In preparation for my interview with Anese Cavanaugh, I reviewed her website and watched this speech she gave at the Inc. Women’s Summit. Her message resonated with the mission of the Provoking Your Greatness podcast, and I was excited for this interview.

Our forty minutes together felt more like catching up with a good friend than interviewing an expert, author, and successful businesswoman. With that kind of chemistry, I knew we had to work together on a project.

A few weeks after the interview, we jumped on a Skype call to record a conversation about love, vulnerability, and leadership. For nearly an hour, we tossed ideas back and forth, got vulnerable, and shared strategies we use (and teach) for loving your work and your team. While the conversation was valuable and fun, the most valuable part for me came after we shut off the recording.

Just before we hung up, I asked Anese, “If you hear of anyone looking for a speaker, would you put my name in the hat?” As an expert receiving requests to speak, she could suggest me for events requiring more than one speaker.

Within seconds, she pasted a link to a website where a couple dozen business conferences are listed, and suggested I reach out and submit myself as a speaker for the various events. Not realizing why, I felt of twinge of irritation and caught myself thinking, “If I’m a good enough speaker, I shouldn’t need to submit myself—they should come to me.”

I asked, “How did you get the opportunity to speak at the Inc. conference,” fully expecting to hear some form of, “Word of mouth.”

“Some were by referral, but many of them were by submitting myself and putting myself out there to speak at their venues. One venue I submitted to for two years before I got the opportunity,” she said, as if such an activity was normal for talented speakers. “Sometimes when I submitted my name for a conference,” she continued, “I’d get an email encouraging me to keep submitting. Other times—radio silence. So, I kept submitting. ”

“Keep submitting? I don’t want to submit at all, much less keep submitting,” I thought, not understanding why I was irritated.

Before I could figure out what all my agitation was about, Anese added, “And while it seemed like they were ignoring me, or didn’t want me, it turned out they were very good people, and well intended, just busy and sometimes a bit disorganized.”

While I wasn’t aware of it in the moment, those words freed me—to start submitting, keep submitting, and put myself out there in a big way. Until Anese said the words, “they weren’t ignoring me,” I unknowingly believed that any response short of, “We’d love to have you,” meant they thought I wasn’t good enough.

“Misti,” Anese continued, “I had been trying to get the opportunity to publish an article in Inc. for years. At the end of one of my speaking events, an editor from Inc came up to me and asked if I’d like to have my own column with them.”

Deeply inspired by her tenacity, I made a decision in that moment, and have been submitting my name to speak at various events ever since. Recognizing this may take some time, I created a spreadsheet to keep track of my march toward my dreams.

Interestingly, before that conversation with Anese, I believed I was doing everything I could to get opportunities to speak. Now, I’m left wondering if I am unknowingly “playing small” in other areas of my life in order to avoid feelings of rejection.

When you’re open and trusting of all emotions, you’ll see the signs pointing you in the direction you need to go. While we do not typically think of anger, irritation, or frustration this way, they are excellent clues to help us see where we need to pay attention.

What agitates you? The answer may point you to a deeply ingrained behavior that needs to change. Happiness and joy are easier to tap into, while irritation is inherently repulsive. Use frustrating moments to listen to the thoughts you’re thinking, and the beliefs they create. Ask yourself if those thoughts are adding to your courage, or robbing you of the opportunities you crave.

While it’s easy to think in terms of “good/bad or right/wrong,” consider saying to yourself, “Isn’t that interesting?” when you uncover truths about yourself that are uncomfortable. Having a gentle curiosity provides the strongest foundation for growth.

“Your limitations are your invitations.”—Beth House Graham.

Rather than resisting the reality of self-limiting thoughts and beliefs, meet them with an open, curious, mind. From this vantage point, new beliefs can make their way into your consciousness.

Here’s to Your Greatness,

Misti Burmeister

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