I don’t write as much I want to. Not nearly as much as I should. There’s this voice. It’s constantly talking. It’s so loud I can’t concentrate.
Do you have it too?
It’s the voice (or maybe there are multiple voices?) telling you that you’re not good enough. The voice saying that you can’t take on anything else right now, or that you shouldn’t bother because you know you’re going to fail. The voice that tells you to just go home, eat potato chips in front of the TV, and to enjoy being lazy, because everyone else does that, and they’re fine with their choices. The voice that tells you that someone has already accomplished your goals – and they’re doing it better – you’re too late, you missed the window, so don’t bother.
Right now, my voices are telling me that I wrote a post that went viral in LinkedIn accidentally, it will never happen again, and don’t bother trying to replicate that, because it will never happen.
Those voices are enough to drive a person crazy. Ignoring them is harder than it sounds. You want to shut them off, but you can’t. You’re going to have to listen to them until you do something drastic to stop it.
The truth is, the fix isn’t really all that drastic. To make these voices stop, just think about the failures that all your heroes have had. It helps to humanize them, and makes you realize that as long as you’re working toward something, it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes, screw up, or even lose money in the process.
Here’s an example of a failure by someone who we can’t imagine failing.
The greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan, decided after winning 3 basketball championships that he wanted to play baseball. He hadn’t played the game in 10 years, but hey, talent is talent, right? Turns out that he wasn’t very good at baseball. Actually, he was terrible. After just a couple of months, he went back to what he was good at, and helped his team win 3 more championships.
Here’s an example of someone who conquered the voices.
The Beatles weren’t a great band when they first started, but they ended up going to Hamburg, Germany to play for money. The experience ended up being them playing 8 hours per day, every day. According to John Lennon, “we had to play for hours and hours on end. Every song lasted twenty minutes and had twenty solos in it. That’s what improved the playing. There was nobody to copy from. We played what we liked best and the Germans liked it as long as it was loud.” But here’s the part that matters. John stated, “We got better and got more confidence. We couldn’t help it with all the experience playing all night long. . . we had to play for eight hours, so we really had to find a new way of playing”.
Did the Beatles have those voices telling them they weren’t good enough? Of course. But it’s hard to listen to those voices when you’re working at your craft 8 hours per day, 7 days per week. Work in spite of those voices, and they’ll become easier to ignore.
In order to be good at something, you have to be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up. You have to suck in the beginning. You have to be terrible. Everyone’s looking for the shortcuts, but there aren’t any. It’s not easy. It’s not always fun. But if you work your way up from the bottom, you can be proud of what you’ve accomplished, only if you don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
The voices will still come occasionally. To combat them, take progress “snapshots”. If you’re trying to lose weight, you could look in the mirror every day, but you won’t see a difference in the mirror. You won’t see any progress in your work. But by looking at a snapshot – that could be an older piece of writing, an order for your first client, even an old Facebook or Instagram post, you’ll see how far you’ve come and how much you’ve improved. When you think about where you’ll be in 6 months or even 6 weeks from now, that can be the motivation to keep going.
The voices will always be there. But knowing that plenty of other successful people before you failed and knowing how far you’ve come already will help you focus on ignoring the voices.