Hey, remember how much fun you had reading the rest of the “sabotaging success” series? If you missed any, then start at Fail #1 and get caught up because this is the last in the series and we’re going out in style.
Today we’re getting down in the trenches with the biggest success barrier of all: being completely, utterly batsh#! delusional.
You’re already thinking this is not you, right? You’re well-rooted in reality. Head square on your shoulders. Got a mission, got a plan and it’s full steam ahead.
Not so fast. This problem is more insidious than you think.
The internet has given birth to some crazy thinking that gets circulated so much we start to believe it’s common sense.
This isn’t your fault. Call it a sign of the times, but whether it’s your fault or not it’s still your problem. So let’s talk about how to wise up and get real.
Fail Monster #5: Ignorance
I searched the thesaurus for a nicer word, thought of calling it inexperience or naiveté, but neither of those worked as well. Plus I’m not here to make you feel good – I’m here to give you a slap-up-the-side-of-the-head dose of reality.
You don’t know everything. I don’t know everything! But I do know that misconceptions and lack of knowledge can really mess a person up.
I’ve survived two careers but I didn’t start either of them knowing very much. At the beginning of my teaching career, with four years of college and a 3.8 GPA behind me, I was feeling pretty smart and sure of myself. I was working in a private school and we held a meet-and-greet with the parents before school started.
I remember talking about my plans with one mother who was seemingly pleasant, so you can imagine my surprise when the director of the school said she had gone to him afterwards and asked for her tuition back! She thought I was incompetent and wanted her child out of the school.
I got a hell of a lashing from my director, but to his credit, he backed me up in front of that mother and persuaded her to keep her child in school with the understanding that she wouldn’t have to pay a cent if she wasn’t happy – oh, and that it would come out of my salary.
No pressure, right?
Well you can bet you booties that my confidence was knocked down a peg after that and I made a damn serious effort to learn, practice and find a way to fix it.
The good news is that we all walked away happy in the end. Nobody lost any money (or an education!) and I still have the several-page-long letter that mother wrote telling me what a great experience it had been for her child.
Needless to say, looking back it’s obvious that I was – if not incompetent – at least vastly more inexperienced than I had thought at the time. My ignorance pushed me to the edge of failure and it was the slap of some seriously cold realism that shoved me back on track.
Have you learned something in your life that you wished you had known “then”, when you could have avoided a mistake?
Do you sometimes wish you had the foresight to see what you were forced to learn in hindsight?
The Fail Monster’s Child: Wishful Thinking
Maybe it started with the infomercial. Someone steps out in front of us and starts talking loud and fast about this amazing new thing that’s so amazing it’s going to transform our lives so amazingly that we’ll be truly amazed.
Repeat something enough and we start to believe it. We want to believe it.
If you want something badly enough you start to believe anything anyone tells you about how to achieve it.
We become willfully ignorant of the truth. We jump onto trends and fads and follow gurus and self-appointed leaders. Maybe someone promises us great results if only we do “something” so we hang onto that something in spite of any evidence to the contrary.
This is worse than flat out ignorance because you can combat ignorance by learning. But this willful ignorance – this belief in the magic fairy of success, is truly debilitating.
It’s easy to learn a new fact. Not so easy to learn a new belief. But if you want to succeed, you must challenge your thinking.
Is there something right now that you’re clinging to because you wish it were true? A belief, a plan, an idea, strategy or bit of advice that seems like it should be true, so you refuse to let it be untrue?
The Weapons: Realism And Reflection
The way to combat this is to forget what you know, what you think you know and what you wish you knew and just get real. Stop hoping, wishing and dreaming and look at the cold, hard reality around you.
Sometimes it stinks.
Sometimes the answers stink. Sometimes they elude us. Sometimes we hate the truth but hey, we can handle the truth!
Unless you want to spend the rest of your career mired in “if onlys”, just short of reaching your goal, you need to open your mind and be willing to learn. You must be willing to hear things you don’t want to hear. You must be willing to do things that are hard and sometimes even unenjoyable in the pursuit of your greater goal. You must be willing to think about what you’re doing and consider its worthiness.
Be willing to be wrong (think of my first year of teaching and remember that if I’d insisted on being “right” instead of being better, things would have turned out very differently).
Stop Thinking You Can Do It All
I bet you wear a lot of hats. A couple of sombreros, a fez, six baseball caps and nine with pompoms. As small business owners we tend to do a lot. Sure, we’d like to hire a marketing staff, a bookkeeper, a project manager and a couple of assistants. But most of us can’t afford that.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we can stop marketing, managing and bookkeeping – it just means we have to do it ourselves.
On the other hand, there are things we do because we’ve been so immersed in the “do it all” mindset that we only hurt ourselves and our businesses in the end. Things like building your own website (if you’re not a developer) and writing your own marketing copy (if you’re not a copywriter or marketer).
That probably sounds self-serving but those are some things that business people commonly do without the skill necessary to really do it well. And so their online presence suffers, their lead generation suffers and their bottom line suffers.
For me, I’d be nuts to try and do my own bookkeeping, so I go to a professional. I know my limitations.
To succeed, you have to know when you can duct tape the broken pipe and when it’s time to call the plumber.
So let go of the reigns a little. Let someone else help you. Cough up the cash when you know a professional has the skill to do what you can’t and your return will be a whole lot higher than if you’d done it yourself.
Stop Trying To Please Everyone
I met with a prospect recently whose business I had a real affinity for. I had tons of ideas, had twinkles of gold stars in my eyes and really, really, really wanted that job.
The only problem was my prospect had no budget.
The other problem was that I didn’t want to let it go. I liked this prospect and wanted to help. I wanted to make it work. I went to several meetings and tried very hard to fit a square peg into a round hole.
I should be smarter but the truth is we’re all somewhat preprogrammed to want to make things work, to please people, to help out however we can.
Do you want to succeed in business? Stop trying to please everyone, help everyone and solve every problem.
Sometimes, you lose.
I would have loved to work with this particular prospect but it just wasn’t going to happen. Sorry to tell you there’s no great lesson here, no big revelation, just the truth: no job.
But that’s ok, because without that (rather unpaid) job, I was free to pursue other jobs, other interests and other experiences.
This is an especially important lesson when you’re new to business because then you’re willing to do just about anything to get a foothold. And that’s when it’s most important to stop and make the really tough decisions about what’s truly leading you toward success and what’s just a convenient stepping stone along the way.
Forget The Secret to Success
I have a couple of pet peeves (that I have no trouble sharing with you repeatedly!) and one of them is the perpetual promise of a secret.
The secret guide to getting 10,000 Facebook fans.
The secret to #1 search rankings on Google.
The secret to earning $10,000 a month.
Let’s forget the fact that if it were such a secret, someone wouldn’t be sharing it publicly and freely with the world because then, um, it wouldn’t be such asecret anymore, and let’s focus on this simple fact: there is no secret.
There is only what I warned about at the beginning – wishful thinking.
Hell, I want the secret. I wish there was a secret! My life would be so much simpler and easier if someone would tell me the stupid secret and get it over with. Then I could earn my millions, hire my minions and retire to a villa in Barcelona.
Except… say it with me… there is no secret.
There is hard work. There are good ideas, best practices, effective marketing strategies, productive tools.
The longer you persist in believing that there is an answer that eludes you by one blog post, training session or webinar… the longer it will take you to achieve success.
Instead of believing that someone who knows more than you is going to solve your problems by helping/training/mentoring/revealing the secret path, forge your own. Define what success looks like for you, learn as much as you can (and keep learning as you grow), set some goals and plan your way there. It’s a whole lot more effective than being a sucker for every blog post that starts with “The Secret To…”
Next time you see one of those? Delete it immediately. Even if it’s mine. If I ever write something as trite as the secret to anything, I deserve to be ignored! I’ll thank you for slapping me with reality later.
Be Willing To Adapt
If you’re marketing your business – especially online – you might have noticed the breakneck speed at which things change. Every day there’s a new social platform. Every time Google sneezes out a new update, the internet goes into a tailspin.
The world is getting more complex, more diverse, more open. Possibilities are exploding and sometimes the hardest decisions you have to make are not what to do but what not to do.
But whatever you do, you must adapt. Just because something worked before doesn’t mean it’s going to work again. Just because you’ve spent years building a process and a platform doesn’t mean your success will always be the same.
Think of the mighty Kodak Company and how far it’s fallen. The powerhouse of photography, the company that still has us all looking for that special “Kodak Moment” is bankrupt. They simply didn’t adapt to a digital age.
Change is hard and sometimes we don’t like it (heck, just think of the collective outrage every time Facebook moves a pixel on the newsfeed) but it is inevitable and to succeed we need to change our attitude toward change. We need to expect it, embrace it and work with it.
Think of change as a wave that pushes us forward. You could fight it and drown or enjoy the ride.
I hope you’ve taken something away from this series that was both inspirational and actionable to help you on your journey to success.
Are there other obstacles holding you back? Do you struggle with the same thing over and over? Share your thoughts because sometimes putting them out there is enough to catalyze a change!