Episode 32 What’s the Worst Thing?

March 15, 2023

I received a call the other night from a good friend of mine who was in New York City for a conference. She asked me if she could grab my ear for a minute and told me about something that was worrying her at work. She works in public affairs for a European company and represents the company in Washington and in the press. She speaks at industry conferences. She was telling me that they were facing a new situation and that she had written an article that was about to be released. She was feeling super vulnerable as she didn’t feel that she had her company’s backing.  She went on to tell me that she had sent it over to her boss and to the powers that be in Europe that it had been approved. She said, I should have gone back and nudged them to make sure they had paid proper attention, because now I feel like they’re not standing behind me and I’m feeling very vulnerable.

Now, this is a person who’s very savvy. She’s a former journalist with top newspapers, so she’s accustomed to thinking of things from different angles. I could sense the alarm coming through her voice, but I don’t know the ins and outs of her industry, and that’s not what this was about. It was about me simply listening.  After expressing my appreciation for her concerns to let her know I heard her, I said, “let me ask you this. What’s the worst thing that can happen? She said, Wow, that’s a good question. Let me think After a minute of silence, she said well, I guess the worst thing that can happen is that they don’t stand behind me and I must move on and find another job, and I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it.

Somehow the question took the charge out of the situation for her. She was sort of spinning around in her head and caught up in the story that she was exposed, and she was using the word vulnerable and it got her to calm down and to analyze things. It got me thinking about where I got that question and I remembered that it was something my father always said. He would literally make me sit down and tell him what’s the worst thing that could happen when I was growing up and I had whatever childhood concerns or conundrums or whatever. I remember using it when I moved to the United States.  After over 20 years in Europe, moving to the States was a big scary thing to me. It’s funny now because it seems so obvious, but at the time. I’ve now been here 18 years.

At the time, I had never lived as an adult in the United States. I went off to Europe right after college, so I had no bank account, no driver’s license. I couldn’t get a credit card. It was hard to rent an apartment, and I remember applying that question, what’s the worst thing that could happen? It gave me a lot of courage because I reframed the story I was telling myself. It wasn’t scary. I reframed it as an adventure. And the worst thing that could happen was that I would move back to Italy, and that didn’t seem so bad. Right? Then I started thinking, well, it would be great because then I’d really know that I don’t want to live in New York, or I don’t want to live in the United States. I started thinking of it differently and how much I could learn by having the experience.  So, I shifted from being fearful to being more curious and invigorated by the prospect of moving. And of course, here I am 18 years later.

So that’s a great question. What’s the worst thing that can happen? It gave me a lot of courage. It gave me a new perspective as I unpacked a major life move.

So let me bring that back to you. Where in your life might you be sitting on the fence, focusing on the risk or the fear where that question what’s the worst thing that can happen might help you unpack something you’re considering? It could be leaving a relationship, getting a new job, moving to another city, making a career change. I remember when I left Scout Talent, I did the same thing. What’s the worst thing that can happen? The worst thing that could happen in that case was that I had to go back and be a headhunter again, and that didn’t seem so bad. It really helped me find the courage to walk away from my business in a moment in my life when I needed to make a big move.

That’s my fodder for today. Until next time, from my heart to yours

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dear Listeners,

Friends say I live my life out loud. That’s because I’m a curious, adventurous person and, as an appreciator, I simply love to share what lights me up. Consider this is your invitation into my fun, multi-faceted world.

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