“Get runs on the board,” Roydon told me when I asked for advice on starting my facilitation and coaching business. “Don’t worry too much about the money, but don’t do it for free. Exposure gives you hypothermia.”
He made an interesting point. I have been seeking lots of advice about how to attract clients and grow a service based business and much of it starts with giving value no-strings-attached for free. I still like that model, but Roydon did make me think.
Roydon was talking about exposure to the elements; being raw, vulnerable – just you against the world. This sort of exposure could give you hypothermia. It makes sense that you need some cushioning, some clothing, protective gear and a sheltered base to stand on. But that means survival, not thriving. And I guess it depends on the climate.
In skiing, exposure means that there are rocks and cliffs below you – it ups the stakes, increases the risk. Traversing or skiing above ‘exposure’ is called a no-fall zone. In professional skiing competitions, it is necessary to be navigating large exposure in order to stand out and be the best but not to the point that the judges are worried for you. If you cross the line from impressive but in control to flat out dangerous, you lose points. I like this view of exposure.
In order to handle that kind of risk, you have to invest in your skill, build your confidence and your tribe.
You ski mellow terrain at first, no exposure – the super fall zone. As you develop through practice and lessons, you start to venture off the piste, making your own path. At this point, you’re likely a very good skier, but not world class.
If you put yourself in positions of exposure too soon, it freaks people out and you risk seriously hurting yourself. It’s irresponsible, turns people off and sets you up to fail.
The first time you try it, you’re likely to go there with someone who has been there before. A more experienced member of your tribe. They show you the way, point out rocks and obstacles, encourage you in your ability. They’re not taking you there to pick up the pieces, they’re taking you there to help you into that next level of bravery. After a few times of this, they might get you to lead.
Eventually, you build up to courage and confidence to go there with someone new, you lead them or you feel secure to go there alone once you’ve notified the patrol team of your where abouts. You’re always safe – even if you’re exposed.
How does this apply to business?
We need to take calculated risks. We need to put ourselves out there but it does’t have to be a world stage all at once.
Say you want to become a motivational speaker.
You picture ourselves on the TedX stage, giving our speech with hundreds of people present and hundreds of thousands watching online. This sort of exposure would definitely be a high-level risk for an inexperienced speaker. They could stumble over their message.
How could they invest in their craft and build to new levels of bravery instead?
They could start in a wee ToastMaster club, maybe hold small workshops or lead their team meeting at work. As they develop their message with feedback from these small subsets, their audience will grow. Soon, they might have an online space with a collection of 50 followers, then 100 followers, then 1000 followers. They’re building up to that massive exposure. First with a few little rocks, a tricky traverse.
Some of us will never huck that massive cliff, or ski on the world stage. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be instrumental in helping to build other’s confidence and ability in the meantime. There’s a lot of ground between beginner and master. It’s ok for the student to surpass the teacher. This is not about ego, it’s about investing in yourself that you may give to others. It’s about mentoring and being mentored. It’s about seeing the value in your medium-advanced level of skill and building on that.
It’s about being open to guidance and receiving from those more able that you. Becoming is better than being.
How can you invest in your next stage of development? Who can you help with what you already know?
Be Brave and Curious,