By Marcella Chamorro

A few years ago, I sat through an entrepreneurship course with one thought stuck in my mind:

I’ve already read all these assigned books, and I love the security of working for someone else, so why am I taking this course?

I pushed the course away, but the course embraced me with open arms.

Despite my mental resistance, the course won me over in due time. I began showing up early and staying late. I even —gasp!—raised my hand to participate.

My gut instinct and enthusiastic curiosity had led me to read all the assigned books years beforehand, but I hadn’t yet come to terms with what that meant.

At the end of the course, two unexpected things happened:

  1. I received the highest mark in the course.
  2. A few months later, I became an entrepreneur.

The irony.

A year and a half ago, I received a tweet from an online friend that linked to a conference about dominating the world. I went to that. It blew my mind.

Then, about a year after that, I received a tweet from another online friend that linked to a conference about misfits living intentionally. I went to that, too, and my mind was blown even further.

I had never heard of these conferences before. I didn’t know who would be there or what I would learn. I didn’t know how I’d afford the trips — both of them a few flights away from my hometown of Managua, Nicaragua.

Without knowing much, I bought my tickets within seconds.

In the book The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt explains:

“Our emotional side is an Elephant, and our rational side is its Rider. Perched atop the Elephant, the Rider holds the reins and seems to be the leader. But the Rider’s control is precarious because the Rider is so small relative to the Elephant. Anytime the six-ton Elephant and Rider disagree about which direction to go, the Rider is going to lose.”

Our emotions are our driving force, and there’s a visceral gut instinct that propels us toward rare opportunities.

We’re pulled at them for reasons we can’t explain. Like love at first sight, we’re scared but strangely enthusiastic.

Most people would advise against impulsive habits. Most people would linger over an investment or trip to a conference. Most people wouldn’t follow their gut instincts like a moth to a flame.

I disagree.

My favorite path to growth is through the ones that feel right in my gut.

Impulsive or not, I didn’t linger. I bought tickets to those conferences instantly, because I felt that surrounding myself with people who get me and get what I’m striving for was the next step in my path to growth.

But the reason we fear following our gut instinct isn’t what you’d expect. More than our bank accounts, we fear deep connection.

Each and every day, I work on keeping different groups of people happy, and it takes all of my efforts to please them. Everyday, I balance:

  1. Family and friends, maintaining our connections and love
  2. Readers, helping them choose their life adventures
  3. Companies, telling their stories through technology
  4. Team members, inspiring them to solve meaningful problems

All of these groups are important to me, but it’s tiring and draining to keep them all as happy as possible.

I clam up when clients push me past my limits. I overcommit to coffee dates even when I’m drowning in deadlines. I publish blog posts without proper thought and editing. I pretend nothing is wrong when my mother reaches out to cheer me up.

Opportunities gust right by me, leaving me cold and wanting.

But there’s an alternative…

Instead of keeping everyone happy, why not listen to my gut?

Listening to my gut means bringing my true self to the table, owning up to not being perfect, not pleasing others before myself, leaving the highlight reel behind, and admitting my failures.

It’s hard to do this, and I don’t get it right all the time.

Sometimes, though, I beat the fear. I challenge it by looking it square in the eyes and dare it to come any closer ,  but it never does.

Despite being afraid to disappoint, I strive to tell my clients the truth, to decline that last minute invitation, to open up to the truth, to accept that hug. All because my gut calls for it.

I enjoyed the course on entrepreneurship. My gut was right about that.

I also enjoyed the conferences I attended. My gut was right about that, too. And I noticed that the speakers I enjoyed gave the audience their true selves.

They gave us stories, pitfalls, tears, and fears. They gave us their gut. The speakers I could’ve done without stayed safely inside their shells.

Instead of just the difficult start and the exuberant end, I want to experience the grueling middle part, too. I want to hear the whole truth about the people around me, on and off the stage. Now, I see that everyone around me wants the whole truth, as well.

Your gut instinct won’t always make sense, but it will open doors you never expected.

Marcella Chamorro quit her job to live a perpetual vacation, creating a meaningful and exciting lifestyle. As an entrepreneur, author, and speaker in Nicaragua, Marcella is embarking on a one-month challenge to redesign her life to be even more awesome. 

*Photo Credit: matness4dummies via Compfight cc