Throughout my life, I’ve had this little voice in my head telling me I’m not good enough. In high school, it told me I shouldn’t go for varsity soccer. In college, it told me I wouldn’t be able to get a paid internship. And during my first job, it told me I didn’t deserve a promotion.
This little voice dominated my thinking and prevented me from realizing my potential.
Executive Coach and CEO of Reboot.io, Jerry Colonna, calls this inner voice the “crow on your shoulder.” Jerry explains we all have a crow perched on our shoulder squawking at us all day long. It tells us we aren’t safe. It tells us we’re not worthy. And if we’re not careful, it can control us for our entire lives.
Early in my career, I realized this and began to challenge my crow. When it told me not to speak up in a meeting I shot my hand up anyway. When it told me to stay in a career that made me unhappy, I applied for another. Slowly, I began to ignore my crow.
And as I ignored my crow I got promoted a few times, switched industries mid-career and started a blog. I got so good at ignoring my crow that sometimes I forgot he was even there. It was as if I’d built a soundproof cage around him.
For a while, I thought I’d never hear from him again. But as it turns out, the crow is more persistent than I thought.
Caging the Crow
A year ago I found myself in sales at a tech startup. The team was supportive. The company was innovative. But there was one problem: my sales.
I had been at the company for fourteen months at that point and had barely sold a thing. Each quarter I missed my quota and fell further behind my sales goals.
During this time period, my crow tried to speak up again. I heard him squawking over my shoulder through his cage: “I told you that you couldn’t do this. You’re not a real salesperson. You’re a failure. Admit it!”
Most of the time I could shut him up after a sentence or two, but on other days the crow’s voice dominated my inner thinking.
Then on one day last July, I delivered a particularly bad sales presentation. I wasn’t on my “A” game and the prospect challenged my every point. I could barely get through a slide without being interrupted and interrogated. The whole thing was a total flop.
Afterward, I was steaming and the crow squawked louder. “You’re no good at this! You should’ve stayed at your last job. Give up now. Quit!”
That day, the crow chirped at me well into the night.
However as the days wore on, I was able to quiet him again. And I continued on despite all the setbacks and resistance.
For two more months, I charged forward on this sales path praying that things would turn around. I was convinced that my hard work would soon translate into positive results.
But that didn’t happen. Less than two months later I was let go. It was over.
Was the crow right? I wasn’t sure.
Releasing the Crow
As I reflect back on this time in my life now, I can see things more clearly. The crow wasn’t totally right. I wasn’t a failure. I had been successful before that job and successful afterward. But, by caging the crow, I caused myself months of anxiety in a job that didn’t work for me.
What if I had listened to the crow objectively and then made a decision? The crow may have pointed me in a new direction before the layoffs came. Perhaps I would’ve come to my new coaching career sooner without the suffering.
I can’t be sure. But I will tell you that today, my crow is not caged up. He’s been released and I can hear him squawking once more.
I don’t hang on his every word. In fact, most of them I ignore. But I listen objectively, separating my mind from the crow, and then make a decision.
It’s as if my crow has been tamed now.
In my childhood he dominated me. And then in my twenties, I locked him up. But, now that he’s been released we co-exist. I don’t think it can be any other way.
What is your crow saying?
Is he flying around wildly in your mind? Or have you locked him up in a cage deep within? I’m afraid neither will work.
You must tame your crow.