business partnerships.