When Was The Last Time You Designed an Elephant Couch?

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Do you know who Terry Crews is? If you don’t, stop for a moment, and check him out. Yeah, that guy. He’s a former NFL player and current actor — he has a major role on Brooklyn Nine-Nine (which is hilarious, if you haven’t seen it.) He’s also an author. Recently, he bravely made his voice heard as part of the #metoo movement. And, kinda out of left field… he’s a furniture designer.

Seriously. He designs, among other things… wait for it… couches. When this opportunity presented itself, he knew absolutely nothing about designing furniture. He’d never as much as doodled a sketch of a table, or picked out a single fabric for a reclining chair. But a large company came to him and the president said, “we’d like you to come up with your own [furniture] designs.”

Now… let’s pause this story for a second and pretend this person had come to you instead. And he sat down across from you, cradling his fancy cup of unpronounceable coffee and sporting a $200 haircut and said, “we’d like sketches for an entire line of furniture in a month.” What would you have said? Be perfectly honest.

Most of us would have said… “Uh… you’ve got the wrong girl. I’m not a designer.” Or… “But I’ve never done this before.” Or… “I couldn’t possibly. I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

You know what Terry Crews did? He said yes.

And then he showed up with a handful of designs. And here’s the part I really want you to pay attention to. “I knew some of them were going to suck,” Terry says in an interview with Entrepreneur Magazine. “I did. I knew the sofa I designed to look like an elephant was going to look ridiculous. But I presented it anyway… I realized that you have to have the courage to look bad. If it sucks, that’s OK… I realized a long time ago that I’d rather live with disappointment than regret.”

Suddenly, Mr. Crews is one of my favorite people. Because there are so few people who think like him. Most of us play small, hold ourselves back, stay firmly in our comfort zones because it’s what we know, what we’ve always done, and let’s face it, it’s WAY less scary than presenting a sketch of an elephant sofa to a room full of furniture design experts.

But here’s the question Terry must have asked himself as he walked into the room… and the question I want you to ask yourself the next time you’re presented with an opportunity that sounds intriguing but hella scary. “What’s the worst that can happen?”

Terry could have gotten laughed at in that meeting. The folks in charge could have ripped up the contract and sent him on his merry way (where he could keep writing books and acting, poor guy.) Really, though, that’s about it for worst case scenarios. No one was going to throw tomatoes or call him names. He wasn’t going to be publicly ridiculed. He wouldn’t lose his family, or his job, or end up living under a bridge wondering where his next meal was coming from.

So Terry went for it. And he got his line of furniture. And his sofa got the award for best sofa at a major industry event. All because he had the guts to present something he a) knew nothing about, and b) could have gotten him laughed out of the room.

When was the last time you took a chance on something way outside your comfort zone? When did you present your own equivalent of an elephant couch? Have you let fear hold you back in the past, when just giving it a shot could have opened more doors than you could possibly imagine?

The next time you’re offered an opportunity that ratchets up your anxiety and seems incredibly exciting at the same time, I want you to channel your inner Terry Crews. (Yep, I promise he’s in there.) And just say yes.

“There is freedom waiting for you,

On the breezes of the sky,

And you ask "What if I fall?"

Oh but my darling,

What if you fly?”

― Erin Hanson