Is it just me, or is the whole “fitting in” thing highly overrated?
Yes, there’s a certain comfort in going with the flow, being one of many, and following the same path as millions before you. Yes, it’s easier to not be stupid and put yourself way out on a ledge and risk your predictable and stable life. Yes, it’s fun to fantasize about one day someone walks in and “discovers” your hidden brilliance and plucks you from your normal life and drops you into the one of your dreams.
But eventually, it becomes obvious that the “discovery” will never come and that stability and security is an illusion. I know, because I’ve been there. For years I took a typical approach to my life. Follow the crowd, get a decent somewhat stable corporate job, and avoid rocking the boat by making any drastic changes. But eventually I realized three things…
- No matter how stable or secure you think your situation is, everything can change in an instant
- The longer you go with the flow and wait for someone to give you an opportunity, the harder it gets to break out and make changes
- Pretty much the only future that comes with following the masses and taking the “safe” path is a life of perpetual mediocrity
Sooner or later, you begin to reconsider. I mean, no, you don’t have to be a daredevil, quit everything, and go run away in an RV – not that kind of drastic – but would a little change and excitement be that bad?
Hell, a little risk might even make you more secure.
So, you embark on your quest to stretch your comfort zone. You explore different ways to expand your horizons. You think about going back to school or traveling. You think of quitting your job or starting a business online. You consider starting a blog or finding a hobby. You brainstorm all the possible ways to break free of your everyday-average-boring life and forge a new path.
And if you’re lucky, you find something that works. No, maybe you don’t get your dream life, but maybe you pick up an interesting hobby or get a better job. Maybe you add just a little bit of color to all that mediocrity. It’s nice, but you still haven’t really changed anything in a meaningful way, and you wonder why.
In my experience?
It’s because you don’t have your mind right. You have these little devils sitting on your shoulder, feeding you lies about how the world works and how you should act in it. You probably picked up some of these ideas from your parents, others from your teachers, and still other from your friends and co-workers.
And if you let them, they’ll cripple you. You’ll go through your whole life feeling like you were meant for more than this, like you have enormous potential just waiting to come out, but never quite sure why you’re always living an average, mediocre, boring, uneventful life.
We can’t let that happen.
Below, you’ll find some of the most common beliefs that hold people back. Take a look, and see if any of them look familiar:
Crippling Belief #1: It’s gunna happen because I deserve it
Many of us grow up with a feeling of entitlement. Now I’m not talking about the bratty spoiled valley girl who thinks the world owes her something – most of us aren’t that bad.
More often, the feeling is more along the line of thinking we deserve a decent job because we got good grades in college. Or we should be paid well because we’re smart. Or we received that competitive award or internship that we worked hard for, so the world should reward us for being so awesome and hard working.
And that’s where we really get screwed up – the hard working part. When lazy people feel entitled to success it’s just sort of neurotic. If you just sit on the couch doing nothing 24/7 of course you don’t deserve success. But we live in a “by your own bootstraps” society that says that if you work hard, you’ll succeed.
The fact is none of these things mean you deserve anything. Not school, not grades, not work, not awards, not even a good work ethic.
What you deserve is equal to whatever value you can bring into the world. You can be the hardest worker in the world, but if you never create anything new and valuable with that hard work, you’ll always be held back.
And you’ll be frustrated as all hell.
The fact is people who never bring something new into the world, who never create, who create new value that wouldn’t exist without them, will live a mediocre life. Work ethic leads to massive success when it’s focused on bringing new value into the world. Work ethic leads to frustrating mediocrity when it’s focused on maintaining value that already exists.
Stop maintaining value. Start creating it.
Crippling Belief #2: Big changes take a while to happen
One of the biggest explanations people have for why they’re not successful is that building a success takes time. Sure, I may not be successful now, but if I just hang in there, keep working hard, things will snowball, and eventually everything will be alright.
It seems reasonable. After all, no one (but those Jersey Shore people) gets famous overnight, right? Everywhere you look, there are stories of successful people persisting when there was no hope, trudging forward one weary step at a time, unwilling to quit, clinging fiercely to their dreams, manifesting success through sheer power of will.
It’s inspiring…but it’s also deceptive.
Yes, becoming successful often takes time and yes, you should slap anyone who claims to have the “secret” to overnight success. But it’s not because after you pay your dues the clouds will suddenly part and you’ll be handed that one lucky break that you’ve earned through years of toiling.
It’s because, in the beginning, you do everything wrong. You do things that don’t work and screw things up royally. Most of us get beat up by the journey for a few years until we figure out the right path. It’s not about working hard until it happens. It’s about struggling to figure out how it works for you and working through all the mistakes in the process.
In other words, you’re not waiting on the world to present you your opportunity. The world is waiting on you. It’s not the action of working that leads to success. It’s the action of seeking solutions to the last set of mistakes you made to find the best path from where you are now to where you want to be.
Yes, persistence is important. Yes, learning takes time. Yes, it’ll probably be slow and painful. But the sooner you learn, and the more you focus on solving your mistakes and moving forward intelligently, the sooner it will be over. So get busy.
