I have been sharing that success is not a destination but rather it is found in our journey – and that journey can sometimes looks like failure. That journey can also look like fear.
I have loved sharing with the Aspiring Superintendent Academy at TASA Midwinter for the past several years and this is the slide I start with every year. A confession slide if you will… If we’re going to be honest, these were the thoughts that kept me awake at night as I contemplated a move into the superintendency.
- I didn’t think I could do the job. This was not an inappropriate fear mind you. You can take all of the graduate classes you want but nothing really prepares you for the superintendency like becoming a superintendent.
- I didn’t want to move away from Austin. We had lived there for 16 years and we didn’t want to leave our friends, family and church home. I was worried whether our family could be happy anywhere else.
- I was worried about whether I would like the job. I knew enough to know that the work was hard. But I also knew enough to know that the work could be ugly. I tell people all the time that I love my job 95% of the time. That sounds great (and is great!) but what folks don’t always know is how bad the 5% can be. I was worried that the 5% would overshadow the 95%.
- I was worried that I couldn’t balance being a mom and a superintendent. My kids were 3 and 7 when I took the position and I was fearful about disappointing them, or disappointing my district, or disappointing them both.
All of those thoughts were fear.
As I have been thinking deeply about failure and fear these past few months, I’ve realized there is a major difference between them. Failure is hard, but it happens. Like it literally happens. And then it is over. And yes, you may face consequences. But you learn; you grow; you reflect; and you become better. It is an event. It might be a private event; it might be a public event; but it is an event. Fear though… Fear is constant. It is that ever-present “what if”. What if the worst possible outcome comes to fruition? What if I don’t meet expectations? What if I am not successful?
Fear is debilitating. It is crippling. And it can paralyze us in our work. You might be looking for the “unsubscribe” button now, thinking “this is the most depressing blog ever… Where are we going with this?” Where we’re going is this – If there is one quote that I could recite over and over again, it would be this…
When I’m in that place of fear, the question I ask myself is simple: Am I being called? Am I being called to move through this situation? Am I being called to lead through this situation? Am I being called to act in this situation? And if the answer is yes – then we act – even in the midst of fear.
Even now, as a superintendent for 7 years, I still battle with fear. I battle with worries that I’m not doing enough for (fill in the blank) – my district, my family, myself – the list goes on… I struggle with fear and anxiety around public speaking – which by the way, is kind of what I do for a living.
And to be real honest, the same fears that I battled with 7 years ago as I contemplated the next steps in my professional journey, I battle with now as I contemplate what’s to come in my professional career. I have so many thoughts in my head of what I want to do and how I want to be (and thankfully none of those involve leaving GISD) but sometimes I can get paralyzed in the grips of fear. But what I do know is this… that when we are bold; when we choose action in the midst of fear; when we LEAD ANYWAYS – that courage is the birth of greatness. Fear can propel us to success!