You know, running a business sounds really cool. And it is: I often find myself smiling to random people at the streets, just because I was thinking about all the great things that happen to me. But on the other hand, there is much that I still have to learn and practice.
We are all guilty of comparing ourselves to others sometimes.
In this funny book: How to be Miserable, 40 strategies you already use, Randy Paterson writes how comparing yourself with others is one of the things that makes peoples lives miserable. Not only in your personal life, but in your professional life as well.
Especially in today’s world has comparing yourself with others never been easier. Whether it’s your neighbour or your competitor: social media makes everyone super visible.
And with that visibility comes comparison. Thoughts like: what are the things that this person has which I don’t have? Am I good enough? and: Can I be like her? Let me explain to you why these thoughts are of no use for the most of us.
It’s because these thoughts are judgements. Judgements that you make about yourself and about others. You may classify a person “pretty” and “successful’, but yourself as “indecisive” and “ugly”. Which is no matter how you look at it, of course, very subjective.
You know, judgements can be either positive and negative and they can be quite in your way of becoming fully present.
In the book Nonviolent communication by Marshall Rosenberg I came across this poem written by Ruth Bebermeyer. The way she explains labels stuck with me ever since:
I’ve never seen a lazy man;
I’ve seen a man who never ran
while I watched him, and I’ve seen
a man who sometimes slept between
lunch and dinner, and who’d stay
at home upon a rainy day,
but he was not a lazy man.
Before you call me crazy,
think, was he a lazy man or
did he just do things we label “lazy”?
I’ve never seen a stupid kid;
I’ve seen a kid who sometimes did
things I didn’t understand
or things in ways I hadn’t planned;
I’ve seen a kid who hadn’t seen
the same places where I had been,
but he was not a stupid kid.
Before you call him stupid,
think, was he a stupid kid or did he
just know different things than you did?
I’ve looked as hard as I can look
but never ever seen a cook;
I saw a person who combined
ingredients on which we dined,
A person who turned on the heat
and watched the stove that cook the meat –
I saw those things but not a cook.
Tell me when you’re looking,
is it a cook you see or is it someone
doing things that we call cooking?
What some of us call lazy
some call tired or easy-going,
what some of us call stupid
some just call a different knowing,
so I’ve come to the conclusion,
it will save us all confusion
if we don’t mix up what we can see
with what is our opinion.
Because you may, I want to say also;
I know that’s only my opinion.
What distracted me from the real doing
The reason why these labels are not serving you is because things become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For a long time, I considered myself as a “bad entrepreneur” and I indeed started to live by that.
That is to say that to respond to this label that I had stuck on myself, I completely started to focus on improving myself. I kept reading and reading about entrepreneurship – from setting up businesses to people’s visions about leadership – I felt like I had to compensate my introvert character that didn’t like to stand out from the crowd at networking parties. It just didn’t feel decent.
So in other words: having an extravert character and enough knowledge of business were both part of how I thought a good entrepreneur should look like.
Both I didn’t have. All of these thoughts distracted me from the real doing.
Broadening my perspective
So as time went on, I spent some time with people and read some other books (mostly self-help) that helped me realize the limiting believe of that mantra.
I remember that I became fully aware of the believe that although I was longing for it, there would never come a moment in which I would be satisfied of all the knowledge that I had gained.
Moreover, I had also to admit that if I had a good look around me, there were ofcourse enough examples of introverted entrepreneurs who weren’t shouting from the rooftops to promote their businesses. Take for example serial-entrepreneur Richard Branson, who is a self-called introvert. He wrote this blog about being an introvert in business: Even introverts can become great entrepreneurs.
I came to realize that I needed to change my perspective on things.
Maybe that label of me being a bad entrepreneur was created by me or my environment. I’m not sure, but it was implanted in my brain and it affected my way of thinking and operating. Labeling others changes the way you perceive them and therefore don’t let them be who they really are. The same as with labeling yourself. Because in fact: a person is not defined by his outer looks, nor his amount of money or knowledge. We are all human, with basic needs, living through unique abilities.
Seeing that unique abilities in others and yourself, that is what I would call a growth mindset. It enables you to think: well I may not have this, but I do have that. And being an imperfect person makes me proud because I know where I came from. Learning that to see in others as well can give you the opportunity to eventually really focus on no-one but yourself, while having the attitude of learning from others. Just to improve yourself.
Let’s see how I am now… A couple of years further I own this website and turned it into a real brand. And I absolutely LOVE it!
Learning from your opposite in business
That is why I like the following TedTalk so much from a business point of view. It’s called: What nonprofits can learn from Coca-Cola.
Melinda Gates talks about the strategies that Coca-cola used to become the valuable brand that she is today. The strongest brand out there, to be precise. Those strategies can benefit nonprofits as well, to save lives and make the world a better place.
Consequently, it wouldn’t be constructive to stick the label “too commercial” on a company like Coca-Cola. It would give nonprofits the permission to say: “well, that’s not our cup of tea. We don’t have to look at that because we are not like them”.
Wouldn’t it be a growth mindset to say: “we want to learn from the unique abilities that this company has and incorporate these into the mission of what we want to accomplish in the world”. The same as with people.
Whether we’re talking about people or companies. Having a focus on the things that you can learn from your opposite in order to improve your life or the company’s life, can be incredibly useful. That’s what a growth mindset has to offer you.
Think about what this growth mindset can do for you and your life. Maybe there’s something that you can change for the better.
For now, you may have become interested in the Tedtalk about Coca-Cola and Non-profits. I’m not gonna give you any spoilers, so just dive into this thoughtful talk.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.