The “we’ve never done this before” jitters

I received an automated text message from one of my sunshiny mobile apps this week. It sends me a nice note each morning with a pithy thought to explore. This week, it was asking whether I’d ever had the “I’ve never done this before” jitters.

Are you kidding? I thought. I invented them.

The article it linked to went on to wax poetic about how even Olympic athletes had a moment, long ago, when they strapped on their skis or picked up their curling broom for the first time. You there, reader, (you could almost hear the patriotic background music soaring) what would’ve happened if they had stopped in fear of something new and unknown? Wouldn’t that have sucked?

The topical framework aside, I think most of us who are feeling fear about something new and unknown are fully aware that it is best to push through. I did push through with my book Storytelling for Small Business, which is just sliding down the luge track to you this month (sorry, couldn’t resist).

But it almost didn’t. It’s that pesty marketing thing again.

You’ve heard that expression, “the closer you get to the gates, the louder the lions roar?” With every step I took, taking me closer and closer to the transition point from creator to marketer, it sounded like Wild Kingdom in my head.

Especially for introverts, the sudden shift from our carefully-managed safe social spaces into something so public and exposed can be rough. The writing life suits me; I can control the degree of isolation I need, step out and gather new material, squeeze in a coffee date with a friend and try not to bore them stupid, and so forth. Ten rounds of edits. Sketching endless covers. All good. But after you push the book out of the nest? That’s the part that I find the hardest: Getting the word out that it exists, and encouraging people to buy it.

I was ready to walk away from that rather than face the “I’ve never done this and it’s too scary” jitters. I filed the book’s MS Word file, stopped talking about it, stopped thinking about it for days (weeks perhaps). I read other peoples’ stuff instead. Theirs is better anyway, my inner critic’s voice said. No, it’s not, said another voice, right before smacking my critic on the back of the head.

Fast forward a bit. I was searching for some facts for an article I was writing, and stumbled over Lynn Serafinn’s blog post, Do We REALLY Still Need to Talk About Ethical Marketing?, which explains why the world needs more small, ethical businesses:

If we really want to change the world, we also need to create an environment where we are generating greater numbers of ethical, small-business owners. Unfortunately, value-driven business owners – especially those just starting out – can often feel isolated in a world of aggressive marketing hype. They can fall into the trap of believing that, if they are to succeed, they need to promote themselves in the same fashion as all those ‘old school’ marketers who came before them. They know this feels wrong to them, but they don’t know what else they’re supposed to do, as they don’t have any kind of alternative model to follow.

Lynn’s conclusion was that, yes, we still need to talk about ethical marketing because so many still feel their only option is the opposite of it.

And the more of us—you, me, and all the heart-centered businesses out there— that know there are alternatives, the more we can contribute to a world that can push back against the social trends that threaten to homogenize and dehumanize us.

Most of my clients are out there, across the U.S. and across the world, having their own “I’ve never done this before” jitters every single day. They’re self-employed or running their own businesses with the intent of changing something for the better. If I could wave a wand and populate the world with compassionate entrepreneurs, I wouldn’t hesitate—they are going to save the world, in my opinion. But they are stuck when it comes to trying to figure out how to sell…without selling.

It was a “close the laptop moment.” Drumming my fingers on the lid.

Sitting and staring out the window.

Sipping the last of the cold coffee in my mug. Petting the dog absently. Breathing.

. . .

Opening the laptop.

Finding the MS Word file.

Starting to write again.

It might not be the same as lacing up skates for the first time, but because I know in the months ahead this writer will be slipping and sliding, falling down and getting up again, I’ll choose to feel a little bit of kinship.

Are you having the “I’ve never done this before” jitters?

Can I help?  You know where to find me.

Cover - Storytelling for Small BusinessMy book, Storytelling for Small Business: Creating and Growing an Authentic Business Through the Power of Story, survived the jitters and is now available in several formats. You can find links to all versions on my book page, and also find the Kindle and paperback versions on