My Telephone Throwdown with Evan Smith

Before I dive into the throwdown, do you know Evan Smith?

If you don’t, please check out The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization offering an online community for Texans who want to engage on all things public policy, politics, government or statewide issues. Evan is the CEO and co-founder of the organization.

If you’ve never met Evan or had the pleasure of watching him emcee or speak at an event, you have missed out. He is a man of great words, and as a speaker myself, he’s been someone I have been so impressed by. He interviewed President Obama, for goodness sakes – I mean, come on.

I met Evan years ago while I was still working at a CPA firm in Austin leading the nonprofit audit practice. I was the partner on the engagement. So our paths crossed multiple times throughout our work with him, the staff, and the Board of Directors.

Since I didn’t (and haven’t) spent extended time with him, I can only offer my initial assessment that he was intense, focused, quick-witted, and always wearing a suit. If you take a quick scroll through the Tribune’s staff listing, I think Evan’s headshot might give you an idea of his no-nonsense temperament. But the fact that you have to scroll down to get to his name alphabetically, rather than being prominently displayed as a higher level executive, I think also speaks to his character.

But enough about Evan. Let’s get back to the fight. Or, even better, I’ll call it a battle.

That’s right. It was a battle. A battle of wills.

But it’s not what you think.

I was battling my very own wills…I was at war with myself. Evan just happened to be the middle man.

Over three years ago now, I had just started my journey of self-discovery and growth. I was itching to try and be brave, and one day Evan Smith was part of my practice.

I’d grown to have a cautious respect, or more honestly… a fear of Evan. He’d never given me any reason to be scared of him, but when I would see him in passing, I always got so nervous. I could barely gather the courage to go and talk to him. I was scared to interact, and I wanted to figure out why. So after a quick moment of introspection, I was able to admit the truth.

The problem wasn’t Evan, it was me.

I was scared of not being as smart as him.

I felt intellectually inferior and just knew that I could not possibly have anything to offer him in conversation. I was also irrational in my fear that he would somehow challenge me to some sort of throwdown on the state of the Texas political environment (oh, dear God, would that have been a debate debacle). I was using Evan’s confidence and intellect to create fake realities to give my fears more power and my mind more thoughts like, “You aren’t smart enough.”

That day though, I’d had enough. It was time to battle my own negative voice and show her who was boss. I was going to pick up the dang phone and call him. He was my client, I could reach out and talk like a reasonable, confident, professional. I could do it.

But when I went to dial, my heart raced, my stomach turned flips, and dang it if it didn’t get crazy hot in my office! What in the actual world?

Maybe I’ll just call him tomorrow…

No, not tomorrow, Dena.

Today was the day. I’d set a reminder on my calendar to “Call Evan” and it was staring me in the face. I took a deep breath and dialed his number. It rang what felt like one super short ring, and then he answered.

It was a short and sweet talk.

Me: Just wanted to say thank you. We’ve come a long way since our first time working together, and that is exciting for us both.

Him: Yes…yadda, yadda, yadda (something prolific I’m sure, but I’ll be honest, I was still nervous and missed all his words).

Me: Well, just know I’ve been feeling creative lately, so call or reach out if you ever need anything. (Really, Dena, you just said that?!?)

Him: Okay…yadda, yadda, yadda (again, something profound I’m sure, but again, I was doing fist pumps in my head because I’d actually called and was talking to Evan Smith.)

I hung up the phone, took another deep breath, and was smiling like a goofy teenage girl because it felt AMAZING! I’d battled my fear that day, and I’d won! I’d made a connection with a client, who was really just another human with a beating heart and a business to run.

More than three years later, I still remember that call (and truth be told, I might still be anxious to call Evan, some things might never change). It seems like such a silly thing to be scared of – a phone call, really? But it was more than that, and I have to remind myself of the real battle. The actual throwdown was, is, and will continue to be with my very own insecurities.

I will continue to have to put on my gloves and be ready to fight my internal naysayers. I’ve come a long way over the years, but with each new challenge, goal, or dream – I’ll have to remember the thrill of victory over fear. And remind myself of the truths that matter.

I am brave.

I have bold dreams.

I am capable of learning and growing.

And I believe the same is true for you, friend!

If you find yourself in an internal throwdown of your own – focus on the win! Focus on the feeling you’ll have after you choose to be brave.

You can do the thing!

Pick up the phone, have the meeting, send the email, or have the talk with yourself. You have nothing to lose but a chance to prove to yourself how brave you are. Don’t miss out on that chance. You got this, friend!

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