“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” – Alexander Graham Bell
I wrote an article for my website that I also published on LinkedIn that spoke to job hunters about how they often incorrectly blame self-sabotage as a cause of their failures. I want to extend my thinking here to include entrepreneurs, freelancers, self-employed individuals and others who are leaders and complain to themselves about how they sabotage themselves at critical junctures.
When I spoke to job hunters, I pointed out that so much of what is referred to as self-sabotage comes from lack of preparedness. They forget that the skills needed to find a job are different but complement those needed to do a job. This their ignorance of how to job hunt, write a quality resume, brand and market themselves, interview and negotiate are often indicative of that and not of self-sabotage. It is the fact that they don’t know what needs to be done in an environment where all information is almost every piece of information is available that comes back to haunt them that dooms them to failure.
However, for entrepreneurs, freelancers, self-employed people and other business leaders what often happens is a little different. It all starts with the courage to step out of their comfort zone and do something they have never done before.
You are someone who is willing to try, rather than accept the role you are in now and, if you are like most entrepreneurs I know, you are willing to take a chance having thought it out, lost sleep, asked for advice and the opinions of those close to you before having this misstep. You courageously took a chance and it didn’t work. Now your thoughts punish you for being “incompetent,” “stupid,” “foolish and worse.
This is not evidence of “self-sabotage” or some “psychological defect.” It doesn’t make you “a choker,” “a loser” or “a failure.” Instead, it makes you someone who tried and who would not accept the status quo in your life and/or business.
We watch athletes who fail in the big game or the big match and return the following year to win. How did they do that.
- Self-employed people decide to get out of their comfort zone. You may be world class at what you do now but you are a rookie at the new thing you want to try. Getting out of your comfort zone takes courage. Good for you. View this new idea as an experiment. Edison failed at the light bulb 1000+ times. Alexander Graham Bell failed many times, too.
- Self-employed people learn they are close but not ready. Organization and talent are only a part of the equation to be a winner. Often, it takes experience being in the arena that is required. Yes, there are teams and players who win the first time but many don’t. You are very good but that isn’t enough in sports or in business. Michael Jordan and his teams were incredibly talented. So were the Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors and others. They learned from the experiences they had losing in the playoffs.
- Self-employed people adapt to what they learned from the experience. Losing a title, losing a big match is incredibly painful. You spend an entire season in order to play on the big stage and you came up a little short. For you, it is time to dissect the lessons from the experience and start to put them into practice. The first time it may feel awkward and unfamiliar but, with practice, you get better and internalize the lessons and the changes.
- Self-employed people risk failure again until they win . . or give up. No one likes to lose but you cannot win without risking another losing. Sometimes, people and teams fail repeatedly. They get up and try again until they win or their spirit is broken and they quit.
- Self-employed people get help. Great athletes and entertainers all have coaches. Successful business people usually do, too. And you are trying to do this on your own with no advice from anyone other than yourself. Not smart. Coaching offers extra eyes on your problems and the ability for someone who is outside the immediate circle to look at the issues and recommend change. Hire a coach to work with.
This brings me back to self-sabotage. For you who are self-employed, freelancing, entrepreneurs and leading small businesses. You usually are not engaged in this “deep psychological drive to subvert your success. You are learning more about what you need to know in order to be successful.
Winners find the way to win. They battle back from individual defeats to see them as opportunities to learn, practice getting better and winning. It is not lack of talent or self-sabotage that causes their defeats. It is inexperience that does.
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter*
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*TM 2006 The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC