On “Your Pain Is Real”

Originally posted on Embracing Ambiguity on 16/08/13.

From Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception:

“Your Pain Is Real.

It’s the pain of possibility, vulnerability, and risk. Once you stop feeling it, you’ve lost your best chance to make a difference.”

This is interestingly timely, considering a topic I was thinking about just the other day — what other “leaders” felt like when in doubt or fear. This is that feeling!


The doubt, fear, or pain is real, and it is unavoidable. It’s a feeling that comes from the challenge of colouring outside of the lines, the discomfort of doing something that doesn’t carry certainty but is loaded with surprise and chance instead.

And as Seth Godin goes on to say, that feeling is part of being alive; it’s core to the process of making something that matters to you and to other people.

To push through that doubt, fear, or pain is still a difficult challenge, though. Don’t understate its ability to confine you — to make you keep your ideas, projects, or abilities to yourself. The feeling is probably one of the most formidable opponents to being true to yourself and your work.

One of the best ways to defeat it is something that is equally difficult to practice, but once you get it into a habit, you never have to go back: keeping a “bias towards action”.

The notion of a bias towards action comes out of design thinking. Remember “move fast and break things?” “Make a dent in the universe?” Yeah. Those things require — and advocate for — a bias towards action.

It means, in moments of uncertainty — the decision between to do it, or not to do it, or to do “a” versus to do “b”, it means just to take action. Stop thinking about the “analysis paralysis” or the doubt, fear, and pain: close your eyes, breathe deep, and take action.

Then, learn from it, and do it again, but differently.

That feeling won’t go away. And it shouldn’t. Remember, it is a feeling you should embrace — because while you feel it, you know you’re doing something that means something to yourself and to others, too. If you stop feeling it, then you should start to worry!

But by practicing a bias towards action, you can become comfortable with that discomfort. Acting within that feeling becomes easier and easier. Just never too easy.

And don’t forget to share what you make, and what you’ve learned.

    Next → The future of work: 4 trends for 2014 ← Previous If you want to do projects that you really love, you have to be aware of how difficult they are to do. For a long time I wasn’t doing certain
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