Catherine M. Merritt

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Why You Should Chase What Scares You.

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“There’s a difference between scary and dangerous. There are things in life that are scary, but not dangerous, but we’re scared of them. And then there are things that are dangerous, but not scary. And those are the real problem. Those are the issue.”

I remember when I heard Jim Koch say this on the “How I Built This” podcast and it was like the skies parted and the brightest, most brilliant lightbulb switched on in my mind. Everything made sense and I knew that I had to make some career changes.

Think about it. If something scares you, it doesn't mean it's dangerous. It's okay to be afraid but we have to realize that being afraid doesn't lend validity to the actual dangers. And on the same side, don't be fooled that if something is not scary it is not dangerous. It can be quite the contrary.

Let me explain...

A year ago, I was a senior vice president at one of the largest global marketing and PR agencies. I had reached a level I worked my entire career to reach but once I got there, I was not where I wanted to be. In fact, I was far from it. I no longer did the work I loved: problem solving, strategic solutions, getting into the guts of my clients’ business and finding unique ways to help them grow. I was happy- I loved the people I worked with, it felt like a safe place and I knew if I stayed I’d continue to be successful, but I realized hearing his words that my complacency was dangerous.

I realized if I didn’t muster the courage to take a risk and make a change (which was a scary thought!), I would blink, 20 years would pass and I would have missed out on so many things; all the opportunities I would have missed, the successes I’d never realize because I was perfectly comfortable, or unafraid. If I had stayed, that would have been dangerous.

So, if I realized that my lack of fear was a potentially dangerous road, then I had to think about what it was I wanted to do. That was easy- I wanted to do was start a consulting practice where I could get back to doing what I loved. Mr. Koch’s words clarified to me the importance of taking the risk and it helped motivate me to chase the dream.

Last December I launched Merritt Group Consulting. It was, it still is scary. But I have come to realize my fear didn't mean it was dangerous. The scary parts are the “what ifs” that keep me up at night, but so far, I’ve found that I can mute those “what ifs” by busting my butt to ensure that I’m still growing a career that I love and for myself. The scary part is what fuels me and keeps me going.

My career's future is a canvas with the beginning of what I hope will become a thriving, colorful, complex painting some day. While I forage ahead with the path I pave, I’m always assessing and thinking about whether or not I’m taking the right risks, leaps and ensuring I keep leaning into what may be scary because I know, it doesn’t always mean it’s dangerous.  

Catherine MerrittComment