The squiggly line is my learning’s from my journey. A journey of big leaps into the unknown, of bad days, of constant anxiety, of incredible wins and of my overall love of life and what I do every day.
There are 3 guiding principles when squiggling.
First, you must listen to your intuition. What is that small voice buried deep inside you trying to tell you? Is it getting louder. Don’t worry if you can’t rationalize it, explain it, intuition is knowledge that is sensed rather than calculated or deduced.
Part two is to act on this information. In a big way. Likely this will require you to do something that is not all that comfortable to you – I call this action the cultivation of deliberate discomfort. Everything that you do in response to your intuition should be something that puts you slightly off balance. This is because the easy steps, the things that feel comfortable, are things that anyone can do. The hard things, the things that make you uneasy, are the things that are innovative and creative. The things that allow something new to come forth.
Part three is the hardest part of all. Momentum. You must continue, daily, to do the first two things. Keep listening, keep acting, keep in motion. Maintain momentum. Because the truth of the squiggly line is that you are more likely to go backwards and sideways than you are forwards. Momentum will keep you moving, out of the backwards and sideways in an exploration of the possible ways forwards.
So; LISTEN to your Intuition, Cultivate Deliberate Discomfort and always keep moving, Maintain Momentum. And remember, if it was easy, everyone could do it.
Oh how we strive for perfection, an exercise in futility if ever I knew one. I know this but still I beat myself up as I fail to measure up to some unattainable standard I have set for myself.
So I presume many of us are fighting the good fight.
Why? Because we see perfection in others. Removed from the exhaustion, personal struggle, self-doubts and defeats - in a world where we very publicly celebrate all the #fabulous - we see the surface. And perfection thrives at the surface.
This month has presented me with founders thinking their plans should be perfect before they start to execute, people I see as perfect showing their vulnerability and even my own stalling in the search for a perfect way to launch The Squiggly Line.
We all do it.
So, in an offer to the gods of imperfection, I am launching #thesquigglyline today. Now.
I will get an imperfect website up (congrats - you found it), I will stumble with some imperfect first interviews and I will strive for imperfection in all I do.
Because, at its heart, The Squiggly Line stands for the power of imperfection. It stands for making that one decision that you can make now. And for making that a brave step, a big leap, into the unknown.
So here I step.
Big Brave Bold
There is always a certain peace in being what one is, in being that completely - Ugo Betti
My personal mantra is to be the biggest, bravest, boldest version of myself that I can be. This comes from my belief that exceptional does not come from copying others or following others rules and formulae for success.
The breeding ground for success, in my opinion, is uniqueness. Bravely and gloriously pursuing a path that is individual to you and your experience of the world. Most of the people I admire: Larry and Sergey; Einstein; Steve J (and W); Reid Hoffman; Tony Hsieh – these are unique cats with unique visions that they fearlessly pursued their OWN way.
We can all point to self-doubt as something that stops us from the pursuit of the remarkable. The voices in our head that question whether we are truly good enough to succeed. And should we even try in the first place?
We bundle this into fear of failure but we don’t often unpick the reality of self-doubt.
One of the seminal early moment in my career occurred in the first week at my law firm. Wide eyed with expectation, shit-scared of the weight of being a practicing attorney, overwhelmed by what might be now expected of me. The managing partner of the firm, a brilliant and rather foreboding man, talked to us about what lay ahead.
I remember absolutely nothing about what he said, expect one thing. One thing that changed my life then and continues to give me pause. He said, you will likely feel now, and your entire career, a sense of imposter syndrome. That you don’t know everything, that everyone around you knows more than you, that somehow we made a mistake when we hired you, and one day you will be found out for the imposter you are.
Boy did he mainline into my deep insecurities. I was not the smartest kid in school, I did well at university – even snagging honors – but I felt like the intellectual slouch of my honors program. I truly felt I had charmed my way into this prestigious firm (and I probably had).
And to this day I cannot shake my concern that, any day now, I will be found out. It’s irrational. I know this but, when I am called to do the hard things and I have to trust myself to make the tough decisions, my biggest obstacle is grappling with my own self-doubt.
