I am NOT a world class writer, designer, marketer, etc.
Guess what else I’m not?
I’m not smart enough, tall enough, skilled enough, rich enough, creative enough, lovable enough, strategic enough…
These self-limiting thoughts seep into my brain when I'm feeling most challenged.
And they wear disguises. They don't get face to face with me and say "you can't write". Instead, they help me procrastinate. They distract me with busy work. They send me off on tangents like email, text, social media, etc.. They convince me to say yes to another useless meeting.
Or they try to convince me to water down my work. To “soften” my opinions. "Don't say what you really believe or people will think you're nuts."
So this deadening, this averaging, can eat my time and my message. My insecure thoughts, and I'm willing to bet you have them too, threaten to drag us and our businesses into mediocrity.
So what can we do about these insecurities?
THE GENIUS OF THE AND
To answer that question I need to re-introduce a concept called the “Genius of the And” (here is a long explanation of the concept if you'd like more depth). It comes from business researcher and guru Jim Collins. And it's all about how successful companies accept and embrace seemingly conflicting ideas.
Here’s a quote from Collins…
“A truly visionary company embraces both ends of a continuum: continuity and change, conservatism and progressiveness, stability and revolution, predictability and chaos, heritage and renewal, fundamentals and craziness. And, and, and.”
So we don’t have to choose between seemingly contradictory forces. We can instead find a way to embrace them both. And to further underline the point, here's another quote. This one is from famous novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald...
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
BACK TO THE QUESTION
Armed with this advice from Collins and Fitzgerald, let's get back to the question.
What can I do about these feelings of insecurity that bog me down?
Use the The Genius of the And - learn to hold and accept two opposed ideas in my mind at the same time. I am enough - AND - at the very same time, I am NOT enough.
Yes, this sounds like goofy philosophical crap, but hear me out.
Knowing that I’m enough gives me a level of comfort and confidence that I need to just be myself - warts and all. It’s a warm blanket, a stable platform.
But, I don't want to be too comfortable or too confident. Those things can lead to complacency, boredom, maybe even narcissism. So I need a counterbalance. A hunger. A burr under my saddle that unsettles me enough to push me into action. And isn't that unsettler, that burr - isn’t it my insecurities?
I’m not a good enough writer - True, so get off your butt and get to work.
I'm not a good enough manager - True, so get off your butt and get to work.
I'm not a good enough husband, father, friend - True, so get off your butt and get to work.
So it’s a strange thing to say, but I absolutely positively do not want to delete that internal nagging voice that tells me I’m not enough. It’s an important part of me. It’s a powerful internal source of motivation. So long as I don’t let it run wild - it’s a friend.
And here’s another payoff for embracing this new friend. When I accept, and even embrace this monster of all insecurities, I get more comfortable exposing the real me. Pursuing growth in areas that are right for me. Connecting with folks that are aligned with who I am.
I think these thoughts are best summed up by author Oliver Burkeman. Here's a quote from his book titled The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking…
“it is our constant efforts to eliminate the negative - insecurity, uncertainty, failure, or sadness - that is what causes us to feel so insecure, anxious, uncertain, or unhappy.”
He goes on to say…. And I’m paraphrasing from page 149 of his book..
“Insecurity is another word for life… feeling secure and really living life are, in some ultimate sense, opposites.”
Bingo. We can’t let insecurity hold us back. But the answer is absolutely, positively NOT perfect security.
The answer, the way we defeat our mediocrity, is by finding security in our insecurity.
(This site is all about building a Map that will help me do work and life better. So at the end of each post I check in to see if any changes / insights come to mind.)
I’ve been beating on Wrong Stories - the idea that we tell ourselves lots of wrong stuff - for a long time. I started off talking about our need to Purge Wrong Stories. But I decided that I couldn’t kill or purge them - they have a way of staying alive. So I changed to Confront Wrong Stories - they are evil and they must be constantly battled. But as I was writing this post I realized that some of these Wrong Stories - for instance that I’m not enough - can be helpful at the right time and in the right dosage.
My more thoughtful approach now is that Wrong Stories, just like any other resource at my disposal, must be managed. So my new phrase is Recognize and Manage Wrong Stories. First we have to recognize all the ways we can get ourselves off the rails, and then we need to learn to manage them to our benefit. It took me a while to get here, but I think this phrasing is best for my Map.
And so while I was tinkering with my Maps, I decided to do a complete redesign. I wanted the Self and Work maps on a single page and I wanted to show how closely related they are. So I will leave you today with this refreshed image of my work.
***Note: This site works best when you read the posts in order. So please head to the ARCHIVE to get started.