Mute. That's how my mother would describe me as a child.
I don't remember much, but I do recall feeling incredibly introverted. My hobbies were ones that kept me to myself: drawing, painting, graffiti and skateboarding. I realized early on that these activities all shared a common thread — a method of expression that spoke on their own.
From art and design to science, I loved finding new mediums to express myself, especially ones that didn't rely on me using my voice. And while I can't remember what I did or didn't say at the time, I know it's in these activities that I found myself most at home.
Looking back now, at 44-years-old, I can identify how these formative years created patterns throughout my professional career. They've repeated themselves over and over, in forms of social anxiety and self-doubt. You see, my brain has always created thousands of ideas for me to share with the world. I was just too doubtful in myself to communicate them to anyone else. Self doubt kept building each year because I only involved myself in self doubt activities and never even know self-doubt was a thing.
> > Get more info: Learn about Alex Harris aka AlexDesigns
Today, I want to take the time to rewind to my earlier years. In their challenges, they've taught me countless invaluable life lessons, the foremost of which has been how to tackle my self-doubt through podcasting. Podcasting has become my vessel through which I share my gifts with the world. And now, I want to hopefully share that gift with you.
Continue to learn about the journey of Alex Harris towards Happy Progress...
You might be wondering, “How does someone go from never speaking to hosting their own podcast?” It's a warranted question and one that I sometimes still ask myself. Though there's no quick fix to personal development, it all begins with a growth mindset.
At an early age, I was already incredibly self-aware. I wasn't given the best hand of cards — I struggled to break out of my shell, faced evolving anxieties, and felt hindered by a learning disability. But happiness isn't one set destination: it's a journey. I started my happy progress by continuously forcing myself to land in situations of success. Let me start from the beginning…
Back in 1997, my uncle bought me a Power Macintosh 7300. Though a stark contrast to current Apple models, that mammoth machine allowed me to learn Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator (and sparked an addiction to the Internet). I studied art at Florida State University, failed at getting accepted in to the bachelor of fine arts program and then landed an incredible job at a popular diet and fitness website in 2000. I stayed with the company for 11 years, beginning as a web designer and eventually building my own team to become the creative director.
Come 2011, the company had shuffled through nearly half a dozen CEOs, the last of which let me go with no severance. Fortunately, by CEO Number Two I had already begun planning my escape route: my own business. I dove into it headfirst after leaving the company, churning out landing page after landing page for an industry that wasn't nearly as crowded as it is today. I worked insane hours, sleeping roughly four hours a night for months on end.
I realized I could use a bit of help along my journey. So, I turned to the experts. I discovered “Six Pixels of Separation” by Mitch Joel, a book that combined the best of digital marketing, social media, personal branding, and entrepreneurship. Joel and other podcasters offered a complete set of tools and tactics to help me reach a larger, more global consumer base.
Then, I stumbled across “Managing the Gray” hosted by CC Chapman. An OG as far as podcasters are concerned, Chapman guided me and other business professionals along with what was happening in the world of new media and consumer-generated content.
Together, these materials lit a fire under me. And what was burning strongest was the realization that I really, really enjoyed the nuggets of wisdom I could find in podcasts. I started taking my first steps towards self-discovery and personal development.
In February 2011, Google released the first major change to its search results ranking algorithm. Dubbed Google Panda, what sounded like a cute and adorable update crushed my SEO ranking and tanked my leads from 10 to 20 a week down to barely one. As you could imagine, life slowed down a bit. I coasted along until I married the woman of my dreams in October of 2012. Then, it was crunch time.
I had taken my early success for granted and basically needed to start my business over. This realization was a blow to my self-doubt, seeing as I thought I had absorbed a lot through my self-discovery and deep dive into media the year prior. It was a major life lesson that even a growth mastermind needs to learn how to pivot their trajectory in a moment's notice.
I tunneled deeper into learning materials until 2013, when my brother convinced me to go see Tony Robbins, the top life and business strategist, in Los Angeles. This was no easy (or cheap) feat, considering I live in South Florida.
Well, the trip was well worth it. While I was there, Tony mentioned something about the small changes you make each day giving you progress. That's when it clicked for me: my happiness equals progress.
Throughout my exploration into self-help, life strategy, and business development, I decided it was time for me to tackle one of my greatest fears: public speaking. Throughout my career, I had defied plenty of what my social anxiety had told me I couldn't, such as leading my team, starting my own business, and consulting clients. And while I certainly was speaking a lot more than I did as a kid, I hadn't yet taken my voice to a public stage.
So, at that moment, I decided I was going to grab the bull by the horns and go for it. I had been to conferences and seen people on stage and thought to myself, “I could do that.” They made it look easy.
I hadn't taken the time to prepare or do enough research. I hadn't learned how to streamline my thoughts or learn brevity. I realized I needed to spend more time preparing.
But in my frustration and doubt, I remembered my love for podcasts. They're less on the spot and offer more wiggle room to narrow down your ideas.
Naturally, me being the go-getter I am, I jumped right into trying my hand at podcasting.
Much to my surprise, I had already laid an excellent framework for podcasting personal success. I had already placed myself in situations that made me uncomfortable and struggled for years with learning new skills or processes. In that struggle, I sought out conferences, reading materials, and coaches who taught me how to tell compelling stories. They taught me that the goal of speaking isn't about me—it's about the listener.
Listeners don't care about my self-doubt. They might not even care about me. They care about the information I have to share and if I can help solve their individual problems.
This realization flipped a script for me. I started to remove my ego from the equation. My self-doubt was just that—Mine. My listeners were seeking something beyond me and whatever problems sat on the other end of the microphone.
Once I began seriously podcasting, I wouldn't let my chronic self-doubt take over. I finally understood the secret sauce: an audience will interpret whatever you tell them on their own terms.
Think about my favorite artist, Salvador Dalí. His surrealist paintings had their own meanings to him, but the world interpreted them as they saw fit. The world remembers his technical skill and precise draftsmanship without needing to dive into the inner workings of his psyche or whether or not he was anxious or struggled with learning disabilities like me.
The world just sees art. And my designs and my podcasts are my art.
My favorite Salvador Dalí quote:
" Art is never finished, only abandoned."
Am I where I want to be in life? No, absolutely not. But I'm living each day to be one step closer.
In the Happy Progress podcast, I speak with fellow artists, entrepreneurs, and humans struggling with the pressures of the day-to-day to learn what happiness and progress mean to them. I've learned from their journeys just as much as I've learned from mine, and I hope you do the same.
For me, it took discovering my love of podcasting to overcome the self-doubt that had nagged at me for literal decades. For you, maybe it's discovering this blog about my love of podcasting. Whatever it is that sparks your journey, follow it to completion.
And if you need help along the way, myself and Happy Progress are always here to help guide you.
Just email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
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