As I turned the corner North around City Park’s East edge, an orange glow glistened across the pale blue mountains. Oh this urban skyline that no other city in the world can compete with.
I thought, “This city… this great place I live. I want to do more. I want to leave it better than I found it.”
But what does that mean?
“Maybe I could be Mayor one day…”
And for a moment I imagined: crisp suit, ribbon cutting, speaking from a podium. Mayor Brent Weaver?
Not a bad ring.
Then it happened.
It’s happened to all of us. We think, we dream, we imagine. And then we get assaulted by the I can’ts. We get so paralyzed by fear that the only thing left for us to do is cradle ourselves among this cancerous garbage. To lie coiled in the fetal position wondering when the next episode of Dancing with the Stars begins.
My mind raced to the darkness I keep deep within…
“I’m not good enough.”
“I don’t have enough connections.”
“I’m not rich enough.”
“I have not succeeded yet.”
“I carry too much baggage.”
Oh that baggage. Damn that.
I never stood a chance. The human condition we all suffer from: fear, anxiety, uncertainty, hesitation, and apprehension.
An idea, once beautiful and freeing, now suffocates under the immeasurable force of eons of evolution. My lizard brain was winning.
I was losing. We lose.
But why? Why is it that when we have ideas or dreams that so often we squash them without ever dipping our toe into the river of opportunity.
I understand why fear is necessary (and I appreciate it for this). If I am walking down the street and all of a sudden a bear is before me, I need to feel a rush of grave necessity. I need to run. Or hide. Maybe fight.
However, most of us (including myself) get paralyzed by fear in situations free of any real danger. When I thought of wanting to be the Mayor of Denver, it was this emotional violence that gripped my vision and turned it into silly nonsense before I could even take a single baby step.
The irrational fear of ideas that pose no physical danger.
My inner goblin:
“You don’t know enough.”
“You will be ripped apart by the media.”
“You will lose.”
When and where was I programmed so insistently that fear of failure is worth not trying? I wish I could blame my upbringing or school or the media. I wish I could blame my ancestors or my DNA. But I’m not going to.
I’m going to blame me. I take responsibility. It is me. I fear failure. I let it drive. I allow these thoughts to parade on my consciousness.
The answer is “no” one hundred percent of the time we do not ask try.
I can wake up from this drivel. I must exercise my own free will. We have a choice.
Succumb to the fear? Live paralyzed by inaction?
Time to show up.
The First Step
As I walked back to my house, pondering this new vision, I contemplated what it would take. I wondered:
“How did Denver Mayor Michael Hancock overcome this fear?”
“Did he even have the fear?”
“What did he do to overcome this toxic waste to achieve his dream?”
I decided to reach out and see if he could shed some light on the subject.
Reflecting on my conversation with Mayor Hancock, my big takeaways:
1) Get close to the person living your vision today.
For Mayor Michael Hancock, that was Denver legend Mayor Federico Peña. When I think about this, it occurs to me that this advice goes way beyond that of politics. If you want to be a professional athlete, get close to pros. If you want to be an entrepreneur, find them and grab coffee. If you want to be a rockstar, get backstage.
2) Build up a cohort of supporters.
The Mayor spent nine months canvasing friends, family, and community members and leaders. This journey was not an impulse. For him, this was a lifelong quest. A vision that caught his eye early in his career. He asked people, “Can I count on you?” This almost reminds me of my investment raise for uGurus back in 2012. Reflecting, I had been building a network of entrepreneurial supporters starting as early as 2000. Talking about what you have done and want to do to people that you respect, trust, and love creates powerful momentum. I imagine that it was this force that helped the Mayor push past any feelings of doubt during his race.
3) Use “no” as a gateway to find deeper truth.
I was a bit surprised to hear Mayor Hancock admitted that he almost preferred to hear “no” when questioning supporters. Think about this insight in our own lives. So often that word stops us in our tracks. We have an idea, a vision, or a goal, and we confide this delicate scheme to our inner circle and hear rejection: “that’s already been done,” “you don’t know anything about that,” or “don’t quit your day job.” But for Hancock, this was the doorway. He said, “Why not? No, tell me really why you think that. Let’s get into it!” This one is going to stick with me. When I hear “no,” I will question. I will probe. I will overcome.
4) Connect the dots of your past to find your inner strength.
The gravity of Mayor Hancock telling me that he was homeless when he was a kid didn’t sink in until long after I left his office. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to live through that hardship, let alone confess it to the entire city of Denver. But that’s the funny thing about shame. Or vulnerability for that matter. Often it’s these dark secrets that we’ve buried that become the heart of our strength. I think the harder, more glaring the adversity, the better the origin story. These stories become the magnetic force that pull people in. That give the Denver Mayor a hint of being just like us.
5) Accept that you are likely to fail to disarm fear.
Mayor Hancock said that he wasn’t ready to run until he came to grips with losing. That tells me that he took a swing for the love of the game, not the end result. Perhaps that is the biggest secret to his level of success: to not obsess about winning, but to accept that you might lose, and still give it your all. Maybe it’s only when we let go, will the fear wash through us instead of holding us captive.
Can I Really?
At the end of my interview with Mayor Hancock, he told me with confidence, “Anybody can be Mayor of this city.” I will take that to heart.
For now I am focused on my entrepreneurial journey. But as I pass two critical reflection points in the near future, my 35th birthday in three years, and then my 40th, I will certainly consider politics.
At least now I have tips from the man himself. After all, I have accomplished at least a bit of #1 from above: I was able to get up close and personal with the exact person living my vision today.
If I am to leave you with just one piece of advice, it would be to go talk to that person doing exactly what you want to do. Don’t let fear get in the way. I promise they will share insights well worth the effort.
Hit me up on Twitter (@brentweaver) to continue the conversation. What’s that big hairy, audacious goal that you imagined for even a moment? What is your Mayor of Denver?