How much time do you waste worrying about nothing?

Maybe I am different, maybe it’s just the way my mind works or maybe everyone is like me but they manage to hide it better. In my career as a Regional Creative Director and other management positions much of my time has been spent helping individuals through the process of their daily challenges with a particular project or task. Often the work related issues we started with seemed to always drift away from the project and I found myself delving into the minds of people, with the strange feeling of my role becoming one of a psychiatrist.

A lack of confidence, problems not even related to the job at hand like bills to pay or trouble at home or even insecurities from people that exuded self-confidence on the outside, but seemed to be an outer shell as fragile as an egg. I always enjoyed encouraging, helping or offering advice but one of the topics I have heard myself say more than most others is ‘what is the point of worrying about it now?’

Every time I said this statement I could almost hear the person inside me screaming, ‘If only you would listen to yourself!’ because I have and still do spend a lot of time worrying about the next presentation, the next bill, the thought there will be a crowd at the restaurant, museum or bar we are visiting. In fact my mind seems to go into overdrive about everything regardless of the size of the task that lies ahead of me.

I know I overthink pretty much everything; this is just the person I am, and that is half the battle. I over analyse every conversation and can spend days after a discussion that I have had with one person, going over every word and trying to understand if there were more meaning that I had misinterpreted or there was a hidden message in what that person said. Don’t get me started about the complexity of thoughts that happen when reviewing emails! Emails are so often misunderstood due to the lack of awareness you have about the tone of the individual writing and also the current mood you are in when receiving the email.

I know I am not alone in this, as I have seen this so often throughout my career with people who were incredibly talented and seemed to be in total control. But how many times have you spent worrying about a presentation, meeting, task, project or whatever only to get to the point of it happening and it not being such a big deal? The amount of stress and worry that we put ourselves under is amazing and clearly not healthy.

The only way I have found to deal with worrying about every little detail is to push myself into more challenging positions well as adding as much work to my schedule as I can possibly handle, so my mind stays focused on the next task at hand and doesn’t go walk about in Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole of nightmarish thoughts about what could go wrong!

I know how destructive this can be as well as how this manifests into all areas of my life. Worrying about something doesn’t make it easier and certainly doesn’t help you think clearly about what lies ahead of you, it really is just a waste of time. I’ll try to keep that in mind!

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Always do the things you are afraid to do

When I first started work I was extremely shy and the thought of speaking in front of people scared the living daylights out of me. When I was forced to present a few times I turned into a sweaty mess. In fact one time I got so nervous that I ended up having a coughing fit in the middle of a presentation forcing the client to leave the room in order to get me a glass of water. Once I had stopped coughing and choking all over the client I stood red-faced, sweat coming through not only my shirt but also my suit jacket! I could see my boss and colleagues sat wide-eyed wondering if I was going to keel over or finish the presentation.

I looked at the client and just said, ‘See, you have to hire us because we are even prepared to die to get your business!’ The client laughed, nervously, and we eventually won the business.

The only thing I could do at that stage was make a joke out of this surreal experience. But this taught me very quickly that if I can recover from what I was always in fear of experiencing, why did I get myself into this mess?

The truth is presenting to a client can be intimidating and sometimes the stakes are high if you do not win the business. I have gone to presentations knowing if we don’t win the business people in the agency will lose their jobs, that’s pressure! But I pushed myself to present at every opportunity because I knew it was a challenge that I had to get over, not because I enjoy talking in front of people but because it was a fear entrenched in my psyche that stemmed from being afraid of making a mistake.

I have had bad presentations since then, not quite like the first one but they didn’t go well. But the more I did it the more I realised there was nothing to be afraid of. In fact I have gone on to present at conferences around the world with thousands of people and I really do enjoy it. I found a passion that allows me to reach and connect with people all over the world, exchanging ideas, helping people with things I have learned or am passionate about.

I found joy in something because I did something that terrified me and I didn’t allow it to beat me. I faced my fear and it was not that I overcame anything, in truth there was nothing to be afraid of in the first place other than what I had built up in my head. Fear can be paralysing and I am not saying it is easy, it’s not. But I guarantee if I can do it, anyone can.

A positive change in my career

Well I am officially moving into my new position as we speak. I am moving from my head creative role in Y&R (Young and Rubicam) in Abu Dhabi into another WPP company, and I have to say I am very happy today! The company will be called Intermarkets|VML and I am going to be the Regional Creative Director & Digital Strategic Director for the Middle East. It’s quite a mouthful really. Intermarkets is one of the oldest advertising groups in the Middle East and VML is one of the leading global online marketing companies of which I will be liaising between the Global team and the Middle East.

I also am very excited about something else I am working on which, if, no when, it works will be a dream come true so I will be announcing that here first in about 1 months time. I have had many lows in my career and I dare say it will not always be smooth sailing in the future,but just for today, well, while I drink my coffee I will enjoy this moment 🙂 Have a creative day!