One of the most common mistakes that people make on the way to success is that they are not hard enough on themselves. The world can give us many reasons why the goal could not be achieved, fooling us into complacency. What is happening here is that people actually project blame onto outside circumstances, instead of being fully responsible for every single thing that happens to them. One is a victim mindset (acceptance and defeat), the other is a victory mindset (responsibility and progress).
Often, the most difficult thing to do is the correct thing to do. It invariably comes down to a tradeoff between short-term enjoyment against long-term fulfillment. It is necessary to be merciless in an analysis of how we work, what we do, and, most importantly, why we do what we do.
Being uncompromising on yourself can sound somewhat spartan, especially in today’s age of mass entitlement. But it is really the only way forward for society at large. It is a fact that people respond better when they are challenged. This has its roots in our very biological evolution – beneficial hormones are elevated on an empty stomach, with increased memory and willpower. Cold showers enhance both the central nervous system and immune system. It is during points of great pressure where miracles are achieved – such as a battle, or a ‘simple’ childbirth.
Don’t Be Nice – It’s Bad For You
One of the more insidious diseases of the modern age is ‘nice nice’ syndrome. It is the erroneous belief that pleasing people will get you what you want. This is, of course, the opposite of the truth. Even in circumstances where you do get what you want, you lose something more important – respect and dignity. People do not respect pushovers. I challenge you to think of a person in the workplace who you respect and who is nice to everybody.
If you are hard on yourself and hard on others, both parties will make progress. You are doing everybody a disservice by not stating your goals and expectations clearly. It’s better to live in a world where everybody expects and achieves the best, than a race to the bottom of being nice and constantly accepting failure and incompetence. By being nice to people, you are accepting incompetence, and in many ways facilitating its spread.
So don’t be nice to others (this does not mean being rude, it means being clear and honest about expectations). More importantly, don’t be nice to yourself. Make out a list of your failings and weaknesses, where you are compromising and uncompromising. It is likely that the compromising parts outweigh the uncompromising.
Generally, there are three things that can stop the execution of a perfect decision. These are (i) Lack of information (ii) Fear (iii) Concern over past mistakes. The only answer to these is to get the available information and make the best possible decision that you can in the moment. Worry and regret are massive debilitations. Your job is to analyze weaknesses and past mistakes, not to languish in them. You can make the biggest breakthroughs with the practical realism of historical analysis, or alternatively, waste the majority of your energy by regretting your mistakes. This is the critical error that most people make, without understanding that their failures are also the source of their greatest strengths if they have the courage to simply observe them.
The Importance of Ruthless Self Analysis
This kind of ruthless self-analysis will be quite uncomfortable in the beginning. But like all things, with time you will reap the fruits of your diligence. When enough of this ‘shadow’ work has been done, you can apply this to others. People will likely hate you for it, and this is to be expected.
As long as you stand true to personal values of high excellence, communication, and fairness, you have nothing to be ashamed of. You don’t have to go out of your way to be unpleasant, you just have to stick to the agreed and acceptable goals. If people can deliver a valid reason as to why a certain deadline cannot be met, then that’s fine. But you have to make the call, and it has to be from evidence as opposed to just letting people off the hook for a fuzzy feeling of being liked.
If everybody was nice, the world would not see any progress. Steve Jobs changed the world with Apple and was an incredibly unpleasant personage to work with, from multiple accounts. Ask successful people if they regret having such high expectations. If these expectations are not set by somebody, they can never be met by anyone. Your standards are actually a means of bettering the world, even though other people might hate you for assisting in their self-development.
Be respected and admired, not liked and unknown. If you did not demand more from people, then you would not be occupying a current managerial or entrepreneurial position right now. Compromising is what takes you away from your goals and success, by being nice to people who won’t respect you. The choice is yours.