Your strong self-esteem may undermine your success. Yes, I know your teachers and pee-wee sports directors worked hard to protect your self-esteem. Do you have a shelf of “participation trophies” saying that “everyone is a winner” just for trying? You’re not a kid any more.
Your self-esteem will take some hits if you’re ever going to succeed.
I read a blog this week from an entrepreneur who spent good money on a personality profile. It could have been an opportunity for growth and insight. But his blog was a long justification for his sloppy and disorganized approach to business. “I’m creative. Why worry about details?” He droned on and one about how his “creative” approach worked so well in his small business.
His self-esteem blinded him. He justified his weakness, and he missed an opportunity to improve both himself and his business.
It Could Have Been Me
I used to be like that guy. I was like Popeye the Sailor saying, “I ‘yam what I ‘yam.” I’d say things like, “I’ll just go with the flow. Why bother setting goals or planning . . . That’s just the way I am.” Things always worked out, so it seemed. But I was too self-absorbed to see that the reason I didn’t have a spectacular failure was that there were others around me scrambling to hold it all together. If you lurch from one near disaster to the next, sooner or later one of them is going to bite you. There comes a time when popping open a can of spinach won’t bail you out.
Too Much Success Will Make You Weak
You can learn from success. But the lessons won’t help you much. Success feeds your ego. You don’t argue with success. Why would you? Success feels great. And don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of success.
But the lessons you learn from failure are the ones to cherish. Failure and criticism are the mirror showing you that piece of spinach in your teeth. You know, when you think to check your teeth after an important dinner date. Failure makes you grow. It shows you the places where you’re not as good as you think you are. But you’ve got to pay attention. You might as well be running in a hamster wheel if you make excuses for your failure instead of learning from it.
You Can Learn Now: You Don’t Have to Wait for Failure
Failure eventually gave me a wake-up call. I quit justifying my weakness and started paying attention. Yes, I lost thousands of dollars.Yes, it was bad. I decided I better scrape every last bit I could from the experience since this lesson was so costly.
Looking back, I see I could have learned the same lessons without such a big failure. The steps I’ve listed below could have kept me failing small and failing forward. I’m sharing them here so you can learn from my mistakes.
- Inventory your strengths and weaknesses: Take a personality assessment. Ask a friend. Just stop and think about what you’re good at and what you’re not.
- Build on your strengths: Do what you’re awesome at. A simple fact many of us ignore.
- Admit your weaknesses: Be honest. You’re not good at everything.
- Compensate for your weaknesses: This is the key. Don’t justify and excuse the things you lack.
Take these steps once you’ve taken a good, honest look at yourself.
1. Create systems
Are you disorganized? Make lists. Are you rigid and driven? Make time for fun. Easily distracted? Control your environment so you can focus. You can create systems to compensate for almost any area you need help with.
2. Get help
You can outsource a lot of tasks you’re not good at. Online services like oDesk and Elance connect you to freelance talent for every kind of job you can imagine. The do-it-yourself mindset can hurt your success if you remain stubborn about it.
3. Be accountable
You need honest people around you. Your friends aren’t being kind when they fail to point out the spinach in your teeth or the toilet paper stuck to your heel. Don’t hang out with jerks. But be with people who will help you to grow. You need honest criticism.
Self-Esteem Needs a Solid Foundation
Celebrate success. Find what you’re good at and set goals that will stretch you. Remember, you will fail. But fail small. Fail fast, and fail forward. (That’s a good Tweet right there.) Fail forward means learning from your loss and improving your game. You need real victories. You also need real losses. Victory and loss keeps your self-esteem truly healthy and grounded in the truth of who you are. When you’re grounded in truth you won’t need Popeye’s can of spinach to get out of trouble.
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