Drive very far and you'll eventually see someone holding a sign. $5 pizzas. Tax return preparation. Grand openings. Grand closings.
It's easy to tell when these folks are less than thrilled by their role.
I -- and this is not a good thing -- wouldn't be, either. I've driven by and thought, "I could never do that." Not because I feel any kind of work is beneath me; after all, I'm the kind of guy willing to spend a week digging into a dune to build a deck.
Instead, because I'm too self-conscious: I wouldn't want people to see me standing on the side of a road holding a sign. I lack the confidence. The self-assurance.
In short, I lack the courage.
Hear the word "courage" and you probably think of physical bravery, but there are many other forms of bravery, since bravery is not an absence of fear but a triumph over fear.
That's why bravery is a key element of success in business and entrepreneurship. Taking a chance when others will not. Following your vision no matter where it takes you. Standing up for what you believe in, especially when your beliefs are unpopular. Doing the right thing, even though easier options exist.
Those are all forms of bravery.
As Ryan writes:
There is no change, no attempt, no reach that does not look strange to someone. There's almost no accomplishment that is possible without calling some attention on yourself. To gamble on yourself is to risk failure.
To do it in public is to risk humiliation.
(Yet) we don't get to succeed privately.
That's why, occasionally, some people holding signs clearly see their job differently. They don't sit. They move around. Depending on traffic flow, they spin the sign to maximize the number of people able to view it at any given moment. They draw the maximum amount of attention top themselves, however briefly.
Which of course is the point of the job.
And in the process, they create their own sense of dignity and pride. Work, any work, is honorable. A person holding a sign -- just like a doctor or lawyer or CEO or pick your lofty profession -- is willing to do whatever it takes to make a living and feed a family.
It's easy to be a supervisor or manager or startup founder, at least where self-esteem is concerned. The job may be difficult, but the title is respected. In terms of public perception, it's a lot harder to be the person standing on the side of the road holding a sign.
One day, I was riding my bike and stopped for a light at an intersection. I asked the young man stationed there how it was going.
"Not bad," he said. "Unless it rains."
I smiled. He kept going. "I've done worse," he said. "It only sucks when I forget to bring my lunch or when people holler as they drive by. 'Get a real job' is pretty popular."
He thought for a second. "I wish I could tell them this is a real job. It may not be a great job, but it's a job, and right now it's the best job I can get."
Sometimes the "worst" job isn't the most difficult or physically challenging. Sometimes the worst job is the job that is inherently dehumanizing, like standing in for a signpost.
Yet those can be the jobs that require the most courage.
As Ryan writes:
When we flee in the direction of comfort, of raising no eyebrows, of standing in the back of the room instead of the front, what we are fleeing is opportunity. When we defer to fear, when we let it decide what we will and won't do, we miss so much. Not just success, but actualization.
Who might we be if we didn't care about blushing? What could we accomplish if we didn't mind the spotlight? If we were tough enough to put on the tights? If we were willing not only to fail but to do so in front of others?
Because life happens in public. And success definitely happens in public.
Whenever you try something new, whenever you try something other people are afraid to try, they'll talk about you. The only way to keep other people from criticizing or judging you is to do only what other people do.
But that means you'll be only as successful as they are. And only as happy as they are.
Instead of worrying about what people say about you, be glad they're talking about you.
Because that means you're on the right track.