“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” These are insightful words from the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. Can you relate?
As much as I’d like to say, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Teddy.” I can’t.
Well, I could, but it would be a bold-faced lie and those closest to me would call me out on it. Let me fess up and agree with that line made famous from the old Pogo cartoon, “We’ve met the enemy and s/he is us.”
I won’t speak for you. But I will speak for me. For far too long, I was my own worst enemy and, by far, my harshest critic.
To make matters worse, I wasn’t conscious of all of the ways I undermined or sabotaged my own success. Over a period of time, I began to see some of the subtle ways it occurred. In recent years, I have taken steps to stop sabotaging myself.
In those moments when my vision is crystal clear, I realize there are times I still do it. Part of it comes from being a recovering perfectionist, part of it comes from being insecure, and part of it remains hidden away.
Just An Ordinary Guy
I am sharing my story with you — not because I have overcome and no longer have these struggles. But, rather I seek to embrace transparency and vulnerability about my struggles.
Through this process, I have found it necessary to extend grace to myself for my shortcomings. I’ve also discovered that being vulnerable about my struggles fosters deep connections with others who also know those struggles.
Hopefully, you will avoid some of these pitfalls, or at least shorten your learning curve.
I love what Admiral Hyman Rickover said,
We must learn from the mistakes of others, we don’t live long enough to make them all ourselves.
Like many of you, I came from humble beginnings in a small town. We were a middle-class family — in a good year. I was the first in my family to graduate college.
You may ask, “Well, what’s that got to do with anything?” Perhaps nothing.
Except that it shaped how I saw myself — average and ordinary. I wasn’t a star athlete. Truth be told, I wasn’t even a good athlete. I did wrestle one year in high school and had a perfect record. (Never won a match.)
Nor did I see me as exceptionally talented or gifted. No one ever blamed me for breaking the curve.
If like me, you see yourself as average and ordinary, you may not consider yourself as someone who deserves success. When opportunities came my way, I was prone to respond, Who? Me? Are you talking to me? You think I could do that?
WHO AM I that I am capable or worthy of doing that?
Is Your Mindset Your Worst Frenemy?
Then one day, a few years back, I realized that “Who AM I?” was always the first question that ran through my mind when some great opportunity arose. It was my default mindset. My automatic response. To any and every situation.
Here’s one example. Back in 2004, Chuck Colson launched the Centurions Program. I saw an email about it and thought it was an interesting opportunity — except for the rigorous application process through which they would select 100 members for the program.
First thoughts to cross my mind — who am I? Why would they ever select me?
As the application deadline drew near, I just happened to be attending a board meeting where one of Chuck’s key staff members was also in attendance.
Mariam and I were sharing a ride from the hotel to the meeting venue and somehow began talking about the Centurions Program.
“Oh Kevin, you’d be perfect for the program,” she exclaimed. My immediate, internal response, was, “Who me?” I can’t remember if I verbalized it, but I certainly remember thinking it.
With Mariam’s encouragement, I applied and was accepted into the program. Unfortunately, that was not the end of my “Who me?” moments.
A few years would pass before I would become consciously aware of my faulty default.
It was one of those “gradually and then suddenly” experiences. It doesn’t technically qualify as an epiphany. There were no flashing lights, clanging bells, or screaming sirens.
Like the crack of dawn as the sun begins its journey across the sky. There’s a bit of light. You see shapes and shadows. As the light shines brighter you begin to see things more clearly.
That was how I discovered a mindset that was a frenemy. It seemed like a friend but acted like an enemy. Constantly undermining me. Beating me down. Reminding me that I do not belong and don’t measure up.
Gradually, Then Suddenly
What led to my discovery of this faulty mindset? Actually, it was the confluence of several things.
A serious study of Appreciative Inquiry and learning that the questions we ask determine what we will find. That led me to become a Creating the Future Fellow. Creating the Future is an organization co-founded by Hildy Gottlieb and Dimitri Petropolis who teach that when you change the questions, you change the world.
During this same season, I surrounded myself with great friends, mentors, and coaches. One day I received a call from a prospective client. They asked would I consider taking on what, at the time was a dream gig. It was a gig I would love to do. While I had tons of experience, I was aware that they might perceive me as lacking some official credential for the task.
What was my immediate response?
Well, it was the first time I was consciously aware of having a different default response rather than the standard, “Who am I?”
This time, the thought that immediately crossed my mind was, “Why not me? I have tons of experience. I have studied and prepared for years for an opportunity just like this. Hey, they called me. I didn’t go looking, or begging for this.”
Have you ever had one of those moments where time freezes and you seem to become an observer of yourself? It was like that! I remember thinking, “Whoa, something has changed. You are different.”
You know what else? I remember liking it. A lot.
So much so, that I grabbed an index card, scribbled the Why Not Me? on it, and posted it to my desk. It’s still there to this day as a reminder.
Yes, there are times when “Who am I?” tries to raise it’s whack-a-mole head when some really awesome opportunity arises. When it does, I grab my “Why Not Me” mallet and pound it back where it belongs.
What about you, my friend? Do you have any default mindsets that keep popping up and holding you in their clutches? What is your “Who am I?” default?
How can you begin reprogramming that default to something more like, “Why not me?”
Let me encourage you. Please do not let a faulty mindset rob you of your bright future. Decide today that you are done with stinking thinking. Starting today, you are adopting a new mindset and reprogramming your faulty default response.
Do Something Right NOW:
- Share this post with someone you know and strike up a conversation with them. It’s easy-peasy, just click a button at the top or bottom of the page.
- Join the Living Your WHY Facebook Group.
- Participate with me for a Facebook Live session about mindsets.
- Schedule a quick connect call with me. I’m offering a limited number of these in June as my schedule permits.
- Sign up to be one of the insiders and get dibs on what’s new or next on this journey.
In my next post, I’ll share some tips I use to help me master my mindset. It’s a process you can use.