The danger of believing our own lies
In my business coaching work we use a technique called blindspotting. You already know about blindspots; when you’re driving a car you know that your rear-view mirror and side mirrors don’t give you a perfect view of the road around you; there are blind spots that you have to check by turning your head and looking. Miss something in a blind spot and you’re lucky if all you get is an angry honk from a driver you almost cut off. In coaching, blind spots are defined as the things we aren’t aware of, or the things that we believe to be true that aren’t.
We’re our own worst enemies.
The stuff we don’t know about
The first type of blind spot is the stuff we don’t know about. We know that we’re not racist even when we act in racist ways. We know that we’re not sexist even when we make jokes about the other sex. We know that we don’t look down on homeless people even when we avoid them.
We don’t necessarily do this intentionally. By definition, this kind of blind spot is something we’re not aware of, so we should cut ourselves some slack when someone points out just how racist or sexist or classist we are. And that’s at least partially true. We don’t want to be any of those things, and we would be appalled if we found out that we are that thing we wouldn't believe about ourselves.
Dealing with this kind of blind spot is relatively easy. We don’t believe we’re like that and when we find out we act in ways that prove we are, we start off being defensive. If we’re open or introspective enough we will realise that there may be some truth to the realisation, and we can start changing the way we act.
It’s only when we refuse to even consider that we’re at fault that we fail.
The lies we tell ourselves
The second kind of blind spot is the stuff we believe to be true that aren’t. We believe that we’re bad at selling, or at marketing, or at making small talk. And these beliefs are not only limiting - they are also self-fulfilling prophecies.
When you believe that you’re not good at sales, you will put off selling. You will avoid it, postpone it and procrastinate even when you know it is important. And when you do get to it, you will already not be liking it, your heart won’t be in it and you will wish you were someone else.
So of course you’re not going to do too well at it. You already have a negative mindset when you start the thing that you don’t like doing, so you won’t perform well. And when you’re done you will look at how you did and point out that you didn’t do too well, and therefore you are not good at sales.
You’ve created your own self-fulfilling prophecy.
But you’ve been lying to yourself.
No one starts out as an expert
Everyone starts out at something as a beginner. Whether you look at great artists, painters, musicians, athletes, business people - everyone started out from ground level. They were not expert when they started, and it took years and years of dedicated practice to get where they are when we look up to them as experts.
Each one of us is already good at something. We have a craft, a profession or a passion, and we’re better at it than 90% of the population in the world. We already know that we’re good at this, and we take it almost for granted. We studied and worked and learnt to become good at it, but we still tell ourselves that we’re not good at other stuff.
That may be true now, but just like you learnt to be good at the thing you excel at now, you can learn to become good at almost anything. The thing holding you back is not talent - it’s your mindset; the lies we tell ourselves about what we’re good at or suck at.
We can get good at anything we decide we need to be good at
A year ago I started writing these articles. I didn’t know if I was any good at writing; I just decided that content marketing would be the way I would build trust and authority. To do content marketing I would have to learn to write.
So I started writing, painfully at first, and then took a course. One article per week took me hours and hours, but producing that article became something I looked forward to. I’ve been writing for just over a year now and accelerated my writing to where I’m averaging 3 or 4 articles a week. I still don’t know if I’m any good at it, but this is article 91 and I get encouraging comments from my subscribers. And I’m beginning to see the positive effects in my business.
The point is that you don’t need to be good at something to start doing it. There are only three things holding you back from getting good at it:
the lies you’re telling yourself about how bad you are at it;
how important you believe it is; and
Believing you’re bad at something will make you bad at it. But it is a lie, because you can learn to do almost anything. But you can only do this if you believe it is important, and then only if you believe it is important enough to devote time to it.
The biggest barrier
The biggest barrier you have to overcome is your mindset - the belief you hold about whether you’re good at something or not.
I used to believe that I was bad at marketing; but because I also knew how important it is I knew I had to learn how to get good at it. And now I’m good enough at marketing for small businesses that I’m developing a course to teach others how to do their own marketing. I don’t know that I’m an expert, but I do know that I learnt the hard way what works and what doesn’t, and that give me the confidence to stand up and say “I can help you do this too.”
I still believe I’m bad at prospecting and sales. But I also know that is a lie; I’m telling myself I’m bad at something I never really learnt to do, where the information out there is more hype than reality, and “double your sales” promises rarely deliver what they promise.
So I am changing my mindset about sales. I know that I can learn to get good at it, it is important and it will take time. And I’m willing to learn how to do it, just like I’m learning to write.
And you need to do the same.
If you believe you’re bad at something, like public speaking, you need to first get over the lie you’re telling yourself. Even Warren Buffet walked out of his first Toastmasters class because he was too nervous to speak even in front of a small group in a safe environment. But he went back, and if it’s important enough so can you.
And if it’s important enough to you, you will make the time to get good at it. Getting over our own lies - the mindset we currently believe to be true but isn’t - is not easy or fast. But you can do it. Don’t tell yourself otherwise.
The danger of believing our own lies
When we believe that we’re not good at something, we’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Going into something with a negative mindset means we won’t be very good at it anyway, and then we can point back to how badly we performed as “proof” that we’re not good at something.
But we can learn to be good at almost anything if we can do three things:
realise that we’re lying to ourselves when we say we’re not good at something (we’re just not good at it yet);
decide that it is important enough to have to get good at it; and
devote the time it will take to become good at it.
Our beliefs about ourselves are indeed our biggest barriers. Now I’m going to get out there and get really good at prospecting and sales.
What’s important enough in your life to get really good at?