A recent client is a young graduate from a small, Midwestern college trying to figure out his future. He comes dressed in a well-fitting suit and displays impeccable manners, and his natural personality is charmingly introspective. However, he is clearly hesitant to want anything. The “shoulds” of his career are outweighing the “coulds” of life. So I tell him my office is a safe space for him to explore possibilities.
“You’re 26,” I tell him. “It’s dream time. You may never get this chance again in your life, so tell me what you want.” After a long hesitation, it is clear he knows what he wants, but is afraid to verbalize it.
The fear of the seemingly impossible is severe, which is common across many age groups. Finally, within the prolonged silence, I inquire what he would regret later in life if he hasn’t completed it earlier. This releases the abhorrent ghost and elicits a response. Simply put, the fear of failure has been one-upped by the fear of regret later.
He admits he wants to work in the film and television industry, with a look of resignation that it is likely to never happen.
“Has anyone told you that you can’t?” I ask.
“No,” he replies, mentioning a supportive family, including a relative working in Los Angeles.
“So maybe we need to get you into a graduate program in LA,” I suggest. “That’s where the action is, if you’re up for it.”
Perking up, he asks whether I think he really could. I am honest.
“Maybe,” I say. “Depends on your commitment. It’s a tough business. People will be mean, and you’ll need the proverbial ‘nerves of steel.’ But at the same time, they are going to hire someone; why shouldn’t it be you?”
I inquire whether he has a script or a tape ready to present to graduate programs, and he says he does. I request his research on graduate school programs for another meeting at a later date.
“OK,” he says with enthusiasm, “I can do that.”
I’ll be watching my email closely for a demo or script and the research he brings, or doesn’t. I am hopeful for both. Employment in what he wants to do is a long shot we both acknowledge.
Fear is a disabling power, but power, nonetheless, that can be redirected to possibly crack open a door. Fear, accepted, can become permanently debilitating in any business.
Without taking the chance, one never knows.