People sometimes ask me if anything annoys me about my job. I love what I do. But if anything gets to me, it’s when a client pays me good money for advice, and then doesn’t take it – returning again and again with the same problem. Far and away, the guidance most often ignored is, (1) if you want to be successful, stop caring about what others think. And (2), stop feeling that you’re obligated to do anything for anybody other than something you freely choose to do.
Not believing these two things undercuts people in business, in their personal and family relationships and in everyday life in general. I’ve spent well over 30 years trying to help people correct and/or undo the damage done by not heeding these basic rules. Yes, it’s hard to overcome misguided childhood brainwashing, but as adults we have the power to change our thinking for the better. Fresh thinking starts with a choice: “I’m not going to think that way anymore. I’ve been programmed by others and ultimately by myself. But I can change.” Truer words were never spoken.
Sometimes perfectionism gets in the way. “I successfully changed my thinking before, but I fell back in the old patterns. I can’t change.” Yes you can. If you did it once, you can do it again. It’s worth it, because willfully engaging in erroneous thinking is the worst thing you can do to your happiness.
So here it comes: What others think doesn’t matter. If someone tells you something that’s rational and logical, then by all means listen. But judge with your own mind if it is indeed logical. How many times have you said to yourself, “I followed what so-and-so said. But it didn’t work out.” You can’t blame so-and-so for your choice to follow his, hers or anybody’s advice. There are no shortcuts. If something is worth doing, it’s worth thinking about. Otherwise, you’ll never own your accomplishments – or your errors. And if you don’t own your errors, you’ll never grow.
Here it comes again (are you sitting down?): You don’t owe your life to others. You don’t automatically owe anything to anybody, unless you freely take on the obligation. If you choose to have a child, then that child is a responsibility that you chose. If you promise to do something for somebody, you should keep your word. After all, it’s your pride and integrity at stake. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say is the best way to fuel your self-interest and self-esteem. You owe that to yourself.
As for those who claim that you owe them “just because,” don’t listen! This is the most toxic nonsense known to mankind. “You’re doing better than I am. Must be nice! Give me some of what you have.” This can apply both to material or non-material things, and either way it’s wrong. Your honestly achieved success is not at a cost to anyone else. Note the words “honestly achieved”: Outside of lying or stealing, you have nothing to feel guilty about. The world is full of people – occupying some the highest offices in the land, unfortunately – who explicitly say, “Your success is something to feel guilty about. Give it away!” Take it from a mental health professional: Nothing is more destructive to your motivation, esteem or good will. The people who seek to loot your spirit (or your wallet) often have guns and jails on their side, but even more powerful is the force of unearned guilt many have been persuaded to buy into. Every well-written self-help book can be summed up this way: Don’t let abusive or irrational people make you feel guilty. It’s THEIR problem, not yours.
There’s a lot of stupidity in the world, and much of it has a toxic agenda. But as long as you keep these two simple rules in mind, you’ll have tremendous power that only the very smart are willing to grant to themselves.