Have you ever told yourself that you were going to do something—something you really wanted to do—and then just never get around to it? If you are, you are like millions of others and Seth Godin’s new book is about you.
I read his newest book, Poke the Box, a few months ago and it’s just the right book for our times. It probably will become his 13th best-seller.
You need to take action
If you’ve read any of his earlier books or his daily blog (which I devour as soon as it arrives in my inbox), you know that Seth is passionate about innovation and change. And, he stresses repeatedly, if you want to produce something new and change anything, you have to start and you have to “ship,” in other words, create a product or service and then make it available.
In other words, get an idea for something new that people will find valuable and willing to pay for and then stay with it until it’s ready to ship. But everyone knows that. Do we need another book that repeats that obvious truth?
He is talking about business, but the point he is making applies to all of us, all the time, outside of business. Life is about making things happen, not just thinking about what we would like to make happen.
The reason we need Seth’s book is that, despite the fact that the need to start and ship (the need to move forward in life) is obvious, most people don’t do it.
Seth correctly says that the major reason is fear of failure. We are afraid to make mistakes and to fail. And anytime you are trying something new, something that hasn’t been proven to work before, there is always the possibility of a mistake or failure.
Why do we all fear failure?
Seth spends most of his latest book encouraging people to overcome this fear and giving them tips on how to do it.
I totally agree with Seth that what is needed most in this world is innovation that is turned into products and services and then shipped. I also agree that fear of mistakes and failure is the biggest barrier to people doing this.
But I have a slight disagreement about why so many people are afraid. Yes, we do have a reptilian brain where the only thing that counts is our survival. That’s why anything we perceive as threatening our survival will produce the emotion of fear.
But what determines what we perceive to be a threat to our survival? If you are a regularly reader of my posts, you won’t be surprised when I say the answer is beliefs. In this case, two specific beliefs.
What makes people fear mistakes and failure are two beliefs that most people seem to have: Mistakes and failure are bad and If I make a mistake or fail I’ll be rejected. If you think it is bad to make a mistake or fail and that you will be rejected if you do either of these two things, you will experience fear and, in far too many cases, the fear will inhibit action.
The source of the “fear of failure” beliefs
Why are these two beliefs so common? Well, let’s take a look at how they were formed. Most parents never take parenting classes on learning how to be an effective parent and most parents bring their own “baggage” with them to the job of parenting. Moreover, most parents have unreasonable expectations for their children. For example, most parents expect toddlers to come when called, sit still, not make too much noise, and do what they are told to do. All of these things are virtually impossible for a toddler.
How do parents respond when their expectations are not met? In the best of cases with mild annoyance and frustration—in the worst of cases with physical abuse. The reaction of most parents is in-between these two extremes. Most parents get angry and repeat the phrases that have become clichés in our society: “How many times do I have to tell you?” “Don’t you ever listen?” “Why can’t you do what I tell you?” “What’s wrong with you?” Many of our clients tell us about their parents’ “look.”
What meaning does a four-to-six-year-old give to his parents’ response? I’m not doing what my parents want. I don’t seem to be able to give them what they want. I’m making mistakes and failing. And because mom and dad are angry, that must be bad. And because it feels like my parents don’t love me when they are angry at me and it feels like they are withdrawing from me, it feels like I’m being rejected.
Yes, most schools also create an environment in which these two beliefs are likely to be formed. Unfortunately most kids have already created these beliefs at home before the age of six, before they ever got to school.
How do I know this? Because my associates and I have helped over 13,000 clients eliminate the beliefs that cause most of the problems in their lives and most of these clients have had these two beliefs about mistakes and failure. And the type of parenting behavior I described above is the source of the beliefs for almost all of them.
That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news.
Beliefs like these can be quickly and permanently eliminated. And what I’ve discovered from my work with clients is that as soon as these two beliefs are eliminated (sometimes a few other core beliefs are required), the fear of failure literally disappears. Forever.
So maybe the best way to create a world in which most people are willing to “poke the box”—to create a new idea, then start work on it and then ship it—is to help millions of people get rid of the beliefs that are preventing such behavior.
Steps of a process to eliminate the beliefs
Here are the steps of a modified version of the Lefkoe Belief Process® that will enable most people to eliminate these two beliefs about mistakes and failure (and most other beliefs) permanently. (Literally tens of thousands of people have gotten rid of these beliefs using this process.) Just ask someone these questions and allow them to answer. I’ll provide the answers that most people with the belief, Mistakes and failure are bad, have given.
Step 1: What is the belief?
Mistakes and failure are bad.
Step 2: What is the source of the belief? What happened (usually before the age of six if it’s a self-esteem belief) that led to this belief being formed?
Mom and dad were critical of me when I didn’t do what they wanted, when they wanted, or the way they wanted. They said things like: “Can’t you do anything right?” “When are you going to learn?” Sometimes they’d just look and sound disappointed and sometimes they got angry and yelled.
Step 3: Can you see that, although the meaning you gave the events (your belief) is one logically valid interpretation, there are three of four others? Name a few other possible meanings for my behavior and mom and dad’s reaction to it.
Mom and dad’s annoyance at me when I didn’t live up to their expectations could have several meanings: Mom and dad thought mistakes and failure were bad, but they were wrong. Mistakes and failure were bad in my house; they might not have been bad in other households. Mom and dad didn’t understand that mistakes and failure can be great learning experiences and aren’t bad at all. Mom and dad got annoyed at me, not because mistakes and failure are bad, but because they had unreasonable expectations of me as a young child.
Step 4: After helping find several other interpretations, ask: Can you see that your interpretation (your belief) is not the truth, it is only a truth, one possible interpretation of several that explain the events? The answer usually will be, yes.
Yes. It is only a truth.