We are not one-dimensional. I am where I am today because I am charming. I am also smart – not the smartest but, actually, that doesn’t matter. I also enjoy people and I am good at cultivating trust and relationships. And there are a lot of small puzzle pieces that make up the whole of Claudia Batten. Where I succeed is by being the Biggest, Bravest and Boldest version of myself that I can be. People find that authentic, sometimes interesting (surely sometimes annoying) and mostly seem to want to come and play on my team. THAT is what makes ME good at what I do.
What are you not doing? Where are you letting self-doubt eat away at your path to exceptional? How are you limiting your expression of being the biggest, bravest, boldest version of yourself that you can be?
STOP. Register the fear, understand it and move beyond it. Not only will this help you find your way to the exceptional, I truly believe that Ugo Betti is right – there is also a tremendous peace to be found in being that completely.
Be a Weed
Dandelions annoy me. They infest my lawn, multiplying before my eyes, with roots so deep they take serious effort to eradicate. Their yellow flowers are eye-catching, a bold and constant reminder of their existence. And they cleverly evolve into a wind-enabled, self-seeding weapon of mass lawn destruction.
I see it as a negative but then I got curious. Dandelions are symbolic of positivity, progress and survival*. They show strength and determination.
Seems to me that this is everything I stand for.
I am not about to make peace with them in my lawn any day now but, it occurs to me that there is a lot we can learn from the humble weed:
- Grow your Roots Strong. Set a solid foundation and you will be more able to survive the inevitable knocks and setbacks. As your mother no doubt told you, mine certainly told me, if a job is worth doing it is worth doing well. Doing things properly the first time will create long term stability for your business.
- Be Bold. Be sure people know who you are and remind them of your existence (without being a stalker!)
- Be Catchy. Make sure your message is concise, clear and repeatable. Allow other people to be the wind that sows the seeds of your idea. People love to help and people love to share knowledge, allow your network to help you propagate your message.
- Be Healthy. Dandelions are a superfood. Their leaves are packed with vitamins and nutrients; their roots purported to deliver many (bitter) benefits. Your health is your greatest asset.
- Use Your Whole. The dandelion uses every element of itself to ensure it’s survival. Do you have a superpower you are not using? It’s all the individual elements that lead to a strong whole - cute accent, interesting family history, strong math skills, badass golf wing, fantastic hair? Use whatever you have, you are your own secret weapon.
*I enjoyed reading this article as I wrote this post: the meaning of the dandelion
About the battle
In talking about the Squiggly Line I may seem a little glib about the concept (and the act of) deliberate discomfort.
Taking “a big leap” is the action that gets you on the squiggly line (quitting your job, moving countries, embarking on that project that you feel compelled towards). That is the first step. It’s scary, takes guts, feels like a potentially monumentally bad idea and it will seismically shift your life.
But ask anyone who has taken the big leap and they will likely tell you they had no choice. They were so compelled in the direction of the big leap that it felt necessary, obvious; like breathing (ok – maybe that’s a little dramatic).
The hard part is what happens after the big leap. For there we find deliberate discomfort. If we were talking about sports we would look at training beyond your current level of fitness. This is the stuff that hurts. This is the daily work of finding our way on the new path, the new trajectory that we have established.
Inevitably we have day after day, possibly week after week and in some cases month after month of not knowing whether we are doing the right thing. And in many instances feeling the daily beating of squiggling.
Have I made the right decision, did I just completely screw up, what will people think of me, what am I going to do?
This is the battle. Will you persevere, will you last longer in the ring than those voices of self-doubt, will you fight for that vision that is just out of reach?
The reality of the squiggly line is that it doesn’t come easy. You are setting out to create something that hasn’t existed before and you will meet resistance. Your job is to persevere, to get back up after you fall down and to keep forging forward in pursuit of your mission.
This is the battle. It’s very real, it’s very personal and it’s intense. But – I promise you – if you want it bad enough, it’s yours for the taking.