by Ingrid Christensen, President and Founder of INGCO International and author of “The Language of Trust: Communicate to Build Meaningful Relationships in Business and Life“
Eleven minutes. For eleven minutes, I squatted on top of a telephone pole.
My entire body was enveloped in dread. I was shaking. I was more than shaking. I was pouring sweat from every single pore. I was sure this was the defining moment of my life, and standing up, which every single bone in my body was screaming at me not to do, was exactly what I needed to do. I just had to stand. My brain had a mind of its own, though, and no amount of self-talk, slow breathing, or any other technique I had learned would get me to straighten my legs. I had to figure out a way to conquer this and stand.
Standing up represented more than conquering my fear of standing on top of a tiny telephone pole at what felt like nine thousand feet in the air. I had to do it to make my mark, draw my line in the sand, and establish credibility. I had to do it to prove I trusted myself against any and all obstacles and I would support myself above all others. I had to do it for all the women who came before me, blazing a path of possibility. I had to do it for my son, to prove to him we can do hard things.
I had to stand up for myself, so I did.
After minute upon agonizing minute, my knees straightened. The audience, cheering me on for the agonizing eleven minutes, went silent. Shakily, muscle by muscle, I gathered physical strength. To this day, I don’t know how my muscles fired, but there I was, doing it. Above the treetops, way up in the air, I was perched on the telephone pole someone aptly named the “terror pole.” For a single, pivotal second, I stood. I wiped my sweaty palms against my pants and leaped into the air, reaching for the trapeze swing. I am pretty sure I died a little at that moment. But I was also born again as an entirely new version of myself. I surrendered to trust to do the scariest thing in the universe.
First, my life was not in danger on top of the “terror pole.” I was snugly strapped into safety harnesses. So even though I felt like I was leaping to my death, I wasn’t. This experience was pivotal, however, because I learned to trust myself, and I mean genuinely trust myself. I leaned into my leadership abilities in a way I had never been able to before. Learning to listen to my heart, soul, and gut has led me to the deepest level of self-trust, a journey that has opened up my life to my greatest callings. Trust has allowed me to step into my most tremendous potential and dare to live the life I know I am meant to live.
There are three things have helped me develop trust and can help anyone wanting to succeed in business and life:
1. Say yes and figure it out.
When I launched INGCO International, I didn’t have all the answers, and I still don’t. But I’ve retained the tenacity to say yes and figure it out. I know my limits; if someone asks us to build a rocket ship, I say, “No, but I know someone who might be able to help you” (because I actually do know an aerospace engineer). But from the beginning, when people asked for help getting interpreters in other languages, I jumped in and figured it out. Saying yes and figuring it out is how I built this business.
2. There’s no such thing as balance.
I’m a single mom, and let me tell you, mom guilt is real. I have had to make choices along the way and prioritize my time and attention because one person can’t do it all. I refused to resign to the idea I couldn’t build a business and be a great mom. I just had to do it on my terms. Balance doesn’t exist because life is like a teeter-totter—sometimes it’s up and full in every way, and sometimes it’s down, and you can take time to slow down and breathe — but it’s never in the middle. Release the quest for balance and get on the teeter-totter; it’s more fun here, anyway.
3. You are your own worst enemy.
Your worst enemy is the stories you tell yourself and how you talk to yourself. I am convinced the repeating narratives that wake me up at three o’clock in the morning are the work of the devil. One day I asked myself, “Would you ever talk to anyone the way you talk to yourself?” No, I didn’t think so. When left undercover, these stories generate shame, anxiety, and fear and will make everything a mess, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Talk about them, write them down on a piece of paper, and burn them. They don’t serve you. Shine a light on what causes you the most shame, the thing you are afraid to let out of the dark into the light, and you’ll release yourself from these stories.
When we do not trust ourselves, it’s difficult to be at peace. Trust is an essential ingredient for happiness and a vehicle for expansion and growth. This vehicle can help lighten our load as we navigate the roads of life, which are always wrought with more twists, turns, detours, and even breakdowns than we were expecting. But these beautifully twisty roads lead to a gorgeous sunset when we learn to settle into trust.
Ingrid Christensen is an entrepreneur, business leader, and an advocate passionate about providing equal access to information to everyone, no matter what language they speak. The President and Founder of INGCO International, Ingrid launched the company in 2006 after witnessing firsthand how translation and interpreting services bridge divides and connect people from different cultures. Ingrid is author of “The Language of Trust: Communicate to Build Meaningful Relationships in Business and Life“.