Crippling Belief #3: My current situation is secure
A lot of people are crippled by a thought process that goes something like this:
I’d really like to do something different. Find a new job, start my own business, kick off a new blog – I’d love to forge my own path. But I don’t want to rock the boat because my current situation is secure. I’ve got a decent job. I’ve got a decent income. There’s a chance of career advancement in the next 3 to 5 years. Sure I hate it, but I need the security for me, my family, and my future…
And that makes sense. Why throw away your secure situation for a huge risk, a huge gamble, that could possibly lead to the independence and freedom you really want?
Unfortunately, 9 times out of 10, that security is an illusion. It’s fake. That security just doesn’t exist.
Ask any number of factory workers about job security. Many of them worked at the same job and the same company for years. They were extremely hard working and good at their job. But overnight their jobs were replaced by machines, the factories downsized, and all their hard work, time, and security disappeared in a blink of the eye. And what were they to do? Their skill set depended on factory jobs that no longer existed…
But many people say, “but I’m not a factory worker…I have more transferable skills.”
That’s always the fall-back plan in job security. In the unlikely event that I get fired, at least I have a set of skills that are transferable.
But here’s the thing about transferable skills. Most common “transferable skills” basically everyone has. Yes, things like communication, writing, organizing, web savviness, managing, and spreadsheet-making are useful in almost every work situation, but almost every person in the work force could claim those same “transferable skills.”
And it’s a simple question of supply and demand. If everyone has the same skills you can prove you have, then those skills aren’t all that valuable to the marketplace – and that makes people expendable.
Real security is tied directly to the skills and knowledge that you have any that you can prove you have. Saying you have good writing skills is one thing. Having a well-written blog that demonstrates your writing skills is quite another. Saying you are a good salesperson is one thing. Having a spreadsheet of your successful sales data is another.
Real security means not having to rely on one job, or one career, or one boss. Real security means owning your market value and that means having actual valuable skills that you can prove objectively.
If your situation is different than that, then your security is an illusion and you better start working on building your own security as soon as possible.
Crippling Belief #4: I’m already smart, skilled, and talented
So, let me guess:
You’ve always been pretty smart and pretty good at a lot of things. No, you haven’t been featured in Time Magazine, but your teachers loved you in school and your family and friends think you’re swell.
Maybe you’ve won some sort of recognition or award even for something you’ve done – and it went straight to your resume.
You believe all of that makes you different. When you set out to get success, get a great job, start your own business or blog, you believe things will be easier for you than all of the other half-wits out there. Unlike them, you are talented and if they can have success you’re guaranteed to succeed.
I wish I could say this thought process amazes me, but I had this same damn mindset for the longest time. That’s why something like 80% of people believe they are “above average,” which is obviously impossible. But because we tend to be deluded into believing we’re different, because we believe we’re smarter, skilled, more connected, or more talented, we’re just about guaranteed to succeed.
We’re kidding ourselves. The difference between believing that you could be better than everyone if you just put yourself out there and actually becoming more successful than them is like the difference between being really good at NBA Jam and playing professional basketball.
It’s one thing to imagine the potential world where you’re the great success you believe you could be and actually building that real world success.
The bottom line is this: if you don’t want to be perpetually mediocre, you have to be serious about building value in the “real world”. You’ll need to commit to ignoring theoretical things like “if I put myself out there, I could be great.”
Your potential is pointless. Potential by definition does not exist. The only thing that exists is what you’ve achieved in the real world. Anything without a tangible result – all your elusive talents, skills, and possibilities – just doesn’t count.
Crippling Belief #5: I’m not good enough yet
There is an opposite crippling belief, though. Maybe you don’t think you’re smart enough, skilled enough, or talented enough to start making real achievements in your life. Well, at least not yet.
You need to learn more, have a bit more experience, get a couple more connections or find a different situation. You’re meant for something great, but there’s a bunch of stuff that you need to do first before you can really make something happen. You’re good, you’re just not good enough yet.
And you know what? You’re right.
But then again, no one is “good enough.” The most successful people in the world aren’t “good enough.” In fact it is precisely that feeling of not being good enough is what motivates many people to do more.
It’s not a barrier, it’s motivational dissatisfaction.
The totally not kept secret is that you can’t wait yourself into action. The more people wait for something to happen before they can act the easier it is to find something else to wait for. I see it all the time in online business. People wait until they know how to set up a beautiful website. Then they wait until they know the best traffic strategies. Then they wait until they have the perfect lead generation bribe. Then they wait until they have a successful blog. Then…well, you get the idea. There’s always something to learn or do before actually selling something.
Waiting to get good enough to act never works and it’s not even smart. People don’t actually learn from studying, not in a way that lasts. People learn from mistakes. People learn from all the little and big failures that steers them to the right path. Waiting to be good enough is just being afraid to fail, which is a shame because failing is precisely how you’ll become better.
So, don’t be crippled
The real lessons here are ones you’ve heard a million times. Take immediate action and build as much value as possible. That’s really it. And as most advice, it’s much easier said than done.
And some of the path forward is obvious. But if you ask me, the root thing we need to do is change the standard we hold ourselves to when it comes to our own lives. We need to own the value we provide the world. We need to do whatever we can to take action immediately. We need to stop giving ourselves credit for potential and focus on giving ourselves credit for the things we’ve achieved in the real world.
And if we haven’t achieved much, we should be grateful when we realize it because that’s when you’ll have to start achieving…
…because you’ll know the other option is a life of mediocrity.