Self-Importance and the Death of Success

Self-Importance and the Death of Success

Every Wednesday I shoot an episode of The Only Real Estate Podcast Worth Listening To with two other leaders in the real estate industry. It’s the highlight of my week and we’ve gained a pretty serious following in the 13 months we’ve been at it. I’m not quite used to other industry professionals associating my name with something like a popular podcast or recognizing me at industry events and wanting to talk about it. It’s a cool feeling knowing that people enjoy what we’re putting out. And I wish I could say it was all part of some grand vision that we had from the outset.

The truth is, we had next to no idea what we were doing when we started. And I’m far from immune to the kind of natural, internal egoism that keeps human beings from attempting any sort of feat they fear may make them look or feel anything less than entirely competent. So, it was tough; it was scary. But then something amazing happened. No one cared. I mean like, not even a little. First episode, second, third, no one was watching, or paying any sort of attention. From the outside looking in, that sounds like a complete and utter failure. But there was something refreshing about it. If no one was watching, that meant no one was judging, no one was laughing. No one was thinking whatever it is we’re afraid they will when we go out on a limb or step outside our comfort zone. But while we didn’t have much of any audience, our comfortability was beginning to build.

It turns out, it’s pretty easy to get used to something you’re not great at when no one is there to tell you you’re bad. You start to have fun with it. You embrace it. And by the time anyone takes notice, you’re past the point of self-consciousness. What started off as three guys talking about real estate in a garage in North Dallas, has slowly morphed into one of the top 50 business podcasts on iTunes.

But what if that hadn’t happened? What if it hadn’t taken off? What if people hated it? Would that have changed anything?

Here’s what I’ve learned about that creeping fear that holds us back from pursuing the things at which we dream of succeeding. That fear is simply vanity disguising itself as legitimate concern. It’s irrational, unfounded and hollow. The only thing we fear is how we’ll be received. How we’ll be viewed in failure. How we’ll be judged when we come up short. The one universal truth to accept about this kind of self-doubt is that you’re simply not important enough to give in to it. That may sound a bit harsh, but it’s a definitive certainty. Unless you’re something comparable to a world leader, no one person’s failures have a resounding effect on others. No one person is that important in their pursuit of achievement.

The people to whom your success actually matters, say, your spouse, kids, etc. are far more likely to be supportive though your growth phase. What we really fear is failing in front of others. It’s sheer, self-indulgent pride that holds us back. Only when we accept that the world at large truly doesn’t care whether or not we achieve greatness are we able to expand our comfort zone with impunity.

It’s counterintuitive to say the least, but I fundamentally believe that the best advice anyone can give on the topic is to remember that humanity does not exist to feed your desire for positive attention. Conversely, it doesn’t exist to deny it, either. That’s something to embrace. Because it means that failure is simply a matter of perception, rather than fact. We can only fail if we accept that as the case.

That means the choice is yours. You can continue to procrastinate, suffering chronically from analysis paralysis, or you can take hold of the idea that your failures are not headline news and allow them to become a mere footnote in your broader story. Let them become the catalyst of your success rather than a detraction from it. Failure is an invented notion that binds perfectly capable people to a life of mediocrity. The ability to rise above its detrimental effects is gained purely from willing choice. That choice is yours alone.

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Tony Robbins put it best when he mused that all change happens in an instant. It’s true that the kinds of inspiring, life-altering, fundamentally transcendent experiences that lead to transformative growth do, more often than not, stem from a deeply moving experience. This experience, of course, can be positive or negative. Witnessing a true underdog come out on top can inspire one to take action against his own Goliaths. Conversely, a rock bottom moment can be what finally moves an addict towards recovery.  But what about the smaller moments? What about the negative ones? The ones we barely perceive as they’re so fleeting, we miss their importance. Life, after all, is nothing more than a mosaic. A collection of moments combined to create one continuous narrative, each one no more or less important than the last.

The idea that all change happens instantaneously is an important concept to understand for anyone looking to grow on a personal level. It’s the idea that no matter what has happened before, how we’ve lived up to any particular point in time, the next moment can be the beginning of a new future. And for those in need of a complete shift in dynamic, it’s the promise that it’s never too late, that we’re never too far away for our vision to become our reality.

How, though, do we get so far away? How do we get to the point where this type of transformative experience is required to get us on the right path? I would argue that, while change may happen in an instant, our perception of the gravity of these individual instants is skewed. That human beings are not inherently cognizant of the cause and effect relationship that binds our everyday decision making to our future circumstances. It’s not until we’re far enough away that change would be considered transformative that we tend to realize we’ve strayed from our intended path at all.

This is the reality of failure. While it’s widely agreed upon that success takes time, resilience, commitment, we assume that failure is simply the absence of success. It’s not. Failure is achieved in the exact same way. Little by little, moment by moment, in resilient, momentum-building fashion that grows with intensity as we pour ourselves into it with ferocious commitment.

I’ll use health and fitness as an example as it’s the most universally relatable. Let’s say I need to lose fifty pounds. The commitment I make to finally taking action, my rock bottom moment, the line I draw in the sand that will become the catalyst for my transformation, that’s the kind of instantaneous change we romanticize. That’s the change we envy when we see it in others. But what about the change that got us there? What about the slow, uninspiring march that ultimately culminates in the type of dissatisfaction with myself that a serious transformation is even necessary? That’s real failure.

I say that because, more often than not, that change never comes. We’re inspired by stories of transformation, of redemption, because they’re so rare. It’s much more likely that I’ll never lose those fifty pounds, and every moment, every instant, every piece of the mosaic along the way, where change becomes progressively more difficult, I have failed.

Failure isn’t a singular event. It’s a series of conscious decisions made over an extended period of time. If my goal is to get in shape, to live a healthier life, then failure is every bite of pizza I take. It’s every day that goes by that I tell myself I’m too busy to exercise. It’s every time I click ‘Next Episode’ instead of heading out for a run. If there’s no such thing as an overnight success, there can be no such thing as an overnight failure.

The reason we don’t see these failures for what they are, is the same reason we often don’t understand what it takes to accomplish our long-term goals.  Calling back the idea of overnight success, we don’t see the maniacal commitment to one’s ultimate vision. Or when we do, it’s considered too intense, or even off-putting, to be relatable. We give very little credit to people who go to great lengths to find success until that success is actually realized. Then, of course, those people are considered inspirations.  Whereas along the way they were likely considered obsessive, unhealthy, consumed.

This same mindset can explain why we don’t realize we’re failing until we’re so far from our goals that success would be nothing short of a miracle. We fail to consider that, day in and day out, we’re making commitments, little by little, that will either fuel or extinguish our ultimate vision.

Success is in the process. You’ve probably heard that before. But so is failure. Both take time, energy and commitment. And the achievement of either is neither accidental nor singular. Rather, they are both the culmination of each and every moment, every decision, made every day to move just slightly closer to, or further from, our ultimate vision.

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More articles from Brian:

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