Sept. 21, 2010
Fools and Lessons We already Know
We’ve all heard the expression: “Fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice, shame on me!” Yeah… we’ve all heard it, but what if you find that you are both the person doing the fooling and the person being fooled? I am convinced that most of the problems we face in life come as the result of forgetting or ignoring those lessons we’ve already learned!
Don’t get me wrong: I love problems! Problems can make us think creatively about our situations and compel us to move forward with new solutions. Problems can and should be opportunities. Today, I’m talking more about self-destructive tendencies but perhaps not in the way that you think: I’m talking about not respecting yourself in social situations.
Regardless of your outlook on life, it is likely that you will at least give lip-service to the fact that you should always respect yourself in each and every interaction. But what does that mean in real context? I’ll give you an example: You find yourself negotiating a business deal and there is disagreement about some odd but important detail. The temptation is often to allow the other party to chagrin you into seeing their point of view. Hey, why not? It’s easier, and you don’t want to upset a business partner, prospect, investor, or what have you. But what’s the long-term cost? Come on! How hard is this really? The long-term cost is that we often find ourselves in difficult or nearly impossible predicaments because we didn’t stick to our guns. Instead we allowed ourselves to be manipulated into a position that is not only unfair but simply unsolvable. We should know better: We should know that sometimes the best thing is to be willing to disappoint someone.
Conviction, Vision, and Litmus Tests
There’s a fine line between steadfastness and bullheaded idiocy for a leader, but the litmus test should always be respect. It’s disrespectful to overload an inferior with so much work as to make her ineffective. It’s disrespectful to manipulate the terms of a deal to the point that the other party is getting the short end of the stick.
We all know these things and claim to act respectfully toward ourselves, but only those with conviction can actually pull it off. You see: It is irresponsible and selfish to give into the unreasonable demands of someone else, if they hinder you in pursuit of your vision. I say this with the assumption that your vision is expansive and goes beyond just your immediate personal gain. Men and women of vision have a responsibility to the people who must be affected by their vision. If you want to learn how to respect yourself, you need to deepen your conviction and your vision. With strong conviction and vision, you will never be in the dark as to the general course you should plot for yourself. Of course you will err here and there, but the general trajectory should be up.
Learn to demand respect both from yourself toward others but also from them toward you. You should always be prepared to walk in any situation, if it threatens to dismantle or destroy your dream and your vision. No opportunity (or fear) is worth that. A leader who behaves like this will automatically attract individuals who behave in the same way and repel those who do not. You see: when you respect yourself, you also attract individuals who demand respect from you. Why not begin now? Commit to a life that always moves toward your vision. Have the fortitude to draw a line in the sand, demanding mutual respect. How you handle this seemingly small social rule will greatly determine the quality and number of your opportunities, the quality of the people you will surround yourself with, and ultimately, the quality of your life. Every great leader must learn to continually return to this ultimatum. You will not regret it.
Your assignment today? Learn to say, “No.” Learn to disappoint. I demand of you: disappoint someone today, so that you might stay more inline with your vision. I expect your report in the comments below… 😉
- Austin S.
“The Freedom Skater”
P.S. Just arrived in Boston this evening! I’m speaking at Wellesley College and the Mass Challenge global startup competition tomorrow. On Friday, I will be speaking at Harvard. Wish me luck!