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Taking risks

by Douglas Eby

"Courage means feeling the fear and doing it anyway."

One of the major themes that keeps showing up in material about personal development and increasing creativity is the idea of risk-taking. The possible consequences are what may hold us back: whether it's the frowns of that teacher when you colored outside the lines, or the more extreme disapproval that Drew Barrymore [above] refers to in a quote: "Originality is believing in your individuality, believing in yourself, and being willing to take risks, even though people might think you're weird for doing it."

Before she started Girl Press, Pam Nelson was a research analyst for Merrill Lynch, following metals and mining stocks. But it was not an arena that allowed full enough expression of her creative impulses, so she moved to Los Angeles to work for a small business publisher as a financial expert, and "fell in love with the publishing industry" she says. 

"And I realized it was the kind of thing you could do on your own," she adds, "without coming up with a million dollars in seed money. It was just me that founded Girl Press, and it was more of a one-book idea." That first book was "Cool Women: The Thinking Girl's Guide to the Hippest Women in History" - which was adapted for television by Debbie Allen and recently aired on AMC.

The next book - "Girl Boss.." - includes a foreword by actress Gillian Anderson, who wrote: "At school, I would always take on the most challenging projects, sometimes to the degree that I would lose interest before they were completed.... One project I did follow through on and which, consequently, was empowering and inspiring for me was directing a play in high school. .. 

"I directed it, produced it, built the sets, and designed the programs on my father's computer. It was so much fun, and the experience awakened me to the knowledge that I could do anything I set my mind to. I believe this of everyone. I believe from the bottom of my heart that there is nothing we as human beings, and especially we as women, cannot tackle. It is not a matter of being fearless... it's about moving forward regardless of the fear. Courage means feeling the fear and doing it anyway." 

Nelson notes developing the book was a process of personal discovery: "The joke about this book was that all these concepts we were trying to relate to girls are actually things we're still learning ourselves. One of the most important things that we tried to communicate is that girls have to learn to do what they love. That's a cliche they hear all the time, but it's something that so many girls don't understand." 

Nelson says she has not used any particular strategies like journal writing to develop her creative talents, but has found it crucial to trust her own instincts: "That has been the most important lesson I've learned from all of this. Because I'm really doing something that is completely new to me, so I found that I was very uncertain, maybe overly modest in many situations, because I don't have a publishing background. 

"But I knew what I liked, and what people I knew were responding to. And at some point, you have to go with that. That's something we tried to tell girls, too: Just go with your gut. Then if you make mistakes, at least it's your mistake."

Publishing continues to fuel her passions: "Every book is something that I get so excited about, which is absolutely thrilling: to have a job which is something I really love. For the first time. And working with people who I'm really excited to be around, who I like, and who I consider my friends. Which after being on Wall Street, is quite a revelation." 

Thinking about her transition away from that earlier life and career, she says "We all have balances that we have to strike. I didn't have a lot of money; I had to use credit cards to make this happen. But on the other hand, I've built a career path that is a safety net in its own way, because I know that if everything falls apart, I can go back to Wall Street.

But if I have to leave one idea behind in all the speaking engagements I do, it's to take a risk. Every time when women ask me 'How did you do this? What was your first step?' and I look at them and say 'Well, first, I quit my job' -- they look at you like you're crazy! They say, Oh I couldn't do that. But really, you've got to scare yourself, if you're going to make it happen. As someone said to me the other day, If you have something to fall back on, you will. So just take the leap." 

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**books:*
  

Joan Borysenko.  Fire in the Soul : A New Psychology of Spiritual Optimism   "Psychological courage entails a cleansing of the doors of perception, allowing us to see things as they really are rather than through the distorted lens of the past. The more we are cleansed of expectations, the more we see what is and the more we can respond to it creatively." Joan Borysenko

Susan Jeffers. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

Ralph Keyes. The Courage to Write : How Writers Transcend Fear
 [reader:] "This book is like having a kind and sensitive therapist at the writing desk with you. It's clear, to the point and written in a relaxed, conversational style. Keyes defines the complex fears and anxieties that keep writers from facing the challenge of the blank page and offers insight into moving past fear into joyful written expression! I especially liked all the ancedotes he includes about authors like Hemingway, Faulkner, Proust and Fitzgerald. Anyone who agonizes over what he/she writes will appreciate this book."

Stacy Kravetz   Girl Boss: Running the Show like the Big Chicks: Entrepreneurial Skills, Stories, and Encouragement for Modern Girls

Rollo May  The Courage to Create    "Creativity is the process of bringing something new into being...creativity requires passion and commitment. Out of the creative act is born symbols and myths. It brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life. The experience is one of heightened consciousness and ecstasy."  Rollo May

Mindy Morgenstern  The Real Rules for Girls

Pam Nelson  Cool Women: The Thinking Girl's Guide to the Hippest Women in History

Betty A. Walker, Marilyn Mehr   The Courage to Achieve : Why America's Brightest Women Struggle to Fulfill Their Promise   "A study of women, education, and achievement reveals that academically gifted women frequently program themselves for underachievement and offers a positive strategy for fulfilling one's potential."

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   related Talent Development Resources pages:

courage.......fear.........social reactions

achievement / success articles

achievement, growth, prosperity resources

change / coaching / self-help articles

creativity enhancement articles

article topics index

article authors

Creativity & Women columns / interviews

resumé of Douglas Eby

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