As a sophomore in high school I think I encountered the all time worst football team slogan. Many high school teams will choose a goal for the year or adopt a saying and they will print t-shirts telling the world their slogan. Well, this year the saying for the football team was...
Are you ready for this?
It's about to happen...
Beat the little man.
Yep. Somehow a bunch of high school boys were to take this phrase seriously and turn it into motivation. What did this mean? Good question. Our coach said the little man lived in your head. He said when things get hard the little man tells you you can't or you should quit or the other team is better than you or the person you're playing against is better than you. In other words, he turned doubt into what I pictured in my head as the leprechaun from the Leprechaun horror movies living somewhere in my ear canal who can whisper negative things.
I have to give my high school coach credit because this is a reality for any leader. For anyone who is trying to create something from nothing, or reach a goal, or lead people to somewhere new there is the haunting reality of self-doubt. There is also the constant longing to compare yourself to someone else or compare your performance to someone else's. Self-doubt can be most crippling when we refuse to acknowledge its presence in our life and leadership. Notice I didn't say to dwell on it but I do think we have to have a battle plan against it.
Here's three ways you can tell self-doubt to take a hike.
1. Give your life experience credit - Our past can either hurt us or help us. If we view everything in our past as a negative or crippling experience than we will lead, create, and treat current relationships from this view point. What if you were being shaped instead of crushed? Malcolm Gladwell has authored two books that bring to light our life experiences, even if its full of hard things, can lead us to be exactly what we need to be to lead and help others. Check out his books Outliers and his new book David and Goliath for plenty of examples.
2. Beat the little man - I literally can not believe I'm using this phrase but damn it Tony Dudik, you win you wise sage. Another phrase I would use: Come back. Especially if you're a creative come back to creating. If you're a leader, come back to the chore values you believe in. Don't let your brain beat you. Do you know there is a part of your brain hard wired to flee and survive? You have to fight back against this. Read more about this in Seth Godin's Linchpin and you will be amazed at how your brain can deceive you when you feel threatened by the little man.
3. Be around the right people - If you look around your friend group or the people you influence and they all have a history of quitting, than you have the wrong friends. Even more dangerous is being surrounded by a group of people who are obsessed with personal accomplishments like having the right job title, running marathons and the likes, and making lots of money. I don't view any of these things as wrong, but be weary of trying to lead or be creative with friends who see themselves as the center of all good things. They may look very accomplished but they are the only one benefitting.
Why do we have to tell self-doubt to go away? Because we need your gifts. We need you to lead well so others win. We need you to create so others find hope and permission in your creation. But if you lose in your head we all lose. A great way to win a war is to take out the leader. But when lots of people lean in and fight back against self-doubt a movement can become unstoppable. Don't let self-doubt get the best of you.
What have you found to be the most helpful when self-doubt creeps up? Please leave a comment below to help others!