Impossible, different, and not enough: the myths that hold us back
Note: this is the second article in a 12 article series on leadership mastery. You can find the overview and links to previous articles here.
I wish it were easier. It seems like the formula should be: find your truth, pursue it, and then go conquer the world.
But it never really works that way. At least not for me.
For me it’s more like: find your truth and then think about starting, and then have a crisis of confidence, and then maybe, several weeks later (or months, or years…), pursue my truth, and then go conquer a small part of the world!
Myth 1: I’m not enough…
And this is the first trap that many would be leaders, artists, and entrepreneurs fall into: they find their truth and they can feel the energy and excitement coursing through their veins, but then their head kicks in and their rational mind squashes their dreams. They think to themselves..
- “I don’t have the time.”
- “What if I fail?”
- “I don’t have the talent”
- “I don’t have the energy”
- “I don’t have the money”
- “I’m afraid to leave my comfort zone”
…And they settle.
They accept mediocrity and quietly let their dreams die or push them off into some indefinite tomorrow.
What I’d like to propose are two simple ideas that will help you stop delaying your dreams, and start acting on them now:
1) You are enough. In fact you’re more than enough to chase down and succeed at anything that feels true to you.
You might not feel like enough, I know, but that’s a false feeling. Trust me, you’re enough. Take the first step. If you’re really struggling to feel worthy of chasing your dreams, then check out some of the exercises on loving yourself here.
2) The trick is to start small and be consistent about putting in small efforts. Over time, they will compound and create something amazing.
One thing I’m working on right now is learning to play the ukulele (sexy, I know). I’m not going to wake up tomorrow and be a ukulele wizard (though that would be awesome). But I might learn how to tune up the instrument. And then a few chords. And in a few days I might even be able to play Twinkle Twinkle.
That’s how you get good at something: small efforts compounded over time.
If you really want to get going on your truth, your work, your art, your leadership, break it down into small steps and act on the first one. Work on it until you get it right. Then act on the second step. Keep moving forward one step at a time.
Myth 2: The people I admire are somehow different than I am
A tangential myth to the myth of not being enough is that the people we admire are somehow different than you and I and it is that difference which enables them to succeed where we will inevitably fail.
The thing is, there’s just no truth to that.
If I had to identify one thinker whose success I would most like to replicate, it’s Seth Godin’s. Seth is brilliant, articulate, and deeply influential.
I recently listened to his new audibook “Leap First” (which, by the way is excellent and holy **** he posted my email to him on his blog) and thought to myself, “Man, if I were 10x smarter, I might be able to produce this.”
And truthfully, that is a very intimidating thought to have.
But it’s important to realize something about the people you admire: it’s really not fair to compare yourself to them.
Seth is twice my age and much more experienced. It would be insane to compare myself to someone with so much more experience than me and conclude, “Well, he’s more talented and famous than I am, so I guess I’m a failure and should quit.”
And yet, many of us do that every day. We try to make a podcast and it’s not an instant blockbuster like Serial or Startup so we assume that we are destined to fail. We start a business and don’t get a customer in the first six months (which happened to me) and decide to close up shop.
Don’t be deterred by other people’s success. Small baby steps forward are how you will succeed in your own way. A little bit each day. Cut out TV or a bad relationship to find the time. Work during your commute. Jot down ideas in a small notebook as they come and then tackle them over the weekend. Do what you have to do to create a bit of forward motion.
Small actions performed each day add up. They create momentum. Over time, you’ll gain so much momentum that people will ask you what your secret is. You’ll begin to become the type of person you admire.
Myth 3: Impossible
The final myth that tends to hold people back is the myth of “impossible.”
A cold, hard, fact about humans: we are terrible at gauging what is and is not possible. Imagine going back in time 30 years and describing a smartphone to someone and asking, “Hey, do you think that this device is possible by any chance?”.
Virtually everyone in the mid 1980’s would be sure that smartphones are impossible. And yet, each and every one of them would be dead wrong.
In fact we don’t even need to travel through time to understand that just because something seems impossible, doesn’t mean it actually is.
Right now, the following all seem impossible, but are totally and completely possible:
- 3d printers
- Mind reading bikes
- Magically appearing bike helmets
- Rudimentary forms of teleportation
- Commercial space travel
You know that voice in your head that says, “I want to follow my truth, but it’s not possible?” That voice is mis-calibrated. No one truly knows what is and isn’t possible, the only way to find out is to try.
What we need are bold, daring, creative people like you to take action and begin attempting the things that seem impossible, because chances are, they aren’t.
Don’t be held hostage
If it feels true to you, it is almost assuredly possible for you to create, you just need the courage to pursue it.
Your job is to take the first step and my strongest recommendation is that you do it now. Now is always the time to start.
As always, I actually want you to be able to translate theory into action. Nothing in your world changes until you take action.
The homework for this month is simple. You should have already made progress on finding your truth. Take the first step in making that truth a reality. After you’ve taken the first step, take the second. Your goal should be to make at least a little bit of forward motion on your dreams each week. Set aside a consistent time for working on this, like Saturdays from 10:30am-noon.
If you’re struggling to take the first step, break it down into smaller and smaller pieces. It’s ok if the step is small. It’s ok if you only have a few minutes to spare. A tiny bit of motion is infinitely better than standing still.
Begin creating your dreams, your truth, and your art now.