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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