“With ignorance and arrogance success is assured.”
I never wanted to believe the quote above but it makes a lot of sense now.
The one thing successful must have is believers in their cause. We’re all looking for something to believe in. Not just something, but also someone. We just need someone who believes in themselves so we can believe in them.
Problem is humans are uncertain and fearful by nature. It takes much ignorance to be supremely confident.
But once we identify that person who is ignorant of their shortcomings and by way of this arrogant, we follow them like ants on a trail of bread crumbs.
It’s funny how we’ll perform our most courageous acts when we’re at rock bottom, when we’ve been beaten down so much that we have nothing more to lose.
And after this act of courage is when the breakthrough comes, ‘cuz ultimately all we had to do was take that small extra step in order to achieve something.
That wasn’t the funny part yet.
The funny part is that when we finally make that breakthrough we then feel we have something to lose. And then we’re back at square one acting timid.
Don’t lose that underdog spirit, my friends.
The key to success is overcoming fears and being willing to take risks.
The misconception is that we should eliminate fear altogether. Wrong.
Even when we’re successful, fear is at least partly responsible for waking us up in the morning. Yes we’re excited about accomplishing great things, but fear of losing the momentum we’ve built towards that success is what keeps our hand off the snooze button.
The right way of looking at it is that we have to REPLACE common fears with bigger, more sophisticated fears. Don’t fear approaching that new client, instead fear delivering a subpar product.
Once you’ve overcome that original fear and accomplished your goal, replace that second fear with an even bigger, more extravagant fear. You’ll notice the fears starting to closely align with your goals until they’re practically one and the same.
Your fears essentially become your goals. Meaning; the only thing you fear at that point is being separated from your vision. And that’s it.
I thought I was the only one who felt this way. For the longest time I allowed too much power to that little voice in the back of my head.
You see, as ambitious as I am, I’ve struggled with reaching my destiny because I’ve feared having to change as a person. I’ve feared having to evolve into something that might scare my present self. Something that my close ones wouldn’t recognize.
Not necessarily something evil or something unlovable. Just something DIFFERENT.
It wasn’t until I started studying thinkers like Steven Pressfield and Marianne Williamson that I realized A LOT of others go through this also.
According to these authors we’re more afraid of success than we are of failure. Because in order to reach success we have to inherently change parts of ourselves. We have to symbolically “pass through a membrane” in the process of utilizing our full potential. This is inevitable in order to become the person we sense in our hearts we truly are. And this is scary shit.
It might not always be the core beliefs that change, but a lot of the outer layer stuff that third parties will perceive first.
What if I end up losing certain parts of my inner being? I kinda like this Alex that’s taken 28 years to build. Can I keep my optimism and still succeed? Can I keep my sincere appreciation for corny jokes and still be a great leader of humans? Will I end up a weirdo like Larry Ellison or countless other successful CEOs? Who knows.
I identify a lot with my friends and family. What if this successful person I’m meant to become clashes with my close ones? Good friends are really hard to find.
For better or worse, this is now a risk I’m willing to take. I’ve mentally traced out my life years into the future and I’m willing to part with it in the quest of something great. No risk, no reward.
Those who matter will understand. Down the road if not immediately.
Williamson said: “And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
I like the sound of that.
Over this past weekend I was blessed to present alongside an awesome lineup of speakers at TEDx MillRiver in Connecticut. One of my fellow presenters was Peter Bregman, author extraordinaire as well as leadership, productivity, and communication expert. His latest book 18 Minutes can be found in the featured section of any Barnes & Noble or any other major bookstore.
After both our presentations were over I sat down with him to ask a few questions regarding career and life, two topics which I knew he’d have some great insight on. He did not disappoint. Check out the Q&A below:
Q: In terms of our personal life, is there a golden ratio that maybe we can follow for “I want these many projects to be career, these many personal development, and these many fun etc?”
I’ve thought a lot about this, and for the most part, at least in my life, I do not see a distinction. Personal development IS organizational development. When I develop myself as a person, I become a more effective, more communicative, stronger person and I become a more effective, more communicative, stronger leader. Essentially, developing myself creatively, developing myself personally, IS developing the business because a business is only as strong and capable as the people in the business are. So for me there is very little distinction between the two.
