Best Advice: Poke Your Nose Out. No One Is Going to Invite You.
In this series, professionals share the words of wisdom that made all the difference in their lives. Follow the stories here and write your own (please include the hashtag #BestAdvice in the body of your post).
I was 16 and newly behind the wheel of the driving school’s Subaru wagon.
My instructor, an older grump of a guy named Henry, had directed me to a busy intersection, where he said I should signal and turn left.
I gripped the wheel as tightly as an anxious toddler grips his parent’s hand, and I waited for my turn, in the middle of that intersection, as cars steadily streamed by.
No one would let me in. I waited some more. The seconds felt measured in years. I could feel the wheel start to slick up in my clammy grip.
Finally Henry spoke: “Poke your nose out,” he groused. “No one’s going to invite you.”
And, weirdly, Henry’s advice helped me navigate all that in unexpected ways.
Poke your nose out. Raise your hand. Join. Take a seat. Take your turn. Try. Launch. Tell your own story.
Because no one is going to invite you.
I grew up in a busy house, the youngest of four by far — the tiny mascot of the bunch. You never really have to poke your nose out when you’re the mascot; people tend to celebrate you anyway.
I was also painfully shy, which meant that outside the house I was more content flying under the radar than I was taking my turn.
Eventually, I realized the folly of that approach.
Still I struggled with the how: How do you take your turn, exactly? How do you signal that you’re ready to go next?
The sounds dumb now, even to me. (Who doesn’t know how to raise their hand?) But that’s what a lifetime of hanging back will do to you.
It took me a long time to realize that no one was going to invite me.
And it took me even longer to get up the guts to poke my nose out, to advocate for myself, even if I was terrified of the consequences of sharing my own ideas. Of public speaking. Of being accountable for my own thoughts and actions and ideas.
Henry also told me that accidents occur most frequently at intersections. It’s a risk to poke your nose out.
I’ve also realized the difference between poking your nose out (advocating for your own ideas) and poking your nose in (involving yourself in things you really have no business being involved in).
There’s also a nuance to poking your nose out, because poking your nose out doesn’t mean shameless self-promotion or brazen aggrandizing or out-of-the-blue asks of people who can help you... with little regard for why they should.
And it doesn’t mean you take a dumb risk you haven’t prepared for.
Poking your nose out means you’ve invested the time learning what you need to learn, and understanding what works and what doesn’t and why.
It also means that once you start you never really stop poking your nose out.
So: Poke your nose out. Raise your hand. Join. Take a seat. Take your turn. Try. Launch. Tell your story. Tell others why it matters to them.
No one’s going to invite you.
Ann Handley is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs. Her new book, Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, is a Wall Street Journal bestseller.
Sign up to hear more from her at AnnHandley.com.