I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking and writing about the human condition. The foundational elements of what makes us who we are. Particularly, those things that drive behavior. Things like how we act and react to the world and those around us. Change and what normal is. The way pain can drive the way we process information and how we respond as a result. Decisions that go beyond which socks to wear.
I believe that level of self-awareness is what differentiates us from all the other creatures on the planet. I’m pretty sure some of those creatures have a primitive sense of their existence. But I’m equally certain they don’t sit around wondering about the meaning of life or their rightful place in the universe. We share the planet with several creatures who are probably a lot more intelligent than we think they are. Elephants, dolphins, and whales come to mind immediately. But raw intelligence isn’t enough to account for the level of awareness and self-actualization that drives my curiosity. And while there may be other creatures capable of accommodating change, I wonder if that is something they could — or even would — do independently after careful consideration.
Like a campfire that was lying dormant and then ignites after a bit of prodding, my interest in all of this was rekindled by a shop owner reaching out to me for support. The kind of personal involvement I have actively avoided over the years. I’ve always felt my job was to prepare business owners for the first step in their journey toward success. To present them with information almost certain to result in an extra five percent gross profit and show them that success in business is a real possibility. Something I’ve done for more than a generation.
So, why get involved now?
Because it goes to the heart of understanding the obstacles that stand in the way of success. Obstacles that appear naturally as well as those small business owners create for themselves. The essence of how and why some people succeed where others can’t or won’t.
These are questions that have fascinated me since my first introduction to Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, and Psycho-Cybernetics, written by Maxwell Maltz, more than fifty years ago. An interest deeply grounded in the very nature of paradigms and assumptions. Beliefs and belief systems. How and why people do the things they do. Especially, when their actions are inconsistent with their own best interests.
Our actions are predicated on those beliefs and belief systems. Our paradigms and assumptions. For change to occur, those beliefs must be challenged and replaced with new and more utilitarian paradigms. Information that leads to new and different conclusions. Conclusions that will drive different beliefs and behaviors.
To a large degree, your current reality is based upon those beliefs. Change them and your current reality is likely to change with them. The key is choosing the right assumptions. Assumptions that will aid you on your journey to success. A better and more fulfilling life.
My involvement has helped reveal those obstacles. How and why some small business owners succeed where others struggle. It has demonstrated how success is intimately associated with the willingness and ability to tolerate pain. The discomfort of conflicting beliefs. Of having the foundation of what you believe tested. And then tested again.
It has to do with courage. The courage to confront conventional wisdom. To challenge what everyone else is doing. Or what it appears they are doing looking in from the outside. It’s about challenging what you know to be true and the actions you have taken and continue to take based upon those beliefs. Especially, when the results don’t meet or exceed your expectations.
It has to do with vision. The power to see the possibility of more and better. The prospect of success.
It’s looking into the bubbling cauldron of your current reality and seeing all the different ingredients that make you, you. That, and the ability to see what could be. What might be? If only you could change.
It isn’t easy. Anything but pleasant. But it is necessary for change – change of any kind – to take place.
I find it fascinating to watch as theory and reality collide. Difficult to find the right words and share them in the right way. A way that makes them easier to digest. And so, I’ve made a commitment to accompany this shop owner on his journey. To gently guide him with all the empathy and understanding I am capable of.
When I was at the shop, my goal was to achieve incremental, sustainable, manageable growth. Success that can be measured and managed. Change that would last and benefit everyone. Stakeholders, customers, and crew members, with the least possible disruption. In all my years in business, I’ve learned that helping others isn’t much different.
The journey to achieve success is an arduous process requiring exposure to new concepts and ideas. It demands a very different mindset. A different kind of awareness and a willingness to consider new and possibly uncomfortable concepts, actions, and ideas. More than just interest and desire, it takes dedication, discipline, and determination.
It doesn’t hurt to be a little masochistic either. Because, to a large degree, the pain experienced is likely to be self-inflicted. Certainly, more pain than any normal person would seek. But, then again, normal isn’t the goal!
Normal is average and average isn’t what any of us is looking for. Is it?
It certainly isn’t anything I’ve devoted a lot of time, energy, and effort to. What about you?