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You Can Handle Much More Than You Think
Big changes take time
A few years ago, I got a call from a mortgage lender.
They wanted to confirm that a customer of theirs was an employee of mine, that the employee was currently employed, and that they were indeed earning the salary they said they were.
I confirmed and gave them the information they needed, then hung up and went back to work.
A few minutes later, it hit me. Someone’s house now depended on me not screwing up.
I had gotten used to knowing that if I didn’t focus, I might not be able to afford food. I didn’t worry about transportation or rent or little trips and luxuries anymore. And I’d gotten used to other employees relying on me to keep my act together.
But something about this was different. He was married, and they were planning to have kids together soon, so now this whole family was at least partially relying on me not failing to keep this business going and growing.
It really, really stressed me out. For a few hours. Then I started to get used to it. And eventually, I felt completely normal going to bed and waking up every day with employees who had mortgages.
But if you had gone back to me in college, writing a couple of articles per week, trying to figure this blogging thing out, and said, “Hey Nat, starting tomorrow, twenty people’s livelihoods will depend on you continuing to write good articles each week,” I would have freaked the fuck out. That is a terrifying change to be confronted with.
And in some ways, that terror is justified. I wouldn’t have had time to adjust to that reality, so imagining stepping into it is terrifying. But actually living that reality wasn’t scary at all.
Every parent has had another version of this experience. On the first day with your first newborn, you are terrified of dropping them, of holding them wrong, of them stopping breathing, everything. Then you get used to it. And after a day or week or year, depending on who you are, you just aren’t that worried anymore. Then the second comes along, and you might never feel that fear at all.
Five years ago, I would have looked at someone with two kids under two and thought, “Wow, that looks so insanely stressful, so hard. How do they do that?” And now I have two kids under two, and sure, it is stressful and hard, but it’s also normal now. You get used to it. And just like you rarely go from aspiring entrepreneur to having twenty employees with mortgages overnight, you rarely go from thinking about having kids to having two overnight. Big changes take time. And during that time, you adjust.
I say all this because I think some people shy away from going after big goals or life changes because they see people who are in those states and get scared. They see the family with four kids on vacation, and they think, “Oh my god having four kids looks so hard,” but they don’t consider how that family had at least four and probably more like ten years to get used to the four kid life.
Or they look at someone with a million YouTube subscribers, and they get freaked out by imagining that many people watching their videos without considering how that influencer probably had years to get used to people seeing them talk into the camera.
You’ve probably heard the “hedonic adaptation” version of this, where you quickly get used to having a fancy car or nice clothes, and they stop making you feel good anymore. But it also works for things that seem hard or stressful. You get used to worrying about your kids, or needing to run payroll, or getting a few emails each week from people who think you’re an idiot who can’t write. And you get used to it shockingly quickly.
I occasionally have to remind myself of how strange this online writing world is. Nearly a million people saw some form of my article on Monday, between Twitter, Instagram, and this Blog. But, well, I didn’t really feel anything. I just had a normal work week, and I occasionally thought, “Oh, that’s cool.” But I suspect if you told me ten years ago, “Hey, a million people are going to read the next thing you write,” I might never have written anything ever again.
Don’t avoid going after big goals because the life that comes with it scares you.
Start the business. Publish the articles. Have the kids. Yes, it will be hard, stressful, and a big adjustment, and you can’t imagine what life will look like once you have all those new obligations and worries and fears on you. But you’ll get used to them.
You can handle much more than you think.
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