If you want to make a change in your life, now’s the time to do it
As I visit businesses, schools and universities all over the world, I am always bowled over by the enthusiasm of people who have a strong desire to develop themselves and make a difference in the world.
Each time I engage with students, professionals, senior managers and chief executive officers (CEOs), the questions I’m asked could fill a book — and I relish the challenge of having my mind stretched.
Having said that, every now and then, I get into a conversation with someone who is somewhat less enthusiastic about what they want to achieve, and it’s for this kind of person that this article is written. These are the people who will tell me things like:
“What if I don’t want to be a leader?”, “Why is everyone telling me I need to be successful — can’t I just be happy with where I am?”, and “I don’t want to change the world, I’m quite happy working in my nine-to-five job and leaving my work at the office.”
For every one of these interactions, I have very short responses, which are respectively:
You don’t have to be a leader — you can be whatever you want to be, “You’re not bound to listen to what anyone tells you; if you’re truly happy where you are, you’re free to stick with what you’re doing”, and “Who’s saying anything about changing the world?
Very few people actually get to do that. If you’re happy in your job, that’s your privilege. No one’s making you change, and nor should they try”.
In the beginning, when these kinds of statements were put to me, I would offer my response and assume the discussion was over. But almost always, the conversations carry on.
I sometimes wonder if the person is expecting me to try to convince them that they should be a leader or that they should be aiming higher in life. I imagine they had their counter-arguments ready to go, before my replies made them redundant.
Nevertheless, they put their arguments to me, and I listen politely and realise what’s really going on. They’re not trying to convince me of anything — they’re trying to convince themselves that the lives they’re now leading is exactly what they wanted.
Let me be clear – if you are genuinely happy with where you are, then you should absolutely continue doing your thing. There’s a reason it’s called “your” life.
Bob Dylan once said that success is when a person gets up in the morning and goes to sleep at night having done what they wanted to do in the hours in-between.
If you feel that you don’t need more, don’t shoot for more; if you feel like you don’t want to develop yourself and
contribute more to the world, nobody can make you do otherwise.
Here’s the interesting thing – in almost all of these conversations I have, it quickly becomes clear that the person does want more, they do want to push themselves, and they are desperate to make some kind of contribution beyond what they’ve already made.
As it turns out, a lot of these people just don’t know where to start. As a result, they’ve concocted this defensive story in their minds that they use to convince themselves that they’re quite happy with life.
As the conversation goes back and forth, chipping away at the story, the question eventually arises: “OK, so let’s say I could develop myself and do more — how exactly do I start?”
They answer their own question here. But I return it anyway, just in case.
A baffled look comes over their faces and I try to explain to them what I mean by this fundamental piece of advice.
When I was younger, I was terrible at sales — and I mean terrible.
But I knew it was a skill that I needed, and so how did I become better at sales? Did I read books? Attend seminars? Speak to people who have mastered the art of selling? Sure. But that only gets you so far.
So I said to myself, “You have to start.” And so I began selling door-to-door and I honed my skills over time.
All the things I had learnt before only really sank in after I began putting myself in the position of selling. The reason I became better at selling was because I started to sell.
(On a side note, I used to go door-to-door selling knives at the age of 18 while I was in college in the US. Yes, kitchen cutlery and knives. And yes, I hated doing it. But I only quit after I was named the best salesperson for the month just to prove to myself that I could do it.)
The penny starts to drop at this point as the realisation dawns on the person that life isn’t going to wait for them. There is no right moment. No one can do your growing for you.
You’re in charge and you have two choices – you can either get out there and grab life by the throat or you can sit back and let life’s current sweep you along wherever it pleases. Either way, you make the decision.
Again, if you’re happy with your life, that’s great. Maybe someone else will try to convince you to be this or that, but I’ll applaud the fact that you are where you want to be and leave it there.
When people ask me: “How do you convince people to buy your product if they’re resistant?” I say: “You don’t. If someone has no need for what you have to offer, walk on and find the next person who does. Don’t waste your time or anyone else’s.”
But, if deep down, you have that idea for a business nagging away at you; if you want to learn those new skills; if you want to go back to school and get that degree; if you want to make a difference beyond what you’re making now, do yourself a favour and see the story that you’re telling yourself for what it is – a bunch of limiting beliefs that are feeding you lies to say that you’re not good enough to do anything but settle and be grateful.
And once you’ve done that? Start.
If you’re an introvert who’s terrified of networking but wants to connect with others? Start.
Attend as many events, gatherings and parties as you can and talk to people. Is it tough? Sure!
So was selling items door-to-door, but you learn so much and grow so much in confidence when you just decide to put yourself beyond your comfort zone.
Perhaps you have an idea for a business but are unsure where to begin? Start.
Read three books by experts in your area of interest; connect with people on social media who are relevant to your business; engage with them and add value to that relationship; ask questions; take one or two industry leaders out for lunch and ask for their insights.
Build up from the bottom and don’t give up until you reach where your personal ‘top’ is.
And remember that success is never an end-point. Warren Buffett is not successful. Bill Gates is not successful. Oprah Winfrey is not successful. Their success is ongoing. Always.
Warren Buffett has a net worth of over $US75 billion and he’s still working hard, pushing new boundaries, continuing to learn, and making a difference. At 86 years old!
In a nutshell
Whatever you have nagging away at you, whatever makes you come alive — pursue it with all you’ve got. The fears we encounter tell us the biggest lies we’ll ever hear. Go beyond the limiting beliefs and just “Start”.
You’ll stumble, fall and learn along the way, but that’s where we meet the most valuable lessons in our journeys towards achieving the goals we set for ourselves.
Read all the books you can, talk to all the experts, attend all the conferences — these are undoubtedly valuable
But keep in mind that the most valuable learning of all comes by doing. That’s something that will never change.