Q: You have a chapter in your book called “Paralysis,” and it’s something many entrepreneurs or creatives deal with when facing a new project. Do you have a rule of thumb to determine how much preparation/thought should be done before just diving into a new project? At times my big fear is of making a huge mistake off the bat that kills my chances of success and crushes my spirit to continue.
I’m a big proponent of just getting to work and figuring the details out later. As long as you don’t invest too much money upfront, there are few mistakes that you can’t recover from. A much more dangerous mistake is never getting started in the first place for fear of not being ready. Most of the real learning happens in the midst of the action – so I wouldn’t wait very long to jump right in.
Read the rest of the interview
“Try a thing you haven’t done three times. Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it. And a third time, to figure out whether you like it or not” - Virgil Thomson
Does it scare you? If no, then you can stop right there. It’s not worth it.
If yes. How much does it scare you? Is it a completely debilitating fear? Or does it give you a queasy feeling where you stop breathing and forget your name for a split second?
If you list the worst things that can happen should you fail at this endeavor, and it still gives you that debilitating fear that the world will be over, then maybe it’s not yet time for you to tackle this. But if you feel like you’ll still survive if you fail, and you get the queasy feeling mentioned above, then you need to jump into this NOW. These are the actions that will guarantee your success. Go for it now and worry about the consequences later.
The author Geoff Colvin summed it up best in his book Talent is Overrated. He highlights a popular diagram which I’ve included below. The diagram helps us see that there is a range where we do our best learning. We should strive to always stay outside of our comfort zone, since this exposes us to a wide variety of experiences that we can benefit from. But we need to be conscious to avoid treading into the panic zone, since making a mistake here will most likely cripple our spirits and will cause us to never want to try anything new ever again.
You maximize your learning when you are in that middle ring called the Learning Zone, since you’re engaged enough to exercise your abilities, but still have the mental resources available to judge your performance and adjust accordingly. THIS is where it’s at!
Nothing great ever comes from operating out of fear. We all know that fear is the enemy of creativity.
When approaching a new project, we need to make sure our drive is creativity and inspiration, not that ugly beast we call fear. There are several important reasons why this is a universal truth. When you’re operating out of fear, you only do the bare minimum required to get by unharmed. “How can I escape this as quick as possible?” “How can I avoid pain and suffering?” “I don’t care if it’s good, I just want to BE DONE WITH IT!!” It’s our survival instinct. And outside of immediate physical harm, it’s of very little use to us.
When operating from fear, we also default into playing by others’ rules. We only see one solution to solve a problem, when in reality there are always numerous solutions to any problem. You’re essentially giving up any competitive advantage you might have because your fear makes you feel you have to play THEIR game, not yours. A problem might require finesse and speed like the game of basketball, whereas your shortsightedness might force you to play a game of strength and attrition like football, which plays into the opponent’s hands.
However, when we approach a new project with inspiration, we bring the ball into our court. We see alternatives that might not be visible to the naked eye. We try new things. This inspiration is our rocketship to greatness.
Now, no one said that leaving fear behind in exchange for inspiration is an easy task. It takes boldness, and boldness works best when we train it like a muscle. Not too many people have the discipline to do this. But merely thinking about what inspires you next time you feel like you’re defaulting to fear can go a long way towards sparking this boldness. Fear is the enemy of creativity, and creativity comes from inspiration. Wrestle the ball back into your court if need be.
Just today I had a friend ask me for advice on how to position his particular brand/product. The first thing that came to mind was “Go to the extremes.” Such a simple strategy, yet goes so widely unused. Why? Fear. Fear of standing out, yet when building a product or brand this is precisely the goal, is it not?
When you’re having problems deciding what your positioning should be, the simplest way to approach the problem is by heading to the extremes, where most are scared to go. Test the limits.
When I say limits I’m referring to either A) Strip down your product/offering more than anyone else has done before; or B) Add as many bells and whistles, trinkets and widgets as you can. Both of these draw you away from the competition, and makes your mission clearer.
When you strip down your product you really put yourself up against a wall, and every successive aspect/feature you take away becomes harder to let go of. That is until you reach a point where you can’t let anything go anymore, where all that remains is the bare essence of your value offering. This is one extreme you should aim to be at. It makes your product almost a “yardstick” for quality as the visionary Steve Jobs always Continue reading