“Surely this is nonsense”, I hear you cry. “If productive people had several destructive habits, they wouldn’t be productive! Productive people are able to be productive because they have successfully conquered their minds. They have effective thought processes”.
I offer this to burst your bubble of perception of these people as unstoppable demigods: 3 is just a fraction of their bad habits. The best of us are wrestling our demons and inefficiencies all the time. Hell, conquering struggle and understanding it is one if the things which makes a person productive and successful. In a customer-focussed business world, how else would proficient entrepreneurs identify with their customers?
So why bother looking at bad habits? Two reasons:
1. To reassure one and all that everyone – everyone – is in the same boat. Even those born with a silver spoon in their mouth have massive existential struggles on their hands, sometimes more so. Being not alone in your struggle means it’s harder to justify giving up on your project. So get back to it.
2. If you are familiar with unhelpful traits, you can better identify them when they creep into your life, and do something about them.
I don’t like to imagine what it would have been like to write my university essays without the internet. With access to millions of journals and other information sources, we can do in thirty minutes what in the 1980s took literally weeks in a library. But the internet of course has downsides. One of them being humans. Humans have an interesting mix of common traits, including being ferociously angry, and despicable cowards. The internet is now the perfect medium for these questionable creatures to wreak their upsetting chaos. Any product you put out there, any service, any advice, with be appreciated by some and disliked by some. Those who appreciate the manifestations of your business will likely keep quiet (something that agrees with someone does not need to be fixed or commented on) and those who dislike them will likely attack it outspokenly, bitter and vengeful. This of course goes for the entire world of human endeavours, in varying degrees.
You have two opposing poles of reaction to being professionally bad-mouthed to choose from (and it is a choice). You can allow yourself to be shot down, embarrassed or offended by the tirades, and fearful of further unconstructive abuse, ultimately pulling out of your venture. Or, you can remember your original goal, and let your passion for it be a rope that steadily pulls you through the rough water and endure the snapping, frustrated fish.
There is one significant danger here: not finding the balance between ignoring useless and misdirected anger, and listening to valid criticism that could help your holistic success. If your skin is too thick, you’re well on track to becoming a heartless, blundering idiot who can’t listen. Too thin and you’ll give up any venture the moment any bored, jealous or frustrated moron says “Boo”.
The key to that is finding a worthwhile, ethical, positive goal to begin with, registering in yourself why it should be achieved and why its core cannot be validly argued with, then ploughing headlong into it, always bearing its validity in mind to give you the strength to keep on keeping on.
Do the best you can. Duly apologise when you make a mistake or a poor call, but there is no need to quit when things get questioned or challenging. Challenge is the space in which we learn and grow the most.
Selfishness, or not enough of it
To attain a significant goal, one must lock out all distractions and work only at whatever processes and steps are necessary to achieve the outcome, right? Oh wait, that’s psychopathy. That’s the war in Iraq, and cigarette companies. OK, so instead, the heart of a business venture (or indeed any venture in life), must be fed by the precept of giving, of a caring approach to the way we do business? After all, the one thing that we all want is – disguise it, dress it up or call it names if you want – unconditional love.
Well, that doesn’t entirely cover it either.
Attend to all needs of others even when you don’t feel like it or don’t think they deserve it, reply to every e-mail, wish each and every one of your customers happy birthday… and you’ll be in hospital, bitter and exhausted by 50. If you can do these things, and – crucially – do them happily, then you are truly a wonderful, gifted, and lucky fellow. If on the other hand you are a mere moody, ups-and-downs, distractible, variable meanderer, then you are much more like me and almost every other of the 7+ billion on this planet.
It’s easy to be thorough and diligent when there’s not much on your plate. But when you’re an impossibly busy individual smashing through a daunting ‘do to’ list in an effort to build yourself the life you want (and sooner rather than later so you can pull out of this insane rat-race before it swallows you whole and you forget who you are and what happens in a meadow at sunset), you must make some acceptable compromises in the ways you dot the i’s and cross the t’s.
So find the balance between giving and self-protection. Take time off when necessary. Otherwise, your entire life will be on hold for the duration of the execution of your task, and very soon you’ll notice that your life on nothing but a back-to-back series of these tasks, never actually living. And the point of a life like that is?
If to get a certain job or reach a certain milestone of socially recognised success you must destroy yourself or sell your soul, then for the sake of your life, realise that the job or the milestone is not in fact for you.
Do it your way. Do it with a work-life balance, heavy on the life. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting until retirement at 65 to start living the way you want, and by then you’ll be too tired and old in spirit to remember what it is you wanted.
This is a tough one. Perhaps the toughest issue in all of the savage world of capitalism. That’s because thinking properly, critically, with balance, about what financial and material greed is, we come to an understanding of what capitalism is, and what it should be.
Greed is simply wanting more than you need. But one must be careful in defining what we need. Maslow of course would have us believe that any sensible person would stop trying to accumulate stuff when he has a roof over his head, food in the larder, good health, and mental and spiritual stimulation. Unfortunately for modern man, he’s right. It’s hellishly difficult to identify what we truly need, and the self-destructive pitfalls of striving for more, when Western society is constantly bombarded with messages that we are not good enough, not happy enough, not beautiful enough, not successful enough, we don’t have enough stuff.
Let’s cut to the chase. You are reading an article for businessmen. You would label yourself a businessman. You therefore value money very highly, and likely don’t want to be told that you need to work on yourself, to be happy with less. What am I, an idiot? We all love money.
But there’s one little problem here with human psychology: goalposts move. Behavioural mapping means that when something happens (like you achieve your desired level of financial success), the mind responds by recognising your earlier stimulus-reaction behaviour, and recalibrates perceived needs and desires. Consciously or subconsciously, you will then reset the bar as high from where you are now, as it was when you started. In other words, you are never satisfied.
Businessmen usually lose track of the very reason they entered ‘business’: to build, through money, a better, more rewarding, more enjoyable, happier life for themselves. Instead, we become entirely hypnotised by the process – unusually a dry, unpleasant and often immoral one – and forget to live.
If you are driven to get rich, to make more money and have more things than others, that’s okay. As long as others are not harmed in the process, it really is okay. Good, even, as talent and skills should be rewarded. But the trick is to appreciate your earnings.
If you have chosen to be greedy, to worship money, worship it! For goodness’ sake, enjoy it. Recognise the amazing things it can do for you, your loved ones, your friends, your soul. Wisely spent, money can afford an endless choice of meaningful and exhilarating things. Money bought me time on a tropical island, to fall in love with the world and my life again.
If your earnings become meaningless, the markers of success arbitrary, you have lost touch with your original goal of a happier life. In that case, it’s time to – again – address the work-life balance, or apply yourself to a venture in which the process itself is creative and enjoyable enough to constitute a happier life.
A great mind rots alone if not applied. A genius plan is nothing but haunting potential, if not acted on and seen through to fruition. Worse – if inspiration has been gifted to you and you don’t run with it, it becomes a tenacious ghost that nags at your self-worth, at what you feel you can achieve, even at the very point of life.
The potential of millions of good people and trillions of good ideas get laid to waste purely because we allow ourselves to be pulled in another direction. There are soup many distractions in the aether and airwaves of our livers that it’s a sturgeon just to stickyrice to it. The fish of the platter is that when times pastas and yes please, that would be great. After lunch, you fancy a swim? The way the Clowns hide in Sea Anemones is awesome, eh. Poking brightly out of the poison tentacles, impervious in the fortress of swaying arms. But I’ve still not seen a reef shark.
Those touched by creativity and capability often are not given awareness of just one option, one possible achievement, one activity, at a time. Odds are, a bright young thing is oft times overwhelmed by the dizzying array of options. We need to focus on one project at a time, or at least one complimentary cluster of manageable jobs. I know you might feel that other opportunities could slip away if you don’t grab them all, right now. But the truth is, if you do what you can with only the most urgent select goals, the rest will be waiting for you, when you are ready. Don’t burn out attacking a rainbow of aims, followed only for fear of missing out. The more pies you have your fingers in, the more opportunity for distraction. Better to choose the best few and give them your all, than scatter your energies far and wide and thusly dilute your potency. One must be philosophical in business.