Do What Scares You

Fall of 2007: I was on the phone in the parking lot of Yahoo!’s San Francisco incubator, Brickhouse. My job was fantastic. We had an incredible office, incredible location, great people, extremely flexible hours, the flexibility to work on what projects we wanted to, and the healthy pay that came with being a part of Yahoo!. On the phone with me was my younger brother, Jamie, who had started his own game company up in Vancouver. We were discussing whether I should take an offer to join a startup as an early, pre-Series A employee. A lot of pros and cons were thrown around: the commute, the risk, the industry, the economy, etc. Then he asked me,

Which job would you learn more from?

And it became immediately clear which choice was the right one. While Brickhouse was enjoyable and fulfilling, I knew that I was not learning much with each subsequent project. The growth was incremental.

In the past few years, I’ve been approached more for career advice. The problem with career advice is that everyone’s goals, personalities, risk profiles, and priorities are very different. But assuming you’re looking to build a career which involves professional growth (as opposed to having it only as a means to an end), then my one piece of advice is always the same:

Do what scares you

Some might call it “getting out of the comfort zone” but I feel the term is almost a euphemism. It doesn’t convey the base emotion you should feel. You’re scared because you care a lot about the consequences. And if you care, it’s probably the right thing to be doing. When you think about the next thing you’re going to work on, you should feel that nervous, excited energy you get when you know you’re about to do something crazy, and you might royally fuck it up, but if you put everything into it, you might just come out with something amazing and even if you don’t, you know you’ll have learned more everyday than you did in the last year.

Take that leap.

Categorized: Work

Tagged:

2 Comments

  1. Amitava · 1 Dec 11

    Be an iconoclast!

  2. Sally Carson · 2 Dec 11

    Thanks for this Kevin. It’s a reminder I need from time to time. Going into business for myself scared the crap out of me 3 years ago. Teaching for the first time scared the crap out of me 1.5 years ago. Maybe I’m due for the next thing that scares me.