Noise is doubt, fear and opinions created from other people’s experiences that have nothing to do with you but causes you to question yourself. Noise is chatter of mindless speech around you that prevents you from moving forward towards your dreams. Noise is propaganda that creates confusion in those who listen to it.
I spent my first summer out of high school preparing for the state exam to earn my real estate license. Being a real estate agent was my career choice because I wanted to be independent and self-employed. I jumped in head first and spent countless hours in a real estate office conference room watching videos about tenancy, easements and various other real estate concepts, which was a self-paced class back in those days. At home I drilled on practice quizzes and memorized vocabulary words.
I was only 17 years old when I completed my course and had to wait for my 18th birthday to become eligible to take the exam. I had worked hard and was confident in my preparation.
On test day, after signing in, the proctor handed me a colored piece of paper that represented the number of times I had taken the test. As I walked to the back of the line, my heart skipped as I noticed the different colored papers in the hands of the other test takers. I could tell that many of them were on their 2nd and 3rd attempts.
My ears then confirmed what my eyes had already seen, the primary discussion amongst them was about how many times they had failed the test.
The confidence that I had when I walked in, ran out the door and I wanted to run with it.
The conversations of failure grew louder and became a crippling noise. I began to panic because my perception of the people in line. Everyone was older than me. Most were white and all looked professional, in business suits and holding brief cases. I was this barely 18-year-old, young black girl, with bubble gum in my pockets and sneakers on my feet.
What chance did I have if all of these professional and older looking people could not pass the test? Who did I think I was?
After standing there paralyzed in fear and contemplating if I should leave, I realized that I had to go through with the test. I had worked too hard to prematurely quit and my mother sacrificed and paid for my courses and exam fees. There was no turning back.
I reminded myself, that those people were not me and I was not them. I declared that I was going to pass the test and silently repeated “they are not you,” “they are not you,” to myself until I calmed down.
By the time I sat down for the test, I had my game face on. I was going to do my best and hope it worked out. I don’t remember how long it took me to finish but when I was done, I looked up only to panic again.
Every seat in the room had a body in it. No one had completed their test.
I got scared because I assumed that I rushed and therefore messed up. In my panic, I started changing answers but then quickly stopped myself. I realized that if I changed all the answers that I was likely to do more harm than good. So I closed my booklet and sat until another guy turned in his test because I didn’t want to be the first one done.
After weeks of waiting, I learned that not only did I pass the state exam on the first try, but I only missed a few questions, which I’m sure were the answers that I changed during my second panic attack.
My experience taught me a few valuable lessons:
- With preparation I could do anything that I put my mind to. I spent months studying and should have been confident in myself. I learned not to doubt myself if I knew that I was ready.
- Comparing yourself to others never works and only triggers negative mindsets like doubt, worry and low self-confidence. We have different lives and different paths. I put more value in how other people looked than in my abilities, which almost caused me to quit.
- Kill the noise. Block out anything that threatens to take away your dream. Avoid any distractions when working towards something important. Had I ran out of the building because of fear, I would not have tasted the victory of passing. Fear is deceiver because it gets you to act on something that hasn’t happened.
In all, I am thankful that despite my temporary moments of “noise” induced anxiety, I found myself and confidence. As stated, I passed the exam with flying colors and went on into real estate as planned. In fact, I was the youngest at the agency that I joined but it did not stop me from reaching my goal.