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Safety Net or Stepping Stone?

Ben Whiting, May 21, 2018

I spent this past weekend tackling a project I’d been putting off for too long. I finally decided to take the plunge and reorganize/clean my basement. After boxing up winter clothes, I came across it: my old street performing table. 

Half motivated by nostalgia, half motivated by a desire to procrastinate, I went through the props that paid my bills for years back in the day: a magic wand, worn out silver dollars, and 3 beat up copper cups. I found myself simultaneously amazed at how important these items had been to me, and by how much dust they’d accumulated over years of neglect. I loved street performing; I was good enough at it to pay my bills, and I’d developed a solid 5-dollar pitch (the street performer’s secret to rapidly connecting with an audience and persuading them to tip you 5 dollar bills instead of singles). I wondered why I ever stopped doing something I enjoyed so much and was so good at doing. Then, I remembered … the incident. 

I had been working really hard to transition off the sidewalk into the corporate market and was slowly starting to do so. One day I was performing on my usual pitch (the spot on the sidewalk where a busker busks), and had just finished passing my hat for tips when I saw him: a client who had recently hired “Ben, the Corporate Entertainer” for a sales conference. I had charged him a fair corporate price (on par with a keynote speaker), I delivered a solid performance, and in less than 24 hours he saw me on the sidewalk asking for fives. He simply made eye contact with me and then walked away. I felt like a hack, an imposter. And, then a little later, I had a realization. 

I knew if I wanted to continue growing my business as a corporate entertainer, I needed to build credibility in another sphere, and this would require letting go of my past and walking toward my future. 

I packed up my props and didn’t touch them again until this past weekend. It was a hard decision, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. 

We have to remember, when climbing a ladder, we can only go up if we take our feet OFF rungs and leave them behind. More often than not they’re rungs on which we’re really comfortable, maybe even confident, but the reality is they’re holding us back from the heights we can achieve if we just let them go and keep climbing. 

True leaders are constantly growing and developing. They know progress in life means usually walking through a door of uncertainty. They also know that, if you persistently work toward self-improvement, the rewards far outweigh the risks. 

This week, ask yourself: What are the comfortable rungs in your life? Are there things you’re really good at that you’re using as a safety net instead of a stepping stone? I challenge you to face the uncertainty of self-improvement head on and dare to see how high you can climb.


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