If you’re like me, you’ve been raised to think that being bold is for other people—celebrities, geniuses, and the like. But when we fail to take the next step, make the next call, ask the next question, turn the spotlight on ourselves, we lose momentum. A closer look at boldness reveals that it is possible for all of us to cultivate this trait.
In a paper called “The Bold-Timid Divide in Consumer Choice,” Stanford University’s Michal Maimaran and Itamar Simonson qualified the “bold vs. timid” continuum this way:
[We propose a] distinction between bold and timid mindsets, which in turn affect the type of chosen option (“bold” vs. “timid”). A “bold” mindset is associated with a desire to engage in unconventional or more meaningful behaviors, and to take a stand. The “timid” mindset, on the other hand, is associated with ordinary, conventional behavior and with a desire to fit in.
Could there be a better description of the Knower/Judger vs. the Learner/Researcher personae? One caters to the desire to fit in and the other to the desire to engage in more meaningful behaviors.
Acting timid—not wanting to work outside your comfort zone—is the outward behavioral appearance of a K/J on the street. Now we certainly know people (perhaps even ourselves) who can act through our K/Js in nonconventional or even confrontational ways. Usually we either withdraw (not engage another), or play out repeated rituals and pastimes that don’t require much personal engagement. This behavior keeps us in our comfort zones.
Only when we engage in the more risky “meaningful” behaviors—knocking on doors, introducing ourselves to celebrities, picking up the phone and calling someone to solicit business, speaking up in a meeting, or asking her to dance—are we out of our comfort zones and assertively engaging in the process of making a difference.
Recently I’ve been asking myself if I’m bold enough. Too frequently, the answer is no. So what holds me back?
In my personal case, it’s my K/J rules from my engineer father and homemaker mom. Don’t be too forward. Don’t toot one’s own horn too loudly. Bold is for celebrities and dignitaries, and we’re not them.
If I want to catch people’s attention, I’ve got to rewrite the K/J rules of life. I need new rules that allow me to engage people in conversation about the benefits of developing trust, understanding, and camaraderie in their teams or in their families or among their peers. I need to crank up the bold.
My L/R has the data. Achievers whom I admire were not timid. Mom and Dad may define them as too bold, but, by stepping out of my K/J and into my L/R, I can decide how I want to define their behavior, and my own.
Someone once challenged me not to die with my music still in me. Letting it out means I will have to be bold. What will it take for you to let your music into the world?