Playing It Safe

Are You Playing It Safe or Speaking With Courage?


The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Have you seen it?

Over the holidays I binge watched season 3 … twice. Once alone, and once with my husband. To say I love the show is an understatement. 

But that’s not what this post is about. Without giving away any spoilers, the final scene in season 3, episode 7 really made me think about the difference between playing it safe and speaking with courage. Let me summarize below.

Comfort Zones

Three characters are seen on screen:

Mrs. (Midge) Maisel – Lead character of the show played by Rachel Brosnahan.

Sophie Lennon – Also a comedian and Mrs. Maisel’s nemesis, played by Jane Lynch.

Susie – Mrs. Maisel’s & Sophie’s somewhat crude, yet caring, manager, played by Alex Borstein.

Sophie, an arrogant comedian who blames everyone else for her shortcomings rather than looking inward, had just debuted in her first non-comedic acting role on Broadway. And she blew it. Instead of staying in character, she reverted back to her comedic comfort zone, making a fool of herself, her manager, the producers and investors.

Appalled, Susie chased Sophie across the stage and out of the theater.

Out on the street, Susie screamed and pointed at the much taller Sophie, calling her a fraud and a coward – with some nerve thinking that Mrs. Maisel is her competition.

Because, as Susie continued, Sophie may be a “star for now,” but Midge Maisel has guts and will be a “goddamn legend.”

Then Midge and Susie walk away, leaving Sophie to hang her head in her own self-doubt and failure.

Playing it Safe or Speaking with Courage?

And that brings me to the point, or rather question, of today’s newsletter.

Would you rather be a “star for now” or a “goddamn legend”?

Here’s what I mean…

A “star for now” plays it safe, like Sophie did, reverting back to what’s comfortable – in her case, a comedic character she is used to playing vs the character she wants to play.

In business, that might look like this:

  • Hiding behind bullet, data and Power points during meetings and presentations.
  • Avoiding in person networking events because you feel uneasy talking about yourself.
  • Sitting quietly in meetings instead of sharing ideas due to a fear of looking foolish.
  • Saying “no” to a speaking opportunity – inside or outside your company – because it’s not what you do
  • Introducing yourself the same way everyone else does (Hi, my name is…) instead of giving them a little “woo”.

A legend, though, has guts. They have the courage to challenge the status quo and take a new direction, like Midge Maisel, a 1950s divorced housewife making a go at stand up comedy during a time when women simply don’t do that.

In business, that might look like this:

  • Ditching the powerpoint to work the room and tell compelling stories.
  • Showing up at that networking event with a promise to meet 3 new people, and follow up afterwards.
  • Boldly sharing a new vision, empathizing with others about the challenges, and committing to get them the support they need to be successful.
  • Accepting the challenge of presenting to 300 employees at a company meeting or off-site and hiring a coach to help rock it.
  • Giving your audience (of 1 or 100) something they didn’t know they needed.

Do you want to be a “star for now” or a legend?

See, that episode made me question who it is that I like to follow? Who do I look up to as  a role model? Who inspires me and, more importantly, who do I want to be for others?

I follow legends.

  • Experts putting themselves out there despite any fear or angst.
  • Advocates who aren’t afraid to speak up on behalf of others, with the goal of improving lives (versus speaking up to hurt people intentionally).
  • Leaders who are supportive and inclusive of others.
  • Entrepreneurs who are paving their own way and solving problems no one else is solving.
  • People taking risks and pushing the boundaries.
  • Communicators expressing themselves courageously and whole-heartedly.

Do they make mistakes? Yes. Do all of their endeavors succeed? No. Do they learn, grow and stay in motion? Yes.

That’s exciting. That’s stuff of legends.

Stop Playing it Safe and Be Like Midge

Whether you love Midge or not, the woman has guts. Think about who you follow and who you want to be. 

Will you…

  • Take a chance and accept that speaking gig?
  • Speak up in your next meeting and share your ideas?
  • Reach out to a colleague or employee simply to say “hi”?
  • Attend that networking event, meet, and follow up with three new people?
  • Ditch the PowerPoint and tell your story?
  • Sign up for that acting, singing or comedy class? (Come on, you know you wanna)

Legends don’t have to take big action. They do have to take consistent action. Instead of playing it safe they step into their power… and that takes guts.

Your voice matters. Use it courageously.

Your Turn to Talk to Me

  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – love it, hate it, or haven’t seen it?
  • Have you ever performed stand up comedy?
  • If yes, you are automatically a legend in my book!

Like what you read?

Become a Shed The Formality insider (it's free!) and get insights & inspiration twice-monthly, delivered straight to your inbox. Don't over think it. Sign up today!

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Need a speaker?

Create a meaningful and valuable experience when you hire Stacey to Host, MC or moderate a panel at your upcoming meeting or event.

Consider Sharing

About the blog

Humor, stories, and insights, delivered 2x per month, to perform without the pressure.

Topics include mental health, work, human connection, creativity and more.



  1. Rochelle Seltzer on January 24, 2020 at 3:26 pm

    I love this article and your big take-aways for the show (which I love, too!). Stepping out of your comfort zone feels so hard, but when you stretch and try it, even in small ways at first — and you don’t expect perfection — it is not nearly as challenging as most people anticipate. If you continue to stretch, little by little, magic can happen!

    • Stacey Shipman on January 24, 2020 at 4:12 pm

      Hi Rochelle! Thanks so much for contributing. The more you do it the more stretching yourself becomes second nature, almost a natural action. It’s taking that first step. And yes, it’s magical when you do!

Leave a Comment