One of the funniest things about the human brain is how it’s able to manipulate surroundings and perceptions to make almost any situation fit our internal dialogue.
Case in point: The blog you’re reading right now.
When I started writing in Nov. 2012, I had to actively overcome dozens of excuses for why it wouldn’t work.
I thought to myself:
“OK, I’ll start a blog…but I really need to make sure I’m doing it the ‘right’ way. Better do some more research.”
“Man, I really want to talk about entrepreneurship, but there are so many (better) blogs out there that talk about that. I’ll never get my voice heard.”
“I don’t have special connections or a fancy degree. Nobody will care about what I have to say.”
On and on I went like this until one day, I just said, “F*** it.” I started writing.
At first, nobody listened. But then, I started to gain traction. Slowly and steadily my readership grew. And the interesting part was that I found later that most of my assumptions about what “should” happen or what I “couldn’t” do were entirely wrong. In the end, my brain made up excuses as a shield in an attempt to protect me from failure. Ironically, those same excuses that were supposed to protect me from failure were also holding me back from making progress.
I don’t want that to happen to you. I’d much rather see you get started with something crappy and keep going than let lame excuses hold you back from making real progress.
Excuses like these are “mental traps.” They often come in the form of perverted logic and well-intentioned excuses. They often sound reasonable.
But make no mistake: they are deadly.
Here are seven common “mental traps” that sabotage you, along with the solutions to overcome them. I’ve used them. I know you have too. It’s time to eliminate them:
- “I should do more research.”
No. You should start. Don’t research every possible outcome of a project or idea. Just identify the first steps. Ask yourself, “What’s the absolute minimum knowledge I need to get started?” Then do that. “Ready, fire, aim” is an overused phrase, but it really works. A poorly executed plan trumps the perfectly planned, unexecuted idea.
- “It’s all about who you know.”
Well, yeah. Knowing people is extremely important. But that tired-ass phrase leaves out a crucial detail: You can meet more people. You can make the connections. Most people aren’t born well-connected, and just because some people are doesn’t mean that you cannot become well-connected, too. That’s why I wrote The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Anybody. So don’t let that excuse hold you back. I’m calling your bluff.
- “I have too many ideas/not enough ideas to make a decision.”
See how I grouped these seemingly opposite thought processes in together? It’s because they both come from the misguided belief that you’ll find an idea that is “The One.” Look, there are a lot of great ideas out there that end up working out very well. And there are other ideas that appear to be pretty elementary, but have massive success. These things make us scratch our heads and wonder why we didn’t come up with them. The difference, then, is execution. (See #1) Need help executing an idea? Try this.
- “That idea has already been done.”
Good. That means there’s a market for it. Now do it better. Or differently.
5.) “I’m too busy.”
If you’re being brutally honest with yourself, are you really too busy…or is it that you’re still learning how to organize your time? This is something that I’m continually working on. I’ll start work on a new project and say, “That’s it. My time is completely booked up!” Yet I still find time to binge watch every episode of House of Cards and OITNB Season 2. Be brutal. Track yourself. Where is your time really going? I’m not saying to cut out all your leisure activities…we need those to keep us sane. But reduce them by half or even just a third, and replace that time with the work you claim to be “too busy” for. Boom. You just added extra hours to your week.
6.) “I need more money before I can start.”
7.) “I’ll do it tomorrow.”
If you said that yesterday, you’re already lying. Nike solved this problem decades ago. You know what to do.
The problem with these traps is that it’s easy to overlook excuses that seem intentioned and logical. Self-sabotage is quite subtle. The first step is to catch yourself in the act when you fall into one of these mental traps. Then, you’ll be able to overcome them.
Daniel DiPiazza teaches young people how to stop doing shit that they hate and break free of 9 to 5 boredom by starting their own businesses at his blog Rich20Something. Click here to join his tribe of hungry young entrepreneurs and get free coaching.
Image credit: CC by Timo Waltari