by Patrick Hercus
As a rule we are incredibly hard on ourselves when it comes to not succeeding.
we try harder, put in more hours, go on more dates
we learn more, take courses, talk to friends, get help
we numb out or shut off our feelings, sometimes it is too much or the immensity gets in the way of liv ing life
we get overwhelmed and then either get back in the game or just quit entirely
we justify the reality or blame someone or some thing else
we give up and go in a different direction
I know I have done all of the above or a combination at some point in my life, I’m sure you have as well.
Sometimes it is about leaving, sometimes it is about learning more, sometimes it is about staying and learning more through a different lens. After all, most of what we keep trying to improve at doesn’t work without realizing this is what we need to do.
A Pivotal Moment
We all have moments in our lives that are pivotal. We may not recognize them and their significance at the time, but they usually have a life-long effect.
One of these moments happened in my early twenties. I was having a discussion with the professor of a course on small business management. The conversation was broken up into three parts.
What I know
If I know how to audit a company or style hair or swim, all of this is fairly obvious. There is a possible catch. I can become sedate in thinking that I know enough or everything, and as we know circumstances change quickly. How often do you hear stories of a person being let go because they are out of date, or their partner leaves them and they never saw it coming?
What I don’t know
When I know what I don’t know, I can find out what that missing skill or knowledge is. We can take specific training, courses, talk to colleagues, or connect with a coach or mentor. When a person acknowledges that they don’t know something, it can be a very powerful place to stand if it is done from a place of strength. However if it comes from a place of shame, hiding, or hurt, the outcome usually isn’t good.
What I don’t know that I don’t know
This is an incredibly important part of success. What I don’t even know that I don’t know, I don’t even have the concept or starting point to know what I need to learn or how to achieve that. If I don’t know something exists how can I plan for it, harness it or even avoid it until after the fact?
A Real Life Example
Let’s look at an example, a real life situation with the names changed.
Brian is the owner of a company that imports products and distributes them through his independent sales reps into retail stores. For the last 5 years, he has been trying to break 2 million dollars in yearly sales. Previous attempts had come close, ranging from 1.5 to 1.7 million. He had tried everything possible, including working with various consultants. Some of the implementations were upgrading computer systems, sales training, and increasing product lines. His first words to me were “I’m ready to give up, I’ve tried everything and nothing is getting us into the next level of profit”. From his perspective he had tried everything, at least from the place of knowing what he did not know and being open to gaining knowledge. Over a few sessions, we looked at his business and realized that he was so overwhelmed and over worked that subconsciously Brian was pushing away business. Some people might say that he was overtly sabotaging his future, however that isn’t what was happening. Brian had a belief system similar to so many of us that stated that “the more I work, the more success I will have”. This was the invisible wall he kept hitting, what he didn’t know that he didn’t know. The truth is that any person has a built in survival mechanism that will keep us from burning out if we listen, but the problem is how our culture and work environment pushes us past the point of listening.
The fix was fairly simple. Instead of more success equals more work, causing more stress and burnout, we changed that belief system to one where more success equals more money and more people he could delegate to. Within 4 months, he broke 2 million dollars in volume.
In an ever changing, fast paced, frenetic world, those who succeed have the ability to learn what they don’t know that they don’t know. This edge puts them ahead of the others who are trying to get better at the old formulas. Let’s be real, if we are not evolving ahead of the rest we are falling behind. What is it that you are not seeing that you are not seeing? A hint is to look at patterns in your life that are not getting you what you want.
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