New Experiences“Can’t” is the half brother of “I don’t want to.”

This quote goes back to my great grandmother and is a wonderful reminder that sometimes we need to get out of our own way and just try, even if something is difficult or new or intimidating.

After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

You lose, fail, embarrass yourself, experience a setback, or waste your time?  If that’s the worst of it, go ahead and give it a try–you might succeed, but either way, you can be proud of yourself for trying.

Challenging yourself teaches you that sometimes you succeed, and even when you don’t succeed, you learn something about yourself.   You also realize that you can handle disappointment.  These are the building blocks of healthy self esteem.

And don’t forget to fight off the Cognitive Distortions–All-or-Nothing Thinking, Jumping to Conclusions, and Catastrophizing–your efforts don’t have to be perfect and the outcome will probably not be horrific.  Obviously, you want to give careful consideration to challenges that involve significant amounts of money and/or life changes, but that’s not what I’m writing about today–I’m talking about new experiences and opportunities when we tend to think, “Oh, I probably wouldn’t enjoy that/be good at that/it’s a waste of my time/everyone else will be better/ what’s the point, etc.”

I love inspiring stories (who doesn’t?!) so today I will share the story of Fontella Bass.

I think her story illustrates how our efforts can pay off in unexpected ways, and it’s more important to try than to be perfect!

Fontella Bass’s most famous song is Rescue Me–if you’re not familiar with the song, click here.  Ms. Bass’s involvement in recording this song was serendipitous–she was walking to work and stopped in at Chess Recording Studio in Chicago.  Raynard Miner, a songwriter, was there and asked her to help him out with a song.  A few other guys dropped in and they worked out the melody, then Ms. Bass went on to work.  A few days later, the guys told her they were going to record the song so she went back to the studio and they recorded in three takes.  The song hit #1 on the R&B charts in 1965.  All from an impromptu collaboration.

Ms. Bass later married and interrupted her singing career while she raised her children.  She describes being at a low point in her life when, in 1990–25 years after the song was recorded–she heard herself singing in an American Express commercial!  This motivated her to resume her singing career and seek compensation for the use of her voice in the American Express commercial.  She prevailed, receiving what she described as “a significant amount” of money from American Express, and resumed her singing career.

My favorite part of the story?

If you know the song, then you know the part where she’s singing “Mmmm hmmm mmmm hmmmm.”  I love this part of the song!  Well, turns out that while they were recording, she dropped her music but didn’t want to interrupt the recording.  She didn’t know the words, so she ad libbed with “Mmmm hmmmm” until she could pick up her music!

So you see, you don’t have to be perfect, and you never know how things might turn out.

If you want to hear Fontella Bass’s interview with Terry Gross on NPR, click here.

Your assignment for today?

If you’re inspired by Ms. Bass’s story, that’s a good start!  Keep an open mind to new experiences, challenges, and opportunities, and think twice before you talk yourself out of something.  Be aware of cognitive distortions that talk you out of things before you even get started.

And the next time you mess up?  Don’t beat yourself up–remember that sometimes things work out if you just wing it!  Mmmmm hmmm!

If you’re up for a challenge, commit to trying something new today.  If you need ideas, refer to Try Something Different and Learn Something New.   Or, mentally commit to saying “Yes” the next time someone asks you to do something outside of your comfort zone!

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