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Sunday, 16 October 2011

4 reasons to beat your ego with a big stick

Self-respect is a good thing. A positive sense of self-esteem gives you the confidence to handle difficult moments in life, and also acts as an attracting force in bringing you closer to others and to your personal goals.
There are times though, when believing in yourself turns into rigidity and a blanket refusal to change your way of thinking despite mounting evidence to the contrary right in front of you.
We’ve been right before, so why can’t we be right this time?
Change is the only constant, and as the environment changes around you, you need to adapt ahead of time to take advantage of it.
I attribute this stubbornness to excess self-importance, or in other words, an ego that’s out of control.
A few mistakes I’ve made that can be blamed on this:


Mistake #1: Thinking that having no money is a good thing
Wholly bootstrapping your business – doing everything when you have no money – is an extremely foolish idea. It is far easier (and faster) to pick up a high-value marketing-related skill (linkbaiting counts, so does SEO, so does sales writing, so does blogging – even programming / design can be included here) and work hard at it for an year to build up capital (and a business that you (and your family) can live off) in order to give you some time to spend on your dream project.
I’ve said for a while that I’m a bootstrapper at heart – but I think we mistakenly consider creating a business without money as a good thing, when what we SHOULD be doing is to create a business while wasting as little money as possible. There’s a subtle but very important difference there.
There’s a knock-on effect that comes with going through the extremes of bootstrapping a business. Sometimes, when the cash starts rolling in there’s an impulse to veer completely in the opposite direction and start spending a lot of money on things that are probably not needed or unimportant. Without a strong habit of being financially judicious day in and day out, you won’t be able to get a good handle on your money without trial and error (and it’s not a trial worth putting yourself through).


Mistake #2: Relying on time you don’t have
Don’t count on yourself being superhuman. Don’t even count yourself as being above average. Give yourself as much leeway as possible when factoring in your own contribution (time, effort, etc) in any plan of action. Think you can do something in an 14-hour all-nighter and therefore you’ll leave it for the weekend? Give yourself the whole weekend, 2 if possible.
No, I’m not saying that you should delay / allocate a LOT more time to your projects than necessary. Instead, START EARLY and tackle things in small bits every day. Rely on a force far greater and much more reliable than yourself: momentum.


Mistake #3: Celebrating success by getting lazy
Don’t rest at your current level of success – financial, health or personal relationships – always keep striving for more.
In the rush to feel satisfied with what one has (too much of satisfaction is a bad thing) we tend to take the foot off the gas completely and become stagnant. Trying to keep your business at a steady level – earning the same amount each month – is slow suicide. On the other hand, by continuously pushing yourself to improve you are enabling yourself not only to improve your present condition but also to avoid the curse of stagnation and eventual business suicide (it’s not over-dramatic when the massive traffic spike dies out and your revenues fall back down to pre-boom levels just because you were ‘happy’ with the extra earnings).
Again, don’t rely on your ability to get yourself out of a jam – rely on your momentum to keep you safe from financial disasters and keep pushing, keep evolving, keep expanding.
Some may respond to the above as saying that it’s important to be satisfied at a certain level of success in life – and I agree. Satisfaction with life, beyond a minimum level of financial stability and self-sustenance, is more or less independent of how much money you make.
I’m talking about something different – the desire to continuously evolve and improve (in face of possible stagnation). A business suffers when it coasts along in auto-pilot – the deterioration is often below the surface and invisible until the bubble completely bursts and profits tank.
By making progress and evolution your focus, you can ensure that your business does not self-destruct by being lazy.


Mistake #4: Repeatedly turning down opportunities that could have helped me achieve all my goals
Staying enslaved to ideas because of subconscious hangups like a fear of talking to new people or of dedicating yourself full-time to one business because you’re used to the psychological crutch of having a backup (backups are still important, but in a different way, I’ll talk about this some other time).
I had this theory once (I still do actually) that doing consulting work was at best a short-term method to raise money and at worst a serious time drain that took me further away from my goals. I blame this (or rather, myself) for sabotaging my financial health for the last 4 years. There have been many times that I’ve turned down better-than-decent contracts or backed out of projects because I felt trapped.
Your fears – whether you are aware of them or not – will be the death of you. Again, that’s not over-dramatic if you think back to what you thought you could accomplish 3 years ago and then check with what you’ve done so far right now. Chances are that you’re nowhere where you thought you’d be. Some of you will be ahead, and kudos to you. Most of us will be behind, and, well, it sucks but it’s also our own damned fault.
There are more, but I hope the above makes the point clear – don’t let your sense of self become an obstacle to success. Embrace change at the cost of discomfort, question everything, and for the love of god work for money AND love instead of just for love – it’s not worth it if you have to go days without eating because you ran out of money and you were too proud to ask anyone for help.
Hey, don’t look at me, it has happened, and it does happen. Part of our job is to make sure it doesn’t happen